The blissful nightmare that was the planning of your wedding is over, the ceremony went off with minimal hitches, and your honeymoon was even more amazing than you anticipated it to be. So now that you’re back in the real world and all the problems of this world come back into focus, what is living with your newly betrothed actually going to look like on paper?
You have talked about how many kids you want and what their names will be and what sports you want them to play or not play, and you probably went as far as to pick out the kind of puppy that you will eventually buy them to teach them responsibility when they are old enough (even though it will be you who will take care of the thing in the end). Chances are, you’ve talked about all of these things and more, but never once used the “F” word in a conversation with your newly dubbed spouse: Finances.
As you two start your new life together, more important than what your future children’s names will be is the laying down of a plan on how you two will live, with specific numbers and all. Below is a breakdown of some of the most important things to consider as you and your betrothed discuss the nitty-gritty of newlywed finances.
Don’t blow your wedding registry.
A wedding registry is a privilege, and although it seems like an excuse to request the most unnecessary items just for the sake of getting it without you having to buy it yourself (I.E. Darth Vader cake molds, a Han Solo-frozen-in-carbonite refrigerator door etc.…), don’t mistake this opportunity for a Christmas wish list of knick-knacks. Don’t blow this opportunity to be showered in gifts on things that are not essential. You only have one shot so think long and hard about it!
Think logistically: what kinds of things will you two honestly need in your new home together? Well here’s a hint: keep track for about a week or so on the things that you use every day. Write them down because you will forget due to how often you use them. Things like: bowls and plates, glass ware, silverware, towels, Tupperware, cookware, a cutting board…you get the idea. Things that are actually essential to your everyday existence.
This kind of planning is best heeded by people who don’t already live on their own or with their significant other. If you already live on your own, chances are that you already have your own dishware…or dishware alternatives on hand (you would be surprised as to how versatile an upside down Frisbee can be).
Plan to live as cheaply as possible at the beginning.
When first getting started as a new and young team, chances are that neither of you are making the big bucks yet, but you’ll get there, just hold on. At the beginning, and we cannot stress this enough, live as basic as possible. Although you will want to live the life that you always wanted with a fancy car to call your own, a big house and all the puppies that can fit inside it at your disposal, it just isn’t prudent this early in the game to make those kinds of purchases just yet. Live as modestly as you can, and that can happen by both of you sitting down and talking about just how much money exactly is coming into your new house hold.
Budgets, moving money, and spending plans.
You need to make an actual budget and both be on the same page about what you are working with. Talk numbers and discuss if you will be joining accounts into a joint account or not, and discuss why. A lot of places will tell you that you must merge accounts as a newly married couple, but if you two have valid reasons beside pettiness that is keeping you from going down to the bank and pushing all of your money together, then by all means keep to your plan. No two couple’s situation is the same so there is no real blanket rule here.
- Be transparent about the past
If you haven’t been transparent about your financial situations yet (which you really should have been already at some point), then now is the time to do it. Discuss your financial pasts and what they looked like. This conversation will and should include coming clean about debts, and about spending habits. Are either of you shop-aholics? Penny pinchers? Spending like a ballers or saving like a miser?
Whatever your thoughts on spending money is, you need to share it and make sure you both understand what the other person is used to.
- Be transparent about what you want for today.
Talk about what you two can realistically afford right now, and what your lives will look like as long as your income is the way it is. Knowing exactly what you have to work with will help you two budget accordingly so that you can keep saving whilst still living a comfortable life.
Work together to map out what luxuries can be afforded, how much should be spent on what, and what kind of areas of interest (hobbies) can still be present in your new lives as well as how often.
- Be transparent about the future.
Saving money as you two go along should be one of the drivers of your financial planning. Unless you absolutely love the cramped and tiny Harry-Potter-before-Hogwarts apartment that you two are currently occupying, and it can fit all the kids and puppies you two talked about (*spoiler* it probably won’t), then you should be saving to move into a bigger place.
When that future house is finally achieved and bought, then what will the next set of savings go towards? The kid’s college fund? The vacation fund? The dog’s college fund? (hey, I don’t know what kind of future is in store and neither do you)… These are the kinds of points you both need to be clear about as you discuss what your lives will look like from this point forward and onward.
Stress comes in the form of money.
As you two enter into this exciting chapter of your lives, remember that you will always have each other to rely on when things get rough. Remember that is isn’t all about the money, it’s about you and your partner. Things will get crazy: one or both of you could get laid off or fired, one of you gets a raise and suddenly gets a “big head”, or one of you is faced with a job opportunity across the country and you both have to move.
When things get crazy, don’t let the stress of the money get to you. It will seem like its everything, but knowing that money is going to try to get in between you two and turn you into a statistic (its common knowledge that money problems is one of the leading reasons for divorce in the US) is going to help you keep those emotions in check. Keep your eyes on each other, and not the money.
Contrary to what Puff Daddy will have you think, it’s not all about the Benjamin’s, baby: it’s about you and your partner.
Don’t expect to live in splendor just yet (even if you can afford to).
Keep your living in moderation. This is important because like we said earlier, saving is what is important. Living like your parents (fancier cars, bigger house, and all the dogs that you always wanted to take with you but couldn’t) is just not doable at this stage in the game. Keep your heads down and work hard at your jobs and at your relationship, and eventually you can have all the things your parents do for yourself.
Even if you can afford to live the high life right off the bat (you have family money, you were a child CEO, etc.…), resist the temptation to live in splendor. Live as far below your useable budget as possible. Why? Because it is more important to save up for the bigger things for the future than it is to burn through them in the present. If you have the money, great! You can live a little more posh than the average newlywed, but don’t go crazy with that mindset, you are still advised to keep it modest.
So take advantage of your wedding registry as a way to pay for all the essentials you would otherwise have to pay for yourself, create a hard budget lined and drawn from information about past spending habits, current and future goals, and live in moderation. Save your money as much as you can while living well within your means, and before you know it, you’ll be running a successful and stable household all on your own.
So congratulations on your nuptials, and good luck out there!