So, you’ve gotten through all the wedding plans and have even decided which in-laws you’ll visit for your first Christmas together as a married couple. What could be more difficult?
If you’re like most newly married couples, you might not have had “the talk” yet, which means one of your biggest hurdles to achieving marital bliss may still be in front of you. Talking about one’s finances is not easy; it’s like baring your soul. If you and your spouse didn’t have an honest conversation about savings and debt before the marriage, you might be in for some big surprises (and not all of them pleasant). Perhaps he has tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt you didn’t know about. Maybe she has a credit card balance that hasn’t been zeroed out in years.
Managing money is one of the most common things couples fight about. One wants to spend; the other wants to save. It can be difficult to compromise if you're accustomed to being responsible for your own budget and only your expenses.
And, aside from the debt you may each have individually, as newlyweds it can be easy to overspend on things like your honeymoon or furnishing your first home together.
So, how can you start addressing the problem and get on the same page with your spouse regarding financial habits before debt pulls you under? Start with an honest conversation regarding your lifestyle desires. Create a budget that’s mutually acceptable. Agree as to who is going to pay for what. Be willing to compromise as to what you consider a “need” vs. a “want.”
A common route couples take is opening a joint account. This allows both parties to have access and knowledge regarding financial status so that there are no surprises. If you feel the need to maintain your sense of independence, you may not want to combine all your finances, but a joint account can serve to fund major emergencies and ongoing expenses.
If you approach your financial situation realistically and responsibly, coming together as a couple doesn’t have to mean your expenses will double. You may be able to trim total expenses through bundling, refinancing and reducing. Here are a few tips that can help whittle away at added costs:
By combining your various insurance policies under one provider, you can qualify for multi-line discounts. For health insurance, it can be cheaper to insure a couple vs. two individuals.
Update employer tax forms.
As a married couple, you’re likely in a new tax bracket. If this is true for you, you’ll need to adjust your withholding in order to avoid a possible tax penalty at the end of the year.
Now may be the perfect time to look at existing mortgages and other consumer loans and consider refinancing to get a lower interest rate.
If you previously lived apart, you might now have twice as many items as you need! Take a good look at the household essentials and furniture you have and consider selling extra things for cash.
Transfer credit card balances.
Take advantage of lower-interest credit cards that may have been offered to the spouse with the better credit rating. Depending on the offer and credit card company, you may be able to transfer over remaining balances from high-interest cards.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for outside help. There are financial advisers and debt consolidators who routinely work with couples just like you. Don’t let money get in the way of your future. Say “I Do” to prudent savings and spending that is part of a mutually-agreed-upon plan.
The information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither Cortland Bank or its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering you any tax, accounting or legal advice.