Two years ago I wrote about creating a financial game plan. It’s been a popular post and I think it’s due to couples looking for a solution that they can create together. Though most of the advice still hold up, I wanted to break down the steps for couples just starting out with getting their finances together.
The first topic I wanted to tackle was getting the two of you on the same page financially.
Before you can figure out where you’re going it’s vital for the two of you to have a completely accurate picture of where you’re currently at in terms of finances. That means you need to share with each other all your debts and assets.
If you’re not sure how much debt or assets you have, take a moment to go through your mail. Grab your bills and write down any balances you have on your credit card(s), car loan(s), and student loan(s). Do the same for your bank account(s), property (auto and real estate), and investments.
Whether you call it a budget or spending plan, the two of you need to have a way to decide where your hard earned money goes. Some wonderful tools to help you create a budget include free options like Mint and Manilla. They allow users to quickly set a budget and organize your bills painlessly. It took us 15 minutes to set up all of our accounts. We’re now able to get an accurate snapshot of our finances pretty much at any time. I also love Mint because I can set a monthly goal and when I get close to my spending limit I get an email.
If you two can’t seem to agree on the whole plan, then start off with one category. Set a goal to cut back on eating out for a limited time. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big or small goal, the point is that two of you need to learn to work out your differences for a common goal.
Unfortunately when couples have money problems that won’t resolve, it’s usually not due to the money. We each have our own mental script when it comes to handling money and relationships. If the two of you are stuck at this stage it may be helpful to get a neutral 3rd party to assist such as a certified planner or a marriage counselor.
I know some couples have separate accounts, but having at least some money jointly held encourages the two of you to talk. Our favorite bank right now is ING Direct. They offer free checking and saving accounts plus they earn a bit of interest. Their bill pay system is extremely easy to use.
Whatever bank you choose, spend just a bit of time setting up your free online bill pay with your bills, account numbers, due dates, and amounts. The great things is you’ll only need a few minutes a month to keep it up; automation takes the stress out of bill pay.
My next post will focus on creating goals that fit your family’s own financial situation. I’d love to have your input on some of your goals, so please share them in the comments and I’ll do my best to include them. How many of you are starting to build your finances as a couple? What are some of your biggest concerns?
Elle helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second.