You found the perfect wedding dress (you may have even given Pippa Middleton’s glam bridal look a run for its money). You said “I do” and kissed your new spouse for the appropriate, not-too-short-not-too-long amount of time after making it official. You danced the night away with your BFFs (and a little liquid courage, thanks to your signature cocktails). Your honeymoon was perfect too, and now you’re feeling tan, well-rested, and ready to take on life as a newlywed. Could life be any more perfect? Probably not.
Newlywed life might feel totally fab and carefree at first, but these early days are also key for having tough conversations and laying a healthy foundation for the way that you and your partner are going to handle serious issues in your long and prosperous future together. Husband and wife team Chris and Marlow Felton are the authors of Couples Money and The Prosperity Factor, and they offer these eight tips for newlyweds who are working on getting more financially compatible in the early days of marriage.
1. Start looking at money as “ours.” You’ve been out there killin’ it on the job and paying your own way for all of those single months and years, and we’re willing to bet that adjusting to the idea of a shared financial pool is going to be slightly uncomfortable at best. Even if you and your spouse aren’t joining your bank accounts, the fact that you’re now officially sharing a home and life means that you’re in it (like, all of it) together — and it’s time to start thinking accordingly. Take baby steps toward looking at money as a shared asset. Cut back on conversations about “I’ll pay this” or “you’ll pay that” as much as possible to avoid unnecessary financial tension and to begin shifting your mindset.
2. Use separate funds as “fun money.” According to the Feltons, “The only time funds should be separated is for fun.” They recommend establishing a “fun fund” made up of a predetermined percentage of your joint income. Each partner can take their half of that cash and use it for anything, well, fun! Manicures, anyone?
3. Work on understanding each other’s priorities. Like so many aspects of relationships, ensuring financial success in your marriage comes down to communication and compromise. “While some may think they shouldn’t spend money on anything short of a life-threatening emergency, others may feel like they’re not living unless they invest in interior decorating,” the Feltons say. “Have a discussion and draw up a realistic set of what you need and what you can do without.”
4. Consider the psychology of money. We all relate to money differently, and only a lucky few of us have an uncomplicated relationship with our finances. Early on in your marriage, work with your spouse to understand the similarities and differences in your approaches — and think about how you can help each other get more comfortable with cash. “Whether you have the same outlook about money as your spouse, or if you’re living on different financial planets, try to focus on improving your money mindsets,” the Feltons say. “Quite often, people who have a negative outlook about money struggle with it. Couples who see the good in money and hold positive beliefs about it tend to be better off financially.”
5. Communicate about big purchases. This one should probably go without saying, but please, please, PLEASE don’t forget to consult with your partner about big-ticket items — even if you feel like they’re must-haves. Consider setting a specific threshold. When an items costs more than that particular dollar amount, you should get in the habit of running the purchase by your spouse (and vice versa, of course) before you swipe the ole credit card.
6. Budget for the fun stuff. “It’s important to live within your means, but it’s also important to let loose once in a while and have fun, especially as a newly married couple,” the Feltons say. All the praise hand emojis for that! According to the experts, the best way to make this happen is (drumroll please)… planning in advance! Be clear with your budget so you can quantify your expenses and then have realistic expectations for spending on vacations, entertainment, and date nights. This will allow you and your spouse to be on the same page about the kind of fun you can afford to have at each stage of your financial life, eliminating plenty of disappointment along the way.
7. Plan for the worst. We hate to bring the doomsday vibes to your blissful newlywed la la land, so just think of us as the voice of reason (or blame it on the Feltons!). At some point in the long and happy life we’re sure that you and your spouse are going to live together, the odds are good that you’ll need to have some money stashed away to fund a medical crisis or other emergency. Financially speaking, how can you get ahead of a situation like this? Check in with experts and start talking to your partner now about how you’ll be able to manage your money amid scary situations down the road. As unromantic as this might sound, it will assure that you and your family are taken care of in the face of unforeseen circumstances, and those conversations will be easier to have in the early days of your marriage than when crisis strikes later on.
8. Start thinking about your family financial philosophy. Even if you don’t have kids now (or aren’t planning to have them at all), it’s helpful to think of your joint finances in terms of a shared philosophy that you would one day want to teach your children (or nieces, nephews, and BFF’s offspring). Considering finances like this — instead of as a long list of scary-looking numbers on your account statement — should give you and your partner a fresh perspective on what you’re trying to achieve with your hard-earned money.
Do you have other tips for getting financially compatible with your partner? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)