One of the hardest parts of being married is joining finances and figuring out how to create a budget that keeps the family functional and allows both you and your spouse to have some fun. It’s easy to get caught up in who spends how much on what. It’s even easier to get competitive about whose hobbies matter more and are worth more of the budget.
If you aren’t careful these questions and concerns can lead to a lot of arguing, anger and disruption. So how do you do it? When you first start out, the “how do we budget and keep ourselves happy” feels like a harder question to answer than “when should I claim social security?”
Here are some tips that can help you out.
1. Budget in for Your Own Fun
Create line items in your budget for each of you and your “fun” or “discretionary” money. This way you know how much you’ve got to spend ahead of time and you won’t have to worry about who is spending what, where.
2. Prioritize Your Credit
You can save a lot of money if you transfer your credit card balances over to cards or accounts with better interest rates. You can help yourself even further by tracking down credit cards with balance transfer incentives.
When you’ve paid off your current debt, check out credit offers that you can use to help build a financial foundation for yourself in the future.
3. Prioritize Savings
Set up an automatic transfer from your family’s checking account to your family’s savings account. This transfer should be at least ten percent of your deposits for the week or the month. If you can afford it, you might add some money to it. This way you’re saving up some money while also paying down your debt.
4. Use Cash
Those “fun”/”discretionary” line items we talked about putting into your budget? Use cash for that. Take the amount out of the bank in cash each month and only use the cash for the things that are just for you. Then, when the cash is gone, you won’t be tempted to simply use the debit card for something last minute or that you didn’t prepare for. It also gives you the opportunity to save up for something bigger and fun that you want but that you can’t afford with a single month’s fund.
5. Shop Together
Have just one debit card for the family finances and shop for those things (groceries, utilities, etc) together. This way you don’t have to worry about overlapping on your purchases and accidentally over drafting your bank account.
Some families find that putting one person in charge of the budget and shopping is what works for them. Other families find that having several accounts (independent accounts and then a family account that you contribute to equally) is what works best. It might take some time to figure out how to best manage your money but you’ll get there!