Money may not be the most romantic thing to think about but money problems can be a predictor of divorce. An important part of the wedding vows is “for richer or poorer” and we’d all prefer the former! But after the euphoria of the wedding day passes, many couples leave their financial management to chance with money often becoming a bone of contention if each person has different attitudes and goals.
It’s unlikely that anyone would vow on their wedding day “I will love and honour you, stick to a budget, keep only one credit card and pay it off every month”, but seriously, couples need to develop their own financial vows. It’s not very romantic however this five-step guide could save a lot of heartache in the future.
Step 1 – Prioritise
Agree on what is most important to you both. You could spend big on lifestyle. You could save to afford a house, children, retirement or some other goal such as further education. Once you’ve agreed on a list, give it a name (something original like “Our Money Plan”), put it on paper and post it on the fridge where you see it every day to keep you focused.
Step 2 – Know where your money goes
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. However boring it may seem, you need to look at your spending and decide if it is consistent with your priorities. Sit down together to develop a budget. This can be easily done by regularly checking your bank and card statements. There are even a number of apps which can help you stay on track. By creating a budget, and sticking to it, you can easily keep track of your income and expenses.
Step 3 – Don’t eat your money
Most cash spending goes on food, so if you ever wondered where that $100 you withdrew from the ATM only yesterday went – you probably ate it! Reduce impulsive food buying by eating before you shop so you’re not hungry and shopping only once per week. One weekly trip to the supermarket will also cut petrol costs. Making your lunch instead of buying it will not only help your wallet, it will also help your waistline. Take a bottle of water with you when you go out instead of buying one; you’ll not only save money, you’ll help save the planet by reducing the amount of plastic that goes to waste.
Step 4 – Shop wisely
When you are spending on larger items, think before you buy. Do you need the big brand name? Maybe yes on electrical goods but maybe not on new clothing. Comparison-shopping does make a difference and there are many websites to help you find the best deals (be aware that a lot of comparison sites only show those providers who have paid for a listing so the reviews can be skewed). Instead, consider a subscription to Choice; they provide unbiased reviews for only $8.00/month. You can also save money on energy costs by shopping around for the best deal as well as making a few minor changes around the home.
Step 5 – Keep talking
Having a plan is no good unless you review it from time to time. This is a time to leave the boxing gloves off – because you will both make mistakes and maybe even cheat on your agreements. Your priorities will change over time and your Money Plan will change too. It’s important to agree on your goals, maintain good communication and keep your sense of humour.
Whilst these steps were written for newlyweds, they are just as appropriate for any couple, families, empty nesters and retirees… it’s never too late to start.
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