Newlywed’s Guide to Building a Budget
Getting married can be exciting. Once the honeymoon is over, you’ll begin settling into the routine of married life. Your decisions from now on will no longer just affect one person; it will also affect your spouse. To avoid falling into financial issues, one of the first things you should do as a couple is to create a household budget.
Regardless of whether you and your spouse have lived together before, prior to being married, you both made and spent money independently. As a married couple, you will now have different priorities, and being financially stable is important. Buying a home, making investments for your future, having children, all of that requires financial stability. Building and maintaining a budget will help you ensure that you and your wife/husband spend and save your income wisely. Here’s a guide we put together for newlyweds just like you, who want some guidance on how to build a budget with their spouse:
Determine How Much Money You Have
Write down an estimate of your combined monthly income. This should include your paychecks as well as other forms of income, such as investment income, trust fund distributions, or rental revenue.
Come Up With a Strategy
Beginning your new life together means you will both be able to contribute to building a brighter future. It’s important that you come up with a strategy together. One important decision you’ll have to make early on is whether you’d like to have joint accounts, separate accounts, or a mixture of both. When discussing your options, be sure to keep an open mind and choose what works best for you both. Here are your options:
Joint Accounts – Deciding to have joint accounts means you’ll move your individual funds into a single account with both of your names and only use that from here on out. You would also add each other’s names to credit card accounts, utilities, and any other bills you both have.
If you decide on having joint accounts, you’ll need to determine who will balance the budget and pay the bills. One of you can do both, or you can split responsibilities. It’s important that you don’t miss a payment or pay late because once you join your finances, your credit scores are both affected.
Separate Accounts – If you decide to keep your accounts separate, you can still keep your finances in order together. It’s important to communicate regarding income and expenses effectively. The key to staying on top of your finances is to assign tasks. Who will be paying the mortgage, car payments, and credit card bills? Who will put money into your retirement account? If you create a strategy that you both can stick to, you won’t have any issues managing your finances.
Remember, just because you don’t have joint accounts does not mean you can keep each other in the dark. You’re partners in life now and must be honest with one another to avoid issues, financial or other.
Write down on a master list (preferably kept under lock and key at home or a safe deposit box at the credit union) with your account information, bills and due dates, and instructions on how to pay those bills if there is an emergency.
Joint and Separate Accounts – You can also choose the alternative and have a joint account as well as your own individual accounts. What you decide to pay with each account is up to you. You may find it easier to pay larger bills, like a mortgage, together and smaller expenses, such as coffee or gifts, separate.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to make financial decisions together, especially since they will affect your credit scores. Practice full disclosure and determine who will be making what payments. You should have access to each other’s accounts in case of an emergency.
Begin Building Your Budget
Begin by tackling your non-negotiable expenses first. Write down recurring bills, such as mortgage and car payments, cell phone bills, and insurance payments. These payments are predictable and easy to budget around, which is why you should address them first.
Next, begin to budget for non-discretionary spending, such as groceries and utilities. The easiest way to do this is to track your spending for a month or two to get an idea of what your bills are like. You must also budget for discretionary spending, such as gym memberships, entertainment, dining out, etc.
Set aside an emergency fund. This is important because you never know when you’ll need it. Whether you’re short one month, have an unexpected health issue, or need to get your car fixed, the emergency fund will be there to bail you out.
Invest in your future by contributing to your savings and retirement accounts regularly. Discuss with your spouse (and possibly a financial advisor) to develop a long-term retirement plan. Every month you and your spouse can add to those accounts so that you can eventually meet your retirement goals.
Re-Evaluate Your Budget Quarterly
Things change, so it’s important that you re-evaluate your budget regularly. This could be monthly or quarterly; whatever works best for you and your spouse. If you’re spending too much and not saving enough, look closely at your expenses and adjust as necessary. If you have separate accounts and find that it’s difficult to keep up with payments, you may want to consider joining accounts. Re-evaluating regularly will allow you to adjust as you go, adding or taking away expenses as necessary.
Financial planning isn’t easy and cannot be done overnight. There are a lot of things you and your spouse need to discuss. Again, be honest with one another, be patient, and make decisions together. No matter what happens in the future, you’ll be able to face it together!
We’re Here to Help!
If you have questions on budgeting or need assistance getting the most out of your accounts, give us a call at 202-479-2270 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.