Newlyweds often have a lot on their plates upon returning from their honeymoons. One of the more critical issues newly married couples must address is their finances and how those finances will be combined going forward.
Combining finances can be a touchy subject for many couples, especially those who had not given much thought to their finances prior to tying the knot. But there are steps couples can take to make the process of merging finances go more smoothly.
* Discuss finances early and often. Allowing finances to be the elephant in the room is a mistake, as couples do not want to begin their lives together treading lightly around an issue as significant as finances. Couples should discuss their expenditures and spending habits as early as possible, as one of the biggest hurdles newly married couples must clear is coming to grips with one another’s financial habits. If such habits have already been discussed, then developing a financial plan will be much easier once that time comes. When discussing finances, define both short-term and long-term goals and how each of you can adjust your spending habits to make those goals come true.
* Pay off any debts. The cost of weddings has skyrocketed over the last several decades, and many newlyweds find themselves in a considerable amount of debt upon returning from their honeymoons. When merging finances, couples should prioritize paying down such debt, as debt is a significant source of stress for newlyweds and long-married couples alike. Newly married couples with little or no debt should avoid spending above their means in the months after they get married. Such spending is commonplace, as newly married couples often want to fully furnish their new homes or reward themselves for pulling off their weddings. But new debt can be just as stressful on a marriage as debt from the wedding, so avoid this potentially problematic pitfall by paying down existing debts with your newly merged finances.
* Make note of mutual expenses and open a joint account to pay for those expenses. Mutual expenses like mortgage payments, food and utilities should be the responsibility of each partner, and a joint account should be established to handle such expenses. When opening a joint account, discuss how much and how often each partner will contribute money. One partner might earn considerably more money than another, so work out a reasonable agreement that details how much each partner will contribute each month, and whether such contributions will be made on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis.
* Make concessions for one another. When merging finances, couples often discover that they don’t see eye-to-eye on how each person spends money. Couples who successfully merge their finances often note the importance of making concessions with regard to their partners’ spending on certain hobbies or luxuries. As long as those hobbies are not putting couples in debt or jeopardizing their financial goals, couples can make concessions so their partners continue to be happy and enjoy their favorite activities.