It may come as no surprise that one of the most common areas couples fight or disagree about is money. However, mapping out a plan together will go far in minimizing financial stress that can build during a marriage.
Last week we examined the first three steps towards reaching financial wedded bliss! If you missed it or want to recap, you can check it out here.
We looked at how to evaluate the past, open up communication, create a budget, and set goals. Now it’s time to check out the final actionable steps!
Tracking each and every one of your expenses is a vital component of what actually makes your monthly budget functional. It’s not rocket science, but staying on top of this step can be daunting – which is why we set goals!
The tediousness of tracking is partly why developing a system that fits with your taste and needs is so very necessary. This system can be anything from an Excel spreadsheet, to a budgeting app or software program, to handwritten lists. The key is to find something that is easy enough that you’ll both stick with it.
If you are just starting out and are unsure where to begin, I highlysuggest carrying around a small notebook and pen wherever you go. This enables you to jot down every dollar you spend as you spend it, and it removes the temptation for guesswork.
Even if tracking is something you are familiar with, it’s beneficial to track daily or weekly. Waiting until month end can be asking for trouble. Missed or overlooked items happen, but are not good when you’re trying to stick to a budget.
In addition to my daily written tally, I’m a receipt hog. I collect receipts for literally every penny I spend. I’ll immediately put receipts into my wallet for safekeeping and every couple of days add these to a folder. Each month when my credit card closes I’ll compare the list and receipts to my statement. I’ve found this is a way for me to monitor my spending and make sure I didn’t skip any purchases.
The point? It’s a matter of preference. What works for me may not work for you, but the bottom line is to find a way to make this step manageable.
Also, keep in mind that you and your fiancé may have a different methods for tracking. And that’s OK. Just make sure you create a master grid, or carve out time to discuss your totals so that you’re on the same page. You need to be consistent in order for budgeting to work.
This is the step where you figure out what’s most important. What do you want the most? What is most important to your significant other? Are they the same? If not, where and how can you compromise?
Maybe you have more than enough money to cover all of your needs and wants (including money to allocate towards your goals). That’s fantastic and the ideal situation we all strive for when it comes to our finances. However, getting to this point is something many of us need to actively work towards.
Reflect on what you can afford and what you need to cut back on. Take a look at your goals. Which do you want to start working on now? Maybe you like your lifestyle as is, and instead of cutting back you’d rather not have that expensive wedding dress you’ve been eyeing. Or maybe it’s worth forgoing that dinner and a movie with friends to start building your emergency fund, and so forth.
This aspect of finances will be different for everyone. Just make sure, as always, that you communicate your preferences to your partner. It may result in give and take, but trust me, you’ll be better off by focusing on this area early on instead of waiting years down the line.
ADJUST & RE-EVALUATE
Taking control of your finances is not a one-time project. You can’t just set the groundwork and walk away. It’s a works in progress that should be absorbed into your routine and reexamined on a regular basis. This means you need to keep your budget in check. It requires a lot of discipline and motivation to maintain, but the end result is very rewarding.
Don’t get discouraged if your numbers are not where you feel they should be. Overspending happens - its human nature to overindulge. But in the end, budgeting comes down to asking yourself and your fiancé what is important. You must be willing to actively make changes together to better your situation.
Along the way you’ll establish systems to keep you on track. You’ll be able to determine what is working and what is not. Learning how to adapt and when to adjust is simply part of the budgeting experience.
ESTABLISH A SUPPORT SYSTEM
The journey towards financial wedded bliss isn’t easy. Where you both presently are in the “money game,” is nobody’s fault. Placing blame does nothing to help the situation. Remember that this financial path is a work in progress. It’s a long path that requires a lot of hard work to make improvements.
You’ll need the support of one other to make that change happen. So even when times get tough, remind yourself it’s a walk not a sprint. And if you stick to the plan, you’ll eventually achieve your goals. Together you’re taking the steps towards a positive outcome and a stable financial foundation.
You are a team. Be there for one another when it comes to financial challenges. There to cheer each other on when it comes to financial success and reaching goals. To keep one other accountable in a constructive and supportive way.
Now for the last step…
APPRECIATE & CELEBRATE
It’s time to figuratively (or literally if it’s in the budget) pop the champagne!
Money and marriage can be tricky to navigate, but ignoring the topic is not the way to go. Avoiding financial discussions early on in your life together will only be asking for problems down the line.
Finances are not an easy subject conquer and simply starting a dialogue with your significant other can be difficult. However, laying the foundation now, will make financial obstacles easier to handle in the future. Communicate with each other and plan for your upcoming journey together. This will offer significant peace of mind and your marriage will thank you for it.
What are some of your biggest financial obstacles as a couple? Let us hear it below!