When I got married, how we would handle our finances was one of the last things on my mind. Instead I was thinking about my hair, the ceremony, the cake, my bridesmaids’ dresses, the music, the honeymoon and, oh yeah, my fiancé. I had a lot on my mind, but money wasn’t one of them.
Considering that financial issues are listed as one of the top reasons people divorce, planning how you’ll manage your money as a married couple is much more important than the colour of the bridesmaids’ dresses. So as you get ready to say “I do” as part of your wedding vows, say “I do” to these money vows as well.
I Do… Agree to Communicate
Lack of communication in any area is bad for your marriage, and this is especially true in the area of finance. When you get married, you may think you don’t really need to talk about money. We were young and still in college when we got married, and didn’t have much money at all, so we figured there wasn’t much to talk about. We’d pay our bills and buy groceries and that would be about it.
But since we didn’t talk, neither of us knew what the other expected, and that’s where the tensions began. My husband would spend more on a CD than I thought was wise, and I’d want to spend more on gifts for people at Christmas. With no guidelines to follow, we easily lost track of our spending. I assumed he would be involved in paying the bills, but when he didn’t, I just took over. And as our credit card debt increased, I would just pay the bills and not tell him how bad it was getting.
When you get married, you have to talk about things, even if they are boring or confusing or difficult. Talk about your finances early on, sharing expectations about spending and saving and planning your financial future.
I Do…. Agree to be Patient
Many times when young couples marry, they fall victim to the “I want it all and I want it now” syndrome. They leave the nice homes of their parents and want to move into a home just like that, complete with extra bedrooms, nice furniture and four televisions.
My cousin had this problem. Her parent’s home was lovely, full of nice furniture; pretty decorations, lots of room and a beautiful yard, and she wanted her home to look just like that. Never mind that it took her parents years to get to that point, and when they started out they were in a small home with minimal furnishings.
We live in an age of immediate gratification and credit cards, and many couples get off to a bad start by trying to have it all right away. When you first get married, realize that it will take time to acquire the things –and the house– that you want. Start simple, buy slowly and be happy with what you have.
I Do… Agree to Share Responsibility
I remember when we first got married, I wanted to share everything. I wanted to go to the grocery together, cook together, sit next to each other and watch TV together. I even wanted to put our underwear together in the same drawer. After a while, I realized that we didn’t have to do everything together, but there are some things a couple should do as a team and taking responsibility for finances is one of them. It’s important for both of you to be aware of your financial situation and work together when it comes to paying bills, balancing your checking account, making a budget and planning for the future.
It may seem easy for one to take control of finances and the other to sit back, but this could cause problems in the long run. For one thing, if only one of you is responsible and you have financial troubles, the one who had been in charge may feel guilty and the other may lay blame. And if you aren’t involved in the finances and then end up on your own, you will be lost when it comes to taking care of things yourself. So, while you don’t always have to go to the grocery together, you do need to pair up when it comes to money.
I Do… Agree to Live on a Budget
The word budget strikes fear in the hearts of many, from national leaders to moms and dads. While those in civic office don’t always manage to balance budgets, those of us in charge of family budgets must learn to. You can get your family on a budget any time, but it’s easiest if you do it from the start.
As you begin your lives together, sit down and look at your income and expenses. In the beginning, you may not be entirely sure of all your expenses, so keep track of your income for a while and make adjustments as needed. Living on a budget means you have a certain amount of money set aside for things such as clothing, gas, entertainment and so on each month. This keeps you from overspending and ending up in debt. Your budget should include setting aside money for savings as well.
There are many mistakes newly married couples make, but money mistakes can have especially bad repercussions. By working it out and having a plan, you can avoid these common money mistakes and say “I do” to a happy financial future instead.