How to start budgeting as a couple


Hi, my name is Karen and I am a Finance Coach. I specialise in helping couples talk about money - without arguing.

I would like to offer you my FREE eBook, How To Get On The Same Financial Page As Your Spouse.

If you have any thoughts or questions on how you can start budgeting as a couple, please don’t hesitate to email me

Conversations about money aren’t romantic and I know that talking about your personal finances probably won’t be high up on your list of things to talk about.

But, with money being one of the main causes of divorce, it’s a topic that you should really get a handle on before you get married.

My husband and I were married for 18 years before we got on the same financial page.

We had marriage mentors, a financial advisor and we attended wedding prep classes. No one told us how important talking about money was. No one told us how to budget. No one told us how vital it is to be on the same financial page.

That’s why I became a finance coach. To tell everyone that getting on the same financial page is critical for your personal finances and your financial future.

Take it from me, when you and your spouse are on the same financial page, you work together to create and CRUSH money goals as a team, it’s a game changer. Not only for your finances but for your marriage too.

If you are on the same financial page, this can be an exciting moment. However, if you are on two different pages financially, this may be overwhelming.

By following these tips, you can start talking about money in a positive way and start budgeting together as a couple.

Discuss your views on money

Every person has a different childhood that impacts their views and thoughts about money.

It influences their money saving, spending, and investing habits.

Therefore, jump into the money conversation and talk about your first memories of money.

Understand each other’s experiences of having no, little, or too much money at different points and how it shaped your money mindset.

Remember that your childhood experiences of money may be different but that doesn’t mean that one is right and the other wrong.

As a newly married couple, talking about your money memories will help you to understand each other and from there you can work together to start a new path on your financial journey as a couple.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

What are your earliest memories of money growing up?

How did your parents relate to money?

Was there conflict in your family about money?

Were there other powerful influences that could have affected your money story: Church, school, community, your wider family, family friends?

When you started to have money of your own how did you handle it?

Talking about your money memories is a great way to learn about your current mindset when it comes to money.

Remember, if you have a negative mindset when it comes to money, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be changed.

With a bit of grace, love, kind words and an understanding that you can rewire your brain, you can have a healthy relationship with money.

Forgive your past financial mistakes. We all make mistakes. The important thing is that we learn from them.

If you have negative thoughts around money, you can turn them into positive affirmations. By understanding your thoughts and emotions around money, you can turn them around.

For example:

‘That’s too expensive’ could change to:  ‘That's very luxurious. I can’t afford that yet but I’m going to start saving for it.’

Be honest

It is vital to establish a culture of openness and honesty from the outset. Being open and honest is the only way.

When you have a good understanding of your present circumstances, including debts, perspectives on debt management, saving strategies, and retirement plans, you can see the big picture and make a plan.

Should you combine your bank accounts?

As a newly married couple, I would highly recommend combining your bank accounts, but only when you are married and not before.

I have heard many horror stories where one partner has cleared the large debt of their partner, only to separate a few weeks or months later.

When you are a married couple, working together from the same accounts, it will create accountability, honesty and a sense of teamwork. You are now married. It is no longer ‘yours’ and ‘mine’, it is ‘ours’.

Bank accounts: Combining your finances can be convenient, allowing you to contribute to and pay shared bills from one pool of money, rather than determining how to split expenses.

However, it can also lead to more discussions and potentially more conflict over how money is spent.  So be prepared that the first few months may be difficult and not go as planned.

Remember that it normally takes around three months to create a budget that works for you. So be willing to show both patience and grace to one another. You can do this!

Credit cards

Credit cards: A few credit cards allow joint accounts—where both spouses have the authority to use the card and the responsibility for repayment.

Others allow you to add your spouse as an authorised user. You retain control over the account and are responsible for paying the bill, but your spouse will receive a card with their name on it, or will be authorised to use your card.

But be careful, if you are using your credit card for the rewards, then the reward redemption policies for credit card issuers vary.

If rewards are important to you, connect with your issuer before adding an authorised user to better understand its policy.

However, credit cards can be dangerous. I have seen many people get into crazy levels of debt with their plastic ‘friends’. Personally, I would only use them if you can be sure to clear the balance every month. If you do have credit cards then I challenge you, can you live without them?

Credit history: Coming into the marriage, you each have separate credit reports and scores, which remain separate. If your spouse has unfavorable information on his or her credit report, it won't affect your score.

However, any new joint obligations will show up on both reports, including mortgages, car loans, and joint bills such as utility bills. That means if your partner pays a joint account late, your credit will suffer, too.

Budget together

As a newly married couple, budgeting is a crucial step in money management and can become overwhelming.

However, limiting spending and saving for your goals can be fun if you know how to manage your colliding thoughts.

When you have visibility into your financial conditions, you can start planning toward your future goals.

Sticking to a budget can help you keep each other in line and support you through the process.

