When Elle from Couple Money and her husband got engaged, they agreed that discussing their finances would be a priority. They talked it over with family and friends and decided “getting on the same page with money was crucial.”
Elle says, “At that time, I was wrapping up college and he was in his first post-graduate job so to be honest, we felt like this would be a piece of cake. We’re both poor college kids, right?”
But as we’ve all learned here at Debt.com, nothing about finances is easy. Elle and her fiancé set aside some time one night and a new realization dawned on her: “Very quickly we discovered we had different ideas on money!”
“I had the trifecta of debt – credit cards, car loan, and student loan and he only had a small student loan that he was paying off once the grace period was over,” says Elle. “I also was investing in an IRA while he was a bit intimidated by that. It was obvious we needed to square some things away with our finances.”
Luckily for Elle and her husband, they both recognized their different viewpoints on finances and quickly addressed them. “I think the first issue we had to discuss was our view of money,” says Elle. “I came from a background where if you can afford the payments, you were good. My husband was much more conservative and cautious with money.”
They talked about what was important to them: “We discussed what we wanted to do both as a couple, (buy a house), and individually (he’s into tech, I like travel), and we built a budget that worked with those goals.”
They also agreed that having separate checking accounts for “fun money” would suit their marriage and help them reach their personal goals. “We’re aware of the accounts and the purchases, but we really don’t interfere with them,” says Elle. “He tends to save up for a big tech purchase and I like to use it for getaways or hanging with friends.”
The one income plan
What really caught my attention about this couple’s financial partnership is their decision on a one income plan. I’ll let Elle explain: “How it works for us is that one income is focused on the essentials (food, clothes, shelter, bills) and the second income gets used on paying down debts, fun money, and funding goals.”
She told me when they first started living on one income, they had no choice: “At the time it was out of necessity, I had an internship while going to college full-time and my husband had his first post-graduate job.”
By living frugally and budgeting carefully, they made it work. Now it’s much easier with two incomes and it provides extra money for things such as an emergency fund. “Having that buffer and margin with our finances is also a guard for whenever things get tough, like when hours are cut at work or when we had a big milestone like our girls’ arrival.”
Speaking of their girls, Elle and her husband educate them on finances even though they’re only two and six. For example: “Right now our six-year-old wants to buy a power wheel, so we talked about a few things, including the cost of a new one ($250-$400) versus a gently used one ($125-$175).”
Elle says she started her website Couple Money in 2009 because she needed it. “There were some wonderful personal finance blogs out at the time, but I couldn’t find one that addressed the added challenge (and fun) of working as a team with money.”
If you need help like Elle did back then, she provided us with three tips that will help jumpstart a successful financial partnership.
- Define Your Why. After the essential bills, what do you two really want to be able to do? Why? Pick one or two goals that you’re enthusiastic about and build your budget around them.
- Automate Your Finances. We all have things we’d rather do (like hanging with our family and friends) than counting and stressing over every penny. Automate your bill payments, transfers, and investment contributions and you’ll save time and avoid hassles like late fees.
- Have Regular Money Dates. Staying on the same page is easier said than done. One of the best things you can do to stay in the loop and motivate each other is having money dates. Set aside time and go over the numbers and adjust as needed.
And don’t forget, always be honest with your finances. Thanks Elle.
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