6 Effective Budgeting Tips For Newlyweds
If you’ve recently gotten married, you’re probably pretty excited to turn away from the stresses and uncertainties of wedding planning and look ahead to a bright future. Of course, that future comes with uncertainties of its own – but many of them can be mitigated if you budget and manage your finances effectively as a couple. To get yourself off on the right foot, throw that bouquet, unwind, and take a look at these six effective budgeting and money management tips for newlyweds.
1. Create a Household Budget Together
A budget, which is basically a spending and income statement, plays an important role in any couple’s long-term financial success. Sit down with your spouse and get started on one together. You can opt for one of many excellent online tools, such as Mint and PearBudget, or create an Excel spreadsheet if you’re more comfortable with that format.
Start by entering your joint monthly income and fixed monthly bills and expenses. Some categories, like food and entertainment, are variable so consult your credit card and bank statements for guidance. You may also want to account for any new expenses that marriage may introduce. For example, your entertainment spending might be a little higher now, as you’re out and about celebrating and meeting new people. If you’re expecting a baby, you want to budget for clothes, furniture, prenatal visits and vitamins.
After your budget is set, work on reducing your monthly bills. Go with a smartphone data family plan (as opposed to two individual plans), use coupons to save on groceries, and join a warehouse shopping club like Costco. Your ultimate goal is to create a budget surplus at the end of each month – if you don’t, or if you’re spending more than you earn, look for additional areas where you can cut back.
2. Decide Whether to Merge Bank Accounts
Many people think bank accounts should automatically be merged when they get married, but that isn’t optimal for everyone. There is no right answer, it all depends upon your personal situation and what you’re most comfortable with. One additional option is to open a shared bank account to be used only for monthly bills while each of you maintains your personal bank accounts.
3. Discuss Retirement Goals
Use an online retirement savings calculator to see how much money you need to set aside each year to reach your joint retirement goals, then adjust your contribution levels as necessary. If you’ve yet to get going on retirement savings, the best place to start is with your employer’s 401k program, if available. Your pre-tax contributions are withdrawn automatically from your paycheck, and if there’s an employer match, be sure to take as much advantage as possible. Another option is a Roth IRA, although if both spouses are high earners, you might not qualify. If you make more than a combined $193,000 per year, you aren’t eligible.
4. Reduce Credit Card Debts
If there’s any lingering credit card debt from before you tied the knot, now is the time to address it as a couple – unless you decide to maintain completely independent finances. If tackling it together, total up your balances, create a pay-down plan as your budget surplus allows, and start reducing those debts. Set mini-goals along the way – reducing your balances by $2,000 per year if you have $10,000 in total debt, for example – and give yourself a modest reward each time you hit a goal.
5. Start an Emergency Fund
Starting an emergency fund is essential, especially when you buy your first home. You can no longer dial up the property manager if your AC goes on the fritz or a pipe breaks under the sink. If you plan on having kids, it’s even more important. Shoot for an overall goal of six months’ worth of living expenses, and try hitting benchmarks along the way to make it feel more achievable. Use cash gifts on your birthday or raises at work to beef up your fund.
6. Update Beneficiary Accounts
Now that you’re married, the beneficiaries of your various investment accounts and insurance policies may need to be changed. Be sure to update this on all necessary documents so your money goes where you want in the event of your passing.
The only hard and fast rule here is always be open and honest about everything. If something’s bugging you about your partner’s financial tendencies, express yourself respectfully. And never hide your own purchases, it can only damage your relationship. When you’re honest about your thoughts on money and you express them to your spouse, you strengthen your bond, improve your level of trust, and create a better, more enduring relationship overall.
Do you know of any other budgeting or money management tips for newlyweds?