Coupled Up: How to Merge your Finances
It can be difficult to move from the mindset of caring for your own financial needs to considering that issue as part of a couple. The good news is there are many methods you can use to come together and work as a team to tackle the financial goals of the household.
Follow these five steps when it comes to your honey and your money.
1. Review your financial goals together: Identify where you stand now and what your financial goals are for the next 30, 60, 90 days, and the following years. Look at the big picture and talk about what you both would like your money to go toward: for example, planning for a child, purchasing a new home, or worldwide traveling. Also, discuss who will be the primary person to “handle” the financial business, such as, paying the bills, talking to creditors, researching discounts, etc.
2. Determine the household and individual needs: This include things such as mortgage/rent, credit cards and student loan payments, car notes, and groceries. Individual needs and wants are items such as clothes, daily Starbucks visits, and gym memberships. Give your spouse the “real talk” about how these items are important and if needed, what you are willing or not willing to cut back on or compromise. You may want to set up an allowance for each of you to spend on your wants and personal needs without being accountable to one another. And, don’t forget to discuss savings.
3. Set up your budget: Perhaps the most significant way to set up a budget is to add up your income and then subtract your household and personal expenses and savings to make sure you are not spending more than what you bring in. With any extra cash, you can allocate the money to discretionary categories like “date night” or bump up your savings. Also, for more flexibility, set aside some money from the surplus for each of you to use as “extra spending” to do with as you please.
4. Track your spending: With a budget in place, the hardest part is to follow it–together. This means decisions should be made about shared bank accounts and sharing your name on checks and credit cards. This will simplify keeping track of your spending. For an accurate assessment of your expenses, it is helpful if you can both track your spending with either every single receipt (if you mainly use cash) or with your bank statements (if you mainly use your debit card). For the tech savvy spenders, using a phone app, such as “Envelopes” or “Mint” budgeting tool, can help follow that green paper trail right from your phone.
5. Evaluate: Set up a weekly or bi-weekly date to discuss your finances. During this time, discuss any barrier that you came across, how close you are to moving towards your financial goal(s), how much money you have left, and the total amount in savings. Eventually, these meetings can move to once a month or bi-monthly.
Whatever the plan is to merge your finances with your spouse, the goal is to be able to effectively communicate the pro’s and con’s and deliver on joint goals.
About Dr. Karen Ratliff
Credit: Dr. Karen Ratliff
Dr. Ratliff is a certified life coach and professional educator, assisting many people in accomplishing financial, career, and educational goals. She is also the author of “Tightening Your Bootstraps: 104 Tips to Kick Your Debt to the Curb Now.” Keep up with her budgetary advice via Twitter @drkarenratliff her website at www.drkarenratliff.com, and her facebook fanpage “Financially Focused with Dr. Karen Ratliff.”