No Romance Without Finance

5 Lesson About Marriage and Money

Guest Post by Valerie Wade

There we were, spring 2016, deep in the frenzy of wedding planning. I decided to stop procrastinating and make some progress on our wedding registry. 

I plopped down next to my fiancé  with my laptop and a couple of catalogs. He glanced at them and shared a knowing look with our terrier.

We get to pick out gifts!” I tried to cajole him into some semblance of excitement.

He humored me for a bit and slowly flipped through one of the catalogs. But we both quickly realized that we didn’t need any of that stuff.

We had “shacked up,” (as my mother likes to say) for most of our relationship. 

I thought about the two irons in our hallway closet and the multiple saucepans in our kitchen cabinets. Even though wedding registries were standard practice, we just didn’t need one.

But while we were talking about cutlery and stand mixers, something crazy happened. 

We realized that we didn’t have to model our wedding or marriage after what everyone else was doing. 

We could take the time to discover what would be best for us.

So we pushed the catalogs aside and started having a very serious conversation about the values of our union and of course… marriage and money.

Making Money Rules in Your Marriage

People still make assumptions about women, money, and love based on a one-size-fits-all approach. 

I firmly believe that wedded bliss looks different for every couple, and that’s totally okay. 

Life decisions are deeply personal, but money undergirds them all.

Do you want to maintain two separate apartments while engaged or do you move in together? Gotta think about money.

Do you want a big wedding or a small one? Gotta think about money. 

Do you want to have no kids, one kid, or five? Gotta think about money.

My husband and I took our time with each other before diving into marriage.

Getting married after spending years paying my own rent, having accounts in my name, and doing my own taxes meant adjusting to a new normal.

In many ways, my husband and I have made our own rules for our relationship so far, so why not take our time to figure out how we want to conduct our finances as a married couple? 

Below are five lessons that I’ve found useful for maintaining financial balance as a newlywed.

Lesson 1: Communicate

As a woman, I struggle to maintain the independence I worked so hard to cultivate in my 20s while also developing the spirit of teamwork necessary for a successful marriage in my 30s. 

I’m so used to my money being my private business, and he feels the same about his. 

But we’re officially in this for the long haul, so we make every effort to get over ourselves and communicate. 

Oddly enough, our most honest and productive money conversations happen when we’re walking our dog. 

These are our little check-in sessions. We answer questions like:

  • How much are you bringing in each month, and how much are you putting away for savings?

  • What’s your retirement plan looking like?

  • How is your life insurance set up?

  • How are we progressing toward the down payment for our house?

  • What are our student loans and other debts?

  • What large purchases or travel plans do we have coming up?

 Of course, we discussed these things before our wedding. But it is so useful to keep bringing these topics up.

Lesson 2: Do What Feels Right

I think every newlywed couple should take the time to figure out what works for them. 

When things get contentious (and they do), I think back to those moments like our wedding registry conversation. 

We decided on a course of action that felt natural for us no matter what tradition dictated. 

The same goes for our finances. We try not to force things if they just don’t fit with what we need. 

We certainly don’t have all the answers, but we give ourselves space to learn. 

For us, marriage isn’t about rushing to merge all our accounts or hurrying to buy a house before we are ready because that’s what people say we are “supposed” to do.

Lesson 3: Tell People to Mind Their Business

Everybody will have advice. 

Most people don’t mean any harm, and they respect your boundaries and don’t take it personally. 

But others will be very adamant about you doing things their way.  

There are people who assume we have money to burn because we’re childless and employed. 

Then there are people who are convinced I’m destitute because I drive a 10-year-old car. (I’m committed to Team No Car Note.) 

And you know what? I let them think whatever they want because it’s really none of their business. 

They don’t know anything about the details of our income, our savings, or our expenses. 

Marriage is stressful enough without people thinking they can tell you how often you can eat out, what kind of car to buy, or when you should have a baby. 

It’s great to seek advice from others, but be careful about letting people feel that they have a huge say in how you use your funds.

 Focus on developing a financial plan with your partner  instead of your entire circle of family and friends.

Lesson 4: Switch Things Up

I’m learning to imagine financial growth as a journey. 

Our financial journey looks very different from our parents and grandparents. 

Transitioning from singlehood to a long-term committed relationship to marriage means that my relationship with money has to mature right along with my relationship with my husband. 

Sometimes, you have to re-examine your road map and change paths accordingly.

It might mean switching up your life insurance policy, opening a retirement account, or learning about the stock market. 

It might mean spending more money on a chiropractor instead of manicures. Or… maybe both!

Just be flexible. Don’t be afraid to try new things with your money from time to time.

Lesson 5: Have Fun

Marriage means you have a buddy for life! Y’all better take some time to have fun together. 

Life is all about balance. Spoil each other. Go on trips. Indulge in your hobbies. 

Don’t fall into the trap of never going out or treating yourself because you’re so focused on saving. 

You will end up being the grumpy bitter auntