Five financial lessons I learned this year
If someone told me just over a year ago that I would be writing about money, I would have thought...
According to WeddingWire, Valentine’s Day is the second most popular to get engaged. For most couples this will mean a celebration – followed quickly by the realisation that they need to start planning and saving for their wedding and indeed their future.
And, if you’re anything like myself and my other half, you’ll spend a lot of time talking about how much everything costs. Wedding planning tends to be a bit stressful when it comes to money and a drain on your bank balance.
I’m hardly an expert on finance, let alone relationships, but I do know a thing or two about splitting finances, both before and after getting married.
There are three main ways to manage your money as a couple: combine everything, keep it separate, or have both joint and personal accounts.
No one way is the “right way” – that will depend on the couple. But whatever your decision, I’ve come up with a few money discussions that every couple should have. Whether you’re soon-to-be engaged, newlyweds or long time lovers, it’s always good to communicate about your finances.
‘Valentine’s Day is the poet’s holiday.’ – Ted Kooser, poet
Don’t be afraid to talk about money. Discuss how you’re going to handle your finances as a team. Regardless if you decide to combine all your money, kept it separate or do a bit of both, talk it through and make sure you’re both on the same page. Be super open with one another about how much you’re willing to spend and how much you plan to save. Fighting about or worrying about money can put a strain on a marriage – don’t be a statistic.
Hopefully this one is a no-brainer, but I’m going to say it anyway: be honest when communicating about finances, because what’s the point of sitting down and having “the money talk” when at the back of your mind you’re already thinking about that secret credit card that’s maxed out. Don’t just be honest about your debt or spending habits: be open about how much you’re making as well. You need to know the habits of the person you see a future with, both financial and otherwise, because lying about it now will only create bigger problems in the future.
Now that you’ve been open and honest, sit down with your finances together and make your budget. Make sure you’re budgeting for some ‘non-budget’ items as well: if you’re combining all your finances, it’s important to have a little money set aside each month for the partner to do with as they please with no explanation. Hello guilt-free spa day/lads weekend.
While it’s important to live your day to day life in harmony, you also need to think ahead to your future years and what your finances will look like. For example, do you both want to retire at the same age? Do you want to be a stay-at-home parent at some point, or stop working altogether? Or maybe you both want to take a year off from it all and go traveling. These are all big goals with equally big financial consequences that you’ll need to consider both in your budget, but also your relationship.
Having “the money talk” today doesn’t mean you tick that box and move on. Circumstances – and people – can change. So be sure to check in regularly with both your budget but also your partner. Make sure no big goals or ideas came up they were too afraid to share. Keep the dialogue and communication about money as open and honest as it is when you talk about what you did at work that day. It’ll take pressure off you, your relationship and your finances.
I would love to tell you not to overspend on the wedding because that’s good advice, but it’s also advice I didn’t listen to and I don’t want to be a hypocrite! Do what feels right for you and enjoy the day and remember you have your whole life with this person. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from two years of marriage it’s that it’s not all romance and butterflies: it’s learning how to compromise and communicate with one another – especially when it comes to money.
P.S. If you were wondering, the first most popular day to get engaged is Christmas Day. Mistletoe will do that to you…