There’s so much to think about when you’re recently married. But it pays to give some time to thinking about your finances. When two people come together, they bring with them different priorities, different habits and ways of doing things. Merging two different individual’s ways of thinking about money can be tough – and is the cause of more than a few arguments in marriage. Which is why it’s important to try and communicate and work out a way forward before the differences turn into disputes.
With that in mind, here are ten tips that can help you and your partner avoid falling out over finances.
STICK TO A BUDGET AND AVOID DEBT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
If, as a single person, you spent without any cares for whether you ran up debt or not, now’s the time to stop. You need to sit down with your spouse and set a budget, based on your joint earnings, with all your incomings and outgoings factored in. A realistic budget is essential because it will be the basis of all the important financial decisions you make from now on. Without it, you cannot make informed decisions about what you can and cannot afford and you risk sleepwalking into debt and financial crisis, and ultimately, relationship difficulties too. Money worries are the leading cause of marriages falling apart, according to research. Effective planning and sticking to a budget is the way to avoid much of the conflict that can arise when couples don’t communicate over finances.
SET FINANCIAL GOALS TOGETHER
You and your partner both have things you want to use your money for. You will both have your own priorities and things you enjoy spending your money on. Being married doesn’t mean you need to stop spending money on those things you consider important. The problem comes if it comes at the expense of the things your partner might want to prioritise. As with most things, communication is key. If you want to save up for regular holidays and your partner wants to spend any spare cash you both have on saving for a bigger car, then it could turn into a source of resentment and dispute between the two of you. It is very important therefore for you both to sit down and discuss your financial goals together. Arrange goals according to their order of importance to the both of you. If you can’t settle what has more priority, then you may need to do some deeper work into understanding why each priority matters so much to the other. With understanding comes acceptance.
It’s important to grow the savings habit. This way, you will be able to prepare for unforeseen situations and have a contingency fund, not to mention be able to plan for the nice things in life. Not having any savings can put a considerable strain on a relationship if there are emergencies. Setting a ratio of how much you will save every month from your earnings is a good habit to get into.
DON’T LET RESENTMENT BUILD UP IF THERE’S A PROBLEM
A poll of over 2,000 British adults by the legal firm Slater and Gordon found that money worries top the list of reasons why married couples split up. One in five of those questioned said that they were the biggest cause of marital strife. One in five of those polled also blamed their partner for their money worries, with accusations of overspending or failing to budget properly being the biggest causes blamed for fallouts. As with most things, communication is the way to prevent cracks turning into deep splits. Take the time to discuss concerns and problems you can see building up. Facing up to problems – whether they’re debts that you haven’t told you partner about, or spending habits you’d rather not admit – is the only way to prevent them from driving you and your partner apart. It might be a tough conversation to have, but it’s far better to be honest and share your concerns than keep secrets that store up bigger problems for the future, and which breed resentment and division.
DECIDE WHETHER TO HAVE SEPARATE OR JOINT ACCOUNTS
This is one of those big decisions all couples face at some point or other. To have a joint account and pool resources on everything? Or to keep all your finances separate and split the bill on things like rent, the mortgage, and utility bills. The trouble with these approaches can come when one person in the partnership doesn’t feel able to contribute as much as the other. Lots of couples compromise by having an individual account and a joint account. This allows you to keep some of your money separate to be spent however you wish but ensures that the bills and other big joint projects you are saving for, can be shared between the two of you. Sharing bills doesn’t always necessarily mean splitting them 50/50. Making an arrangement where one of you pays the mortgage and utility bills, while the other pays for all the food and council tax, for example, can work just as well as long as both partners are in agreement.
CONSIDER MAKING A MARRIAGE WILL
Making marriage wills is really important. It ensures your wishes about what should happen to your money and property if either of you should die, are made clear in a legally binding document. Many people assume that if they died, their partner would automatically inherit their property and possessions. This isn’t always the case without a will, so it’s important to seek advice from a professional will writer and get your wishes penned in a will as soon as possible.
UNDERSTAND THAT TOUGH SITUATIONS WILL COME
Try to factor in that no amount of planning can remove all life’s inevitable ups and downs. Being financially prepared however, will certainly help stand you in good stead when you face tough times, and help you approach them as a united front, rather than causing divisions between you.