Newlywed Budgeting

Married life can be amazing and is often blissful the first few months after a wedding but sooner or later some big challenges will start to settle in that need to be addressed and one of those challenges is how to spend the money you’re both bringing in as a couple.

Finances are much more simple when you’re handling them as a single person. You only have one income, one set of bills, and one person’s opinion on the matter. You set the priorities of your budget, you make all the decision, and ultimately you have the final say. Overall it really comes down to what you want to do with your own money.

Once you’re married however, it’s a little bit different. You have the bonus of an extra income (most of the time) but with it comes an extra set of bills and another person that is just as convinced as you are that they know the best way to spend any and all money the two of you make.

For a lot of couples this can lead to tension, especially if you weren’t living together prior to your marriage. It’s new territory and it can be difficult to figure out how to handle any issues that might arise about who does what with the money. Fortunately it doesn’t have to be a bad experience for either of you and in fact it can be a process that strengthens your marriage and even brings you closer together as a newly married couple.

The first step when tackling the new world of dual-finances is to listen. It’s important to listen so that you can clearly hear and understand your partners views about money. And while you listen keep in mind that they probably come from a different background from you and that their family almost certainly had a different style of handling money than yours did. Remember that while both of you may have different opinions and methods of dealing with money neither of you are wrong. You’re opinions aren’t right one way or the other - they’re just different. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that either of you can’t compromise a little bit on certain issues. Just make sure you’re truly listening to the other person and their concerns - you may even find a new way of looking at something and decide to change how you feel about a certain issue.

Once you both know what the other is looking for from a financial standpoint you can sit down and figure out where your priorities do and don’t match up. For example if one of you would rather spend more money the car you two have but the other would rather spend money on your home there’s going to be some mismatch there. There are lots of ways to deal with this mismatch but the one I’ve found works the very best is called the “Ten Acres” approach. The ten acres approach works like this: you each get what I call “ten acres”. You get to do whatever you want with and inside of your ten acres while your partner gets to do whatever they want inside their ten acres and neither of you gets any say about the other persons ten acres.

So, for example, if cars are more important to one person than the other those will get but in that persons ten acres. They get to make all the decision involving the cars you two have or don’t have and the other partner just gets to support them in those decisions. Perhaps how children are raised is more important to one partner than to the other so that matter will get placed in that persons ten acres and they’ll be entirely in charge of it. This method works particularly well for finances as well. You can divide up responsibilities like budgeting, bill paying, investing, saving and so on between whoever they matter to the very most. For some couples this might mean that the issue of finances gets placed entirely in the hands of one partner and for others it may mean that certain aspects of it belong to one partner and other aspects belong to the other partner. However it works is fine as long as it works.

If you decide on this or another method make a point of trying it out for a set number of weeks or months before making any decision on it and if it works for you. You may find out down the road that you don’t actually care very much how the money is spent just as long as the bills get paid or you might learn that you are in fact very passionate about the dealings of your finances. Either way just be open to seeing how things work out for the both of you.

It’s also wise to decide who will have the most control over the budgeting. If you have a joint checking account and you both have cards to access it then you’ll need to spend a fair amount of time keeping each other updated on the money you both spend so that neither of you go too far out of budget at any given time. It also means you need to decide in advance about big purchases and communicate with each other about unexpected expenses or bills. Doing so can help keep you firmly within your budget while still allowing you the freedom to spend the money you earn.

Another technique that I’ve found works well for couples on a budget is having designated “play” money. Each person has a certain amount of (pre-decided) money to do what they want with each month. Obviously this amount will range depending on your budget and the state of your finances but whatever it is stays the same every month and the use of that money is entirely at the discretion of each individual partner.

One partner may choose to spend it on new purchases each month, another might decide to save it for a larger purchase down the road. Either way whatever they want to do with it is what they get to do with it. This allows both partners to feel like they have some freedom with their money will still staying in their budget and holding up their end of any agreements that have been made.

Some married couples choose to keep their finances separate for one reason or another. Sometimes this is for convenience, other times its for business or tax purposes, and other times it’s just what works best for that couple. These couples usually divide up the bills between each partner relative to the amount that each person is making. That way both partners have their own money and bills they are responsible for and they also have their own limits as to what they can spend each month. Many couples find that this prevents bickering over one person making a purchase or spending money in a way that the other person doesn’t agree with. Usually the idea is that as long as all bills get paid on time and other financial commitments are kept each person is free to do what they want with the remainder of their money.
The challenges and struggles of dealing with money are different for everyone but by being open minded and willing to take the time to find a method that works for you as a new couple you can easily find a way to budget together. Newlyweds or no there are still plenty of opportunities to make changes in the way you handle your money as a couple even if its as simple as going over your budget together and reevaluating your priorities.  By considering new options for your budget and your finances you may be able to find ways to compromise and work together that you didn’t know were an option before. Overall a lot can be accomplished simply by sitting down and talking and that can make a huge difference in the way you and your new space relate to money.