I love a great wedding! I love the laughing, dancing, great food and great family and friends. I also love watching the interaction between the happy couple as they are the stars of the show.
But, the wedding and honeymoon only last so long. Then, comes life together as a couple. We all hope and pray that our life as a married couple is filled with the same things that make a great wedding (laughing, dancing, great food, and the creation of a great family), but the reality is that if we do not intentionally find ways to grow together, they will unintentionally grow further apart.
If you are looking for intentional ways to grow together as a married couple, here are 3 tips to start your marriage off right. If you have been married for awhile and you see signs you’re drifting from your spouse, these tips can quickly bring you closer together.
Combine your finances
In a traditional wedding service, the officiant often proclaims how two become one. This means two completely different people become one couple together. This should be no different in our finances. The first thing you should do as a married couple is join your bank accounts. This means you no longer have any individual bank accounts and you have one joint account with both of your names on it.
Why? The first reason for this is that you will feel like you got a raise. This is simple math, but when you combine your paycheck with your spouses paycheck, you may see double (or more) in your paycheck each month. Just imagine the greater sense of accomplishment you will feel when payday comes around.
It will also eliminate financial secrets. When you combine your finances, there is not an opportunity to hide a secret purchase. If you make a late-night stop to McDonald’s, or find another reason for a Target run, it is not a secret. You can both see what happens in your account.
A myth is that when you keep your individual account once you’re married is that it gives you “freedom” to buy whatever you want, whenever you want. However, it also allows you to purchase things you may know you shouldn’t purchase, or go places that you know your spouse would not approve.
Many couples talk about how they need their individual account so they can surprise their spouse with gifts. I know this is a big topic, and I address it later.
By combining your finances, it may cause some disagreements at first. But, over time it will eliminate many money fights that would happen if you kept your finances separated. When you combine your finances in marriage, it will ultimately reinforce how the money you have is no longer mine, but it is ours.
Go on a “Dream Date”
Another tip for you to get closer to your spouse is to go on a “Dream Date”. Go ahead and dream about the place you will go, but the point is to discuss your financial dreams and goals as a couple. Feel free to have this conversation at an amazing restaurant or on the couch after the kids go to bed. Either way, the point is to eliminate distractions so you can focus on each other’s dreams with money. Your dream date may happen in one night or it may happen over the course of a few days depending on how you process things.
During this conversation, discuss the goals you want to accomplish together. Some things to consider: saving, paying off debt, buying a house, investing for your future and when you want to retire. It can also include investing for your children (if needed), or how and where you want to give money (to charity or Church), too.
The important thing to focus on in this date is to solely focus on the what, not the how. Focus on what you would like to do so that you can stay dreaming. Don’t consider how to get there just yet. If you focus on how you will get there too soon, it can cause unnecessary stress or anxiety to one (or both) of you. So, just focus on your dreams for now. During this conversation, you can consider how you want to feel with your finances as well. For men, this can be difficult (feelings are hard for me too), but it is important to understand this for both of you for when you think about the accomplishments you see ahead of you.
This conversation may help you start to think about your kids (or future family), childcare, planning to buy a house, etc. It may also bring up how one of you may want to stay-home to be with your kids full-time or part-time. Remember, we are discussing the what, not the how. If this is the first time you hear something from your spouse, don’t panic. If you need to ask questions, or want to understand more about it, there is plenty of time to follow-up.
After this conversation is done, your spouse’s dreams and desires should be much clearer to you. Now that you have some goals, it is great to start thinking how realistic they are to accomplish. This is where we need the third tip.
Start a Budget
It is great to combine your finances and start dreaming, but the way to make these dreams a reality, is to create a plan for your money. The word budget often has a negative connotation. When you hear the following phrases — I am on a budget, or it isn’t in my budget — it often makes us feel constricted or feel ashamed for various reasons.
But, I like to think of a budget as a plan for your money, and to me a budget gives me permission to spend.
Many people think they are on a budget, but when the end of the month comes, or when we are days before our next paycheck, they are wondering where their money went.
When you create a budget that works, you are creating a plan for your money before the month begins. You are telling your money where to go instead of allowing others or various impulses to decide what we spend our money on. Creating your budget is the first step to plan for your future.
The goal is that your budget turns into something you create with your spouse and you each agree on where your money will be spent in the upcoming month.
Since you have combined your finances, you will see how together you can accomplish your goals much faster. Intellectually, you will know that you got a raise when you combine your finances, but you will feel like you got a raise when you make your first budget.
How to get started with your budget? Use a Budget app.
My wife and I use the budgeting tool called EveryDollar. It offers a web-based platform at everydollar.com, and has an app for Android and iPhone. I suggest creating your monthly budget on the website and track your expenses throughout the month on the app. I also subscribe to a premium subscription of this app so my bank account can attach to my budget and I can track every transaction throughout the month. It allows us to strategically adjust the plan when we spend too much money out to eat, at the grocery store, or at the place we spend way too much money each month — Target.
If you interested in learning more about this app (or the subscription service), this link will get you a free 14 day trial of the subscription service Ramsey+, and discounts the first year from $129 to $99.
As you can see, we have to put the work into our marriage so it can last for years to come. Money fights and money problems are the main reasons why relationships lead to divorce. By focusing your energy in specific areas and growing closer to one another, you can start to see how by doing some simple things consistently will be the foundation to creating a marriage that lasts.
If you are struggling to get your spouse bought into working on your finances together, consider getting in touch with a good marriage counselor. This is someone who can help both of you see eye to eye and get through various issues you are facing.
If you are on the same page, but need help getting focused with your finances, I am here to help. Click here to find time for us to make your financial dreams a reality.