Often, from the moment of the proposal to the moment you walk down the wedding aisle, your life is a whirlwind, focused on planning out all the details of your big event. However, once you’re married, it’s crucial to switch your planning mode from the short-term of one big event, to focusing on the long-term of your now-combined lives. This requires taking a serious look at your combined finances, getting them in order for the long-term, and learning some key ways to save money.
Here are some of the best ways to put away money in your first year of marriage:
Deal With Your Debt
If either or both of you are still in debt from student loans, credit cards, leases, or some other expense, you can bet the interest is financially devastating you — even if the devastation is so gradual you hardly notice it. The best thing you can do for your future is pay off those debts as soon as possible. There are tactics to use when going about this: You should first face your debts head on, organizing them by writing out a list of each one: its creditor, balance, and interest rate. From there, you’ll want to join forces and decide which one to pay off first — usually you’ll want to pay off the debt with the lowest balance to get it off the table. Then, pay off the next lowest balance, and then the next, and so on. If you have a few balances that are around the same amount, tackle the one with the highest interest rate first.
Debt can put a lot of stress on any marriage, and sitting down together can bring up a lot of emotions. Working with a financial counselor such as Fundamental Finance Academy can help alleviate the stress and help you and your partner formulate a solid plan for getting rid of both of your debts once and for all.
Sit Down And Make A Spending Plan
To save money, it’s a good idea to note the amount you and your significant other earn collectively, how much you spend collectively, and where all the money is going. Agree to take a month and individually keep track of every cent that leaves your pockets and what it was spent on. When the month is up, sit down, combine your expenses and organize them all into categories such as “Groceries,” “Gas,” “Personal Care/Toiletries,” “Phone Bill,” “Entertainment,” etc. Come up with a total for each category and then add those up for a grand total. How does that compare to your combined incomes? Are you spending within your means? Regardless of whether you are or not, analyze the month’s expenses and see where you spent money needlessly; come up with the amount you both think is necessary to spend in each category (and make sure to give yourself some money for entertainment!). Based on the these figures, create your spending plan for the next month and build into it an amount, no matter how small, you want to save every month. That next month, track your payments again and then see how you both did when the month is up. Make any adjustments to your plan as you see necessary, and put any left over money into a joint savings account.
Discuss All Large or Unusual Expenses
If you’re new to sharing a bank account, you may have some spending habits that you need to break to live in financial harmony with your partner. Some people tend to celebrate happy moods with generosity or bad moods with “retail therapy,” but it’s important to remember that making unusual or large expenses without consulting your partner first is neither wise nor considerate. Make an agreement to discuss these purchases before going through with them. If you’re both abiding by the joint spending plan, you’ll want to consider that the more you take from the communal pot, the less your partner can.
Don’t see it as asking your spouse for “permission” to buy something; rather, view it as the two of you are working together to strengthen your communication and build the foundation for a stronger, easier future.
Stop Spending Money On Things You Don’t Use (Or Don’t Have To)
All little expenses add up to big ones over time. From purchases of online music subscriptions just to avoid the commercials, to heating up your entire home when you’ll both just be in one room, there are many ways you’ll be able to save money by just making a few adjustments — e.g., make friends with the commercials between songs or use a space heater. If you’re not sure where to start, try analyzing your bills to see which features you don’t use. Maybe you’re paying for talking minutes on your phone that you never use, or maybe you buy food you always intend to eat but that inevitably goes bad.
The first year of marriage is generally regarded as the toughest — you and your partner are still figuring out all the logistics of intertwining your lives. Life can be a little topsy turvy, but if you’ve got plans to buy a house or have children or do anything else that will require a serious financial commitment, it’s important to start saving money now, rather than later on when you anticipate all the chaos to calm down.
If your finances or financial future is overwhelming you both, don’t let it interfere with the happiness you should both be experiencing in your first year as a married couple — get help. At Fundamental Finance Academy, Financial Health Counselor Holly Novak will teach you strategies and help you create a plan to eliminate debt, live comfortably, and still add to the house, children, car, and/or college fund.