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“Money is either the best or the worst area of communication in our marriages.” So said Larry Burkett, world-renowned finance expert, national best-selling author and radio personality. Starting a life together as newlyweds is an exciting journey, and communicating well and making good choices at the beginning set your family up for a lifetime of financial success. Below are some ways to get started.
1. Educate Yourself TOGETHER about Personal Finance
As individuals, you each bring your own experiences about money into your marriage. How your parents’ handled (or didn’t handle) money, how much money you had growing up, what your expectations are about money and more all play into your own personal finance decisions as a couple. Whether you choose to read books together (here’s a list of popular must-read books about finance for newlyweds), take an online class, subscribe to podcasts, magazines or newsletters, or just take a personal finance class offered at your local church or nonprofit, making the commitment to learn together is an important first step in getting on the same page financially.
2. Discuss Your Financial Goals and Dreams
Expectations about money differ widely, and the more you discuss what’s important to you individually and as a couple, the more you can start to be on the same page when it comes to your money. If you’re able to firmly establish your financial goals and dreams, then you can break them down into the details of a true financial plan. For example, if you have a goal to travel to an exotic destination within the year, you may choose to go out to eat less often, telling yourself, “We are working toward a goal of going to (Italy, the Caribbean, Paris) for our first Christmas.”
3. Merge Your Accounts
Yes, debate exists on both sides about this one, but when you merge your accounts, you both become truly accountable to each other for your everyday financial decisions. It’s not “my money” and “your money” anymore, but “our money,” no matter who contributes what to the account. Lots of great ideas and encouragement are out there for the “how-tos” of combining accounts.
4. Set up a Family Spending Plan
So, this is really just another name for the word that makes most people wince: budget. A budget is simply an advance plan for how you’re going to spend your money in any particular month. A family spending meeting should happen each month before it begins so that you are able to discuss that particular month’s financial obligations and your needs and wants. You can choose to go old-school with paper and pencil or go with one of the great apps that keeps your finances at your fingertips. Many free online budgeting tools are helpful in establishing a spending plan, and for a little extra a year, you can have all of your transactions automatically downloaded to your app if you use Every Dollar or Mint.
5. Save an Emergency Fund for a Rainy Day
With the weather, we know that it will always rain at some point. In the same way, some sort of emergency will crop up sometime, whether it’s a car repair, medical expense, broken appliance or a host of other possibilities. The best way to be prepared is to save up an emergency fund. If your emergency happens before your emergency fund is complete, you can always borrow the money short-term through a payday loan, but be sure to pay it back on time.
It sounds simple enough, but putting your family in a good financial place takes communication, practice and perseverance.