The spending habits improve as you define the saving areas and lower expenses accordingly.

If you would like to budget, but don’t know where to start, download my super, simple Excel Spreadsheet. It’s super easy to use!

Set up times to meet and track spending.

I know that a Money Date may not be the most exciting way to spend your time but it’s a great way to keep you on track with your money goals. It  gives you the opportunity to discuss what’s going well…and what you may need to do differently next month.

Usually, just after the honeymoon, we may indulge in miscellaneous spending without care.

On the other hand, it is also possible to keep as little of a spendable amount and live in misery.

A healthy balance is necessary to keep the fun and know you are working towards your money goals.

It's so true that budgeting and working on your finances together is a great way to work and win as a team.

Read more: How To Create A Budget In 6 Easy Steps.

Make a plan for your financial future

Newly married couples should also discuss retirement and long term goals, such as buying a house or taking a dream holiday.

If, as a couple and you can afford to, it's a good idea for both spouses to be contributing to retirement accounts and set up an automated system to facilitate saving for those long-range goals now.

Evaluate insurance

Buying insurance is a vital part of adult life, especially once you're married. For example, you could potentially save by bundling your car insurance onto one plan.

If you're making financial commitments that rely on two incomes, such as buying a house or having children, I highly recommend that you take out both income protection and a life insurance policy. If something should happen to either of you, you know that your family will be able to survive financially.

I know it’s not romantic but I have seen first hand the struggle that a family had when the wife passed and the husband had to work two jobs so that he could provide for his young children.

Had they insured the wife, he would have been able to stay at home with the children and they would have been able to support each other through this difficult time.

Remember Values, not numbers

As newlyweds, remember that what’s important is your attitude towards money, not how the numbers look.

The key isn’t how much money you have or spend, but how you spend it, how you manage it and how both of those situations affect your marriage and relationship with your spouse.

Disagreements over money issues are the second reason couples divorce for a good reason. Remembering your values as you navigate your financial ups and downs ensures you and your spouse stick together as a team.

Unfortunately, emotions can run high and can often get in the way of making the right decisions financially.

When you discuss money with your spouse, you need to have a level head. This will take practise, but you can get there with the help of each other.

When we set clear boundaries with a regular budget, it meant that our financial talks weren't interrupted by emotion.

Find some money mentors or a finance coach

Managing your money as newlyweds can be tricky. You have to be honest with yourself and your spouse.

As we’ve discussed earlier, talking about money can be a highly charged emotional subject. Let's face it, talking about money doesn’t come easy for many people.

Those with debt often feel overwhelmed or ashamed. When we’re feeling down, it’s easy to go shopping and that's where money mentors or a finance coach can really help.

Having a neutral couple or a coach to talk to can be very powerful. When it comes to managing our own money, it's easy to make excuses for ourselves.

When you work with a finance coach, you know that the next meeting with them is in the diary, and you're going to have to discuss your purchases —and that can be just the thing you need to make better choices.

Read more: What is a Finance Coach?

Additional Tips for Newly Married Couples

Set a Time to Talk

Don't spring a money conversation on your spouse when they aren't expecting it. Set aside mutual time for a meeting.

Recognise Your Differences

Everyone has a different relationship with money. It's not a requirement that you understand why your spouse feels the way they do, but it is important that you recognise and respect those feelings.

No Judgment

It might be difficult, but one of the best ways to have productive money conversations with your spouse is to create a judgment-free space.

Regardless of your better half’s financial situation, it’s important to approach it with compassion and neutrality as you work together to create a plan.

Avoid Fights

It might be tough to talk about money, but that doesn’t mean you need to fight about it with your spouse.

If you set a dedicated time for money conversations. That ensures that everybody is mentally ready to discuss the topic.

This way, the person initiating the conversation won’t feel dismissed if their spouse doesn’t have the time, energy, or desire to have an impromptu discussion.

If things get heated, as I know they can do, agree on a way to take a time out, and remember that the way you ask for a time out is as important as taking one.

There is No One-Size-Fits-All Solution

Strategies and techniques that work for you may not work for your spouse. Trying to force someone to adopt methods that aren't comfortable for them can potentially make matters worse. Be patient and show grace.

Create a budget line for FUN!

I used to think that having a budget was restrictive and we couldn’t have any fun! I was wrong! You can create a budget line for fun and enjoy your money without feeling guilty!

Practise Makes Perfect

Money is not a one and done conversation. It's something you'll need to come back to again and again. But the good news is that the more you talk about money, the easier it becomes.

I know that merging finances when you are a newly married couple can be a challenge, but believe me, it's an important step in building a strong and stable relationship.

By having an open and honest conversation with your spouse, creating a budget together, deciding how to merge your finances, setting financial goals together, and being prepared for unexpected expenses, you can create a solid financial plan for your future together.

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