I married an accountant. Yes, I've heard all the jokes, but I lucked out and married an accountant with a great personality. Still, I didn't realize exactly how frugal he was. Like most couples, we have had to compromise on money matters throughout our marriage. Our financial house is in order, and there are several things we've done that have helped us stay on a firm financial path. If you're planning a wedding or newly-married, these 7 tips will help your "ever after" be happy.
Observe and accept habits
If your fiancée spends money each month on salon services like pedicures or your boyfriend loves to pay for premium sports channels, don't expect those things to change when you get married. As you date and get to know each other, note spending and savings habits. Often, these habits are hard to change so you might need to accept them as you merge your lives together.
Make a plan together
As you start your life together, you need to manage your money wisely. Start by budgeting together for your wedding and honeymoon, and then discuss initial expenses. If you are renting an apartment, you will need a deposit and often first and last month's rent. You may need to set up utilities or buy a car. All of these transactions will require discussion and agreement, as well as money. I remember going shopping with my husband when we were engaged. I paid for our purchases because we decided to combine our meager student incomes early. It was the first of many joint purchases, and I learned quickly that we would have to work together to stay on budget.
Know credit scores and debt obligations
Many couples merge their finances as they join their lives. If you are going to do this, it is imperative that you know about all the financial obligations your spouse has. Find out about student loans, car loans, mortgages, credit card debt, alimony and child support and debt to family members. Consider obtaining a credit report for both of you to see where you stand. Knowing your financial health will help you to be prepared to pay off debt and support yourselves.
Consider the future
As the bliss from the honeymoon fades, it's time to make longer term plans. Would you like to save for a house? Do you need to buy a car or move to a different city? Do you have grad school to pay for, and will one or both spouses work? As children come, how will you pay for their care, and will both spouses continue to work? You can't predict the future and plan for every situation, but having a rough draft of your financial goals will help you save and spend appropriately. Saving for retirement has always been a priority for me and my husband, and I'm glad we're on the same page.
Life insurance is a good idea for all couples but particularly if you plan to have children. If you are in good health, there are many affordable options for term insurance. Often, if you bundle your life, car and homeowners insurance together, you can get discounts. Employers and universities also often offer life insurance. Talk about disability insurance as well. Unfortunately, I've known too many marriages affected by serious illness.
If at all possible, begin saving as soon as you begin earning. Even if it's just $20 a month, having the habit of saving will prepare you for unexpected expenses and help you be able to afford large purchases without going into debt. It's easiest to have money taken out of your paycheck and deposited directly into a savings account, investment account retirement account or other product.
Save some room in your budget for being charitable, even if it's only a few dollars a month. Starting a habit of generosity when you are first married will help you be generous with each other and throughout your lives together. Giving to others also makes you realize your own blessings.
Don't let money problems derail your happy marriage. Learn to budget and discuss money early on in your relationship so you can avoid arguments and be financially successful.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.