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How possible is it to manage bills as a married couple? In the real sense, what you should be asking yourself is, “how impossible is it?”
The following are a few tips you can put into practice to take care of your bills as a couple to ensure a lifetime of financial stability, love, and trust:
1. Have A Candid Discussion About Your Financial State of Affairs
Being aware of your financial predicament is a good way to kick-start your openness with one another. Experts recommend that you have a sit-down with your partner and assess your financial situation regularly.
Take that time to be clear on your financial goals, how much you’re both willing to bring to the table and where your debt stands.
Each of you may have conflicting methods on how to handle the situation. The more you discuss and listen to what your partner has to say, you’ll begin to see things from their perspective and vice versa.
There’s every need to discuss where you want to be in the future. Rather than sailing on different boats, you’ll both be on the same page and work towards achieving the same goals.
For example, one of you may suggest looking into homeownership. This way, you’ll never have to worry about rent each month.
Present the suggestion to your significant other and discuss the way forward. When you’ve looked at what’s involved, set up a timeline to achieve that and many other goals you may have in mind.
Deciding to do it on your own and going ahead to open an individual savings account may have positive results for your finances and marriage as a whole.
When you both work towards achieving the same outcomes, it becomes relatively easier to sort out your bills as a couple.
2. Consider The 50/50 Commitment
There comes the point in every serious relationship where savings accounts, bank accounts, and retirement plans become the center of attention. Eventually, you may see the need for splitting the bills on a 50-50 basis.
The thing about married life is that it can get complicated as the finances get really messy. You both have your individual needs.
You have child support payments to fulfil, while they’re looking to clear their student loans. You may be adapting to a joint lifestyle, but the most complicated bit about it may be combining your assets.
While marriage in itself is a 50/50 commitment, money is not. By keeping an open and honest communication regarding your income and expenses, you’ll be able to create a plan that sits well with both of you.
Though you may be fixed to a common goal and have huge money baggage on your shoulders, you won’t be carrying it on your own.
A study conducted by Kansas State University concluded that money is a top determine on whether a couple will stay together or not.
Arguments related to bills take relatively longer to recover from and are often the most intense. To avoid that, draw a thin line between the ‘yours, mine and ours’ financial aspect of your marriage.
Odds of you and your partner having different salaries will most likely be put into consideration. In such a case, the 50/50 rule may not be as effective.
List down all your combined expenses such as utilities, insurance, taxes and housing. Take care of certain bills while they take care of others.
Each of them should go in line with your respective incomes. Fairness doesn’t always equate to equality.
3. Open an Emergency Fund
Millions of married couples toss and turn every night as they battle the anxiety and fear that comes with how to overcome their financial struggles.
The solution to this kind of financial restlessness can only be tackled by opening an emergency fund, also known as the seemingly ‘mystical account’, owing to their ability to neutralize every bill, expected or unexpected.
If you’re two years into your marriage and have never considered building an emergency fund, you’re putting all you’ve ever worked for in financial jeopardy. An emergency fund should be a top priority in every marriage. What is it, exactly?
An emergency fund is basically money that has been set aside for a rainy day. A ‘rainy day’ in this case refers to the unfortunate, unforeseen circumstances including a major home repair, natural disaster, family illness, and job loss.
Couples with zero access to emergency funds have no way of covering unforeseen expenses. Consequentially, they find themselves in the same debt-cycle over and over. The cycle looks something close to this kind of situation:
A couple takes a loan to cover unforeseen expenses then ends up paying off the minimum as a result of their income being used on expenses.
The balance continues to increase with each passing month along with the interest rates. In the course of the marriage, they encounter an emergency, thereby adding up to more and more bills.
Emergency funds not only prevent this avoidable debt-spiral, but they also reduce the levels of anxiety, tension and stress experienced by couples in dire financial situations. Increasing your emergency fund is something you should also put into consideration.
4. Keep an Up-to-Date Record of Your Monthly Expenses
How do you do this? By budgeting, of course. Drafting a budget as a couple is crucial in every way if you want to manage your bills with little ease. Budgets basically give you a sense of direction on how to spend your income.
As you can imagine, there’s a certain level of difficulty involved with budgeting as a couple. It’s hard to move on from solo financial needs to balancing both yours and your spouse’s needs.
Have a sit down with your spouse and determine any underlying issues and decide on how to tweak your financial approach to house bills.
Follow the following steps to set up a joint budget that will be beneficial in taking care of your bills.
Determine What You Need And What You Don’t
First of all, you need to outline your overall household needs. Essential items such as groceries, utility/debt/car payments, mortgage/rent should be at the top of your list.
If you know how much you spend on each of these every month, include an exact or approximate amount alongside each of them.
Be sure to prioritize the list from the most important to those that don’t really add value to the welfare of your home.
If one of you weighs in with an individual problem, include that as well. See how to put in equal effort to tackle whatever you’ve listed on your budget.
Create Goals For The Long-Term
Wherever there’s teamwork, there have to be goals involved. It could be a single goal, but then it wouldn’t be as motivating as having more to achieve within a specific period. Long-term goals have a number of positive impacts on your relationship and your family as a whole.
For one, you’ll both be able to stick to your budget without having any second thoughts. If you’re in the process of saving and spending without a particular goal in mind, you’ll have plenty of excuses to justify your spendthrift habits.
A perfect idea of a long-term goal is to get out of debt quick and plan on getting your own home.
Meet Up As Often As Possible To Discuss Your Progress So Far
Tracking household expenses shouldn’t be limited to a single individual. Considering you’re two individuals who have become one through marriage, you’re supposed to assist each other in all ventures. Set up a weekly or monthly meeting, depending on how free either of you may be.
Discuss how much cash you have left in each category and how you can incorporate it into your savings.
At first, you may need to meet up as frequently as possible. As time goes by, you’ll only meet up either at the start or at the end of the month as you’ll already have a clue of the essentials and the non-essentials.
To keep your budget realistic, you may need to update it according to changes in either of your incomes.
You could have your budget on a spreadsheet or jot it down the traditional pen-and-notebook way. Each time you pay a bill, be sure to cross it off to know what to take care of next.
5. Seek Expert Financial Advice
How often should you seek the counsel of a financial advisor as a couple? Most income earners are making it a point to find expert advice on as individuals and also as couples. This is an important step in achieving financial freedom.
Most couples hold on to the notion that to spend their money (even on something as basic as shopping), they need the approval of a financial adviser. As noble a move as it may be, it may, later on, turn out to pinch a lot from your wallet.
How frequently should couples seek expert financial advise? This will, of course, depend on the kind of situation and its level of complexity. Here are situations where you and your spouse should seek financial expertise:
When Making Long-Term Financial Plans And Goals
At the start of a new year, a size-able number of couples draft financial plans and goals based on how their previous year was financially.
The biggest challenge comes about when the available resources or the income earner’s financial situation don’t favor the couples’ goals.
With no form of financial guidance, couples will either set goals that are unrealistic and unreachable or easily achievable.
Most income earners will find this to be a huge challenge. The financial adviser will be able to tell via your financial status quo whether you’ll achieve your desired financial objectives or not.
Differences In Plans
Most times, you may find yourselves having conflicting views on how to go about clearing a certain debt.
Such disagreements may interfere with your financial plans in more ways than one. That’s the point where you need to book an appointment with someone who can foretell the outcomes of any plan you may have.
Whether you received a salary bonus or you lost your job, you need to review your plans to work out how well you can make the necessary adjustments. The changes you make will reflect on all the changes in both of your financial lives.
Maneuvering Through The Debt-Clearing Process
This should be the paramount reason any couple should have to visit a financial planner. A huge majority of couples in the world have managed to forget about their bills through the assistance and guidance of an expert.
Similar to budgeting, bill payment should be a planned process. Otherwise, it may end up being a vicious debt cycle.
Your financial adviser will guide you through the planning stage of tackling your common financial situation. Along the way, you’ll notice how easier it becomes to meet all your living expenses as you clear your bills.
There are a number of reasons why doing things out of the ordinary can work out for any couples’ lives.
In this case, not relying on either of your financial intelligence and looking to one with a vast level of financial knowledge can have the most pleasant results. Provided you stick to what you’re told, everything should work out just fine.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks
As a couple, strive to find the right level of risk. It’s not always that you’ll do things according to the book.
While the male species may be ready to take all the risks with their finances, the fairer sex often opts to take a back seat. In the wake of the current economic recession, gambling with your finances isn’t what you’d consider an option, would you?
Despite the economic decay, there are more reasons to get out of your safe zone as compared to why you shouldn’t. For any married couple to achieve financial success, there have to be a few risks worth taking.
Risk-taking should never be regarded as an unfavorable opinion. But while there are those risks that lead up to regret later on, there are those that lead to complete financial freedom.
For instance, if you have a great business idea, don’t be shy about financing it by liquidating your 401(k).
Before taking any course of action, remember that you’re not in it on your own. Discuss the issue with your spouse, as they may be of a contrary opinion.
Neither of you needs to be too much into your comfort zones, neither should you be too far out of it either.
There needs to be a compromise when it comes to risk-taking. Beyond the recognition and external opportunities associated with risk-taking, it also provides an avenue for internal growth.
Whatever mistake you may make along the way, it will make both of you wiser and open to more strategies of tackling your debt issues. You’ll never know unless you try.
7. Merge Your Accounts
There’s nothing like a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution when it comes to joint money management. Coming up with the best ways to share finances when married may turn out to be a very tricky thing to do.
As your marriage life goes through certain advancements, so does the way you handle your finances. There are four ways to achieve a successful joint account:
- Pooled Account
- Separate account
Married couples can use a single joint checking account and use it for corporate expenses such as eating out, groceries and rent.
If you get paid similar income amounts and there’s no big difference in your lifestyle tastes, why not contribute the same amounts to one joint account?
Both parties should set up a reasonable contribution of 50% of the total domestic bills including rent and utilities. If you earn different amounts, calculate the percentage of what you make versus the total.
When operating one separate account, you’ll be required to combine all accounts i.e. savings and checking.
Every month, a certain amount of money is transferred from your collective checking account directly into your separate checking accounts. The idea behind this is to make sure that the funds can be spent in a guilt-free way.
To run a separate account successfully, you’ll both be required to deposit your paychecks directly into the joint checking account.
All the household bills will then be paid from there. This should be done in either a bi-weekly or monthly basis.
A totally combined account ensures total transparency. Each party will have an active role in deciding how much money has been spent and how much has gone into savings.
To keep it simple, one person can be responsible for the planning of a joint financial venture.
This kind of account needs a well-drafted plan to ensure the successful consolidation of both accounts.
List down each of your accounts and think of the accounts you’ll need to keep to make it easier to manage and spend.
Once a married couple comes together to live under one roof, they may not always wish to handle financial stuff jointly.
One person may take care of the mortgage or rent while the other caters for utilities and groceries. There’s no form of account combination as each of you will maintain total control of each of your personal finances.
However easy this account may be to set up, it may require additional month-to-month cooperation. List down all your joint monthly expenses including groceries, utilities, and rent.
Discuss amongst yourselves who will cater for what item on the list, and set up a monthly tracking system to ensure timely payment.
8. Manage Your Finances Using Legitimate Finance Apps
Any couple can attest to the fact that managing finances isn’t really the easiest thing to do. Now that most couples don’t balance expenses, tracking and checkbooks, keeping up with bank balances may become a bit of a struggle. In turn, most of the bills are either left unpaid or partially paid.
There are a number of finance apps that are a huge help when it comes to keeping up with your spending habits.
Additionally, these apps have the capability of pinpointing areas where you spend excessively and track all forthcoming bill payments.
So far, only the best finance apps have numerous variations in features i.e shared wallets, subscription tracking, bill due dates, email reminders, etc.
All these are key in the management of your overall finances. The following finance apps are available for download on both Android and iOS platforms:
This is one of the most famous finance apps around. Mint gives you the opportunity to track all your investments as well as scheduling all utility payments. For manually-paid bills, you can use the app to add all the due dates right on your phone calendar.
If you have a couple of subscriptions and you just can’t keep track of each one of them at once, Clarity Money is the app for you. Through this app, you can stop wasting your money on useless subscriptions.
It has a unique feature that lets you identify all the unused apps. It will then be up to you to delete it or keep paying for it.
Prism is perfect for bill payment. It gives you a comprehensive picture of your finances by showing all your financial accounts and bills.
Add each one of our bills to the app and it will automatically track them as you go about your day-to-day duties.
This app helps you avoid late payments and the penalties that come with it. With this app, you’ll no longer have to log in to multiple accounts just to pay your bills.
Other alternative finance apps include Personal Capital, YNAB (You Need a Budget), Mobills, EveryDollar and Spendee. For each of these apps, you could decide to have them on each of your phones or choose to have them on one phone.
Managing Bills as a Team Has Never Been Easier
Marriage life is an experience that may need a lot of getting used to. When tying the knot, couples vow to stick to our soul mates ‘for better for worse, for richer for poorer.’
A couple of months into the marriage, most couples break this solemn vow due to the inability to manage their bills collectively.
Some couples choose to stick to their individual financial management skills, which is not in sync with their spouse’s.
Others will instead let their partners take charge of all the financial matters. This often results to trust becoming a distant memory and eventually, a divorce.
It doesn’t always have to come down to that. It’s a known fact that money is a significant aspect of every human being’s life.
Like any ordinary couple, you’re bound to spend and save all the time with your loved one. For now, it’s best to maintain a steadfast and positive relationship through constant and beneficial communication.