May 20, 2008

Important things to discuss: Finances

There are lots of things to talk about before you get married. Some of them are more fun than others. One that might not be fun, but is very important, is the topic of finances.

Be very honest with each other. What kind of debt do you have? What savings do you have? Investments? What is your credit like? It's important to know ahead of time what you are stepping into, in order to avoid surprises after the wedding that could result in hurt and anger.

Discuss what type of spenders you are. How will you balance things if these are different? How will you set your budget? Decide what percentages of your budget will go towards savings, repaying debt, necessary expenses, and discretionary expenses.

Decide who will be responsible for paying the bills and managing your money. If one of you has a better financial sense, or is better about remembering to pay things on time, that's the natural choice. Whatever you decide, make sure that you're both comfortable with it. You can always reevaluate later.

Do you want to completely blend your finances, or would you prefer to have separate accounts? Will this be based on who makes more, or will you share equally?

Discuss how much money you think it is okay to spend without checking with your spouse. We find it helpful to allot a certain amount of money from our budget each month for personal discretionary spending. If I want to go out for coffee, or go shopping for something fun but not necessary (like a new purse), or if Mickey wants to go out with his buddies, or buy a scratch ticket, the money comes out of that budget. This money can be spent or saved and used for a larger purchase later. It's money we can use on gifts for each other. Whatever we decide to do with it is okay, because it's an amount that we agreed together that we could afford to spend.

Whoever manages the finances, make sure you're both aware of what your situation is. If one person is going to set the budget, make sure both parties understand it and are comfortable with it. Check in at least weekly to see how you're doing with it.

Finances can be a big cause of stress in a marriage. The key to avoiding this is plenty of open and honest communication. Get started with this now, before you're married, and it will help you for years down the road.

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