3. Discuss Bank Accounts
There are both pros and cons to opening a joint bank account or to maintaining your individual accounts after you’re married. You can even do both. Combining accounts can simplify your finances and may help breed trust in a marriage. Moreover, it may be especially valuable when one spouse chooses to take on more household or child-rearing duties than the other and as a result there is inequality in income.
That said, some level of independence may be preferable to you both, though it can also make it easy for you or your spouse to hide certain purchases or spending habits. Plus, given the high divorce rate, keeping separate bank accounts can provide you some measure of protection should your spouse decide to “take the money and run.” Discuss this at length with your spouse to make sure you’re both comfortable with whatever you decide.
If you choose to open a new account together, make sure you use a free checking account to avoid unnecessary fees. A Chime bank account is a great open because of their lack of fees and tools to help you save.
4. Build an Emergency Fund
If you don’t already have an emergency fund, consider making this a top priority. An emergency fund is money that is set aside in case something expensive happens unexpectedly, such as a lost job, family illness, natural disaster, or a major home repair. Aim to save about 6 months’ worth of your household expenses in case the emergency is that you have no income. Building an emergency fund should be a priority because it will bring financial security and protect your relationship in case disaster strikes. This money should be kept someplace where it’s easy to access. I recommend a Savings Builder account from CIT Bank so you can earn a little interest from the funds.
5. Design a Budget
As I mentioned, one of my goals with my husband is to ensure that we are within budget each month. So we don’t go into debt, we limit how much we’re allowed to spend in certain monthly budget categories, such as food, dining out, and entertainment. Personal Capital allows us to really dig in and get a good idea of where our money is being spent.
Start by reviewing your joint expenses over the last few months to determine how much you’ve been spending and if you need to bring that amount down. Then, establish dollar limits per category that you create according to your after-tax income. Don’t forget to allocate for unexpected or irregular expenses, such as routine car maintenance or doctor’s appointments. Your budget may be a work in progress, so don’t worry if you have to make adjustments, especially over the first few months.
6. Track Your Budget
It’s not enough to just make a budget. You need to make sure you stay within your spending allotment and adjust accordingly as your situation, expenses, or income changes. One very effective way to stick to your budget is to use the envelope budgeting system. This is perfect for young couples who typically have lower incomes and must be careful not to overspend.
Another approach is to design a spreadsheet that tracks all your spending and totals it up at the end of the month (if you don’t want to do the work yourself, Tiller will pull all the information into a spreadsheet for you). You can also make use of certain debit and credit card tools that will breakdown your expenses per category. Just make sure you’re paying off your credit card charges each month. Try out a few different methods and do whatever works best for you and your spouse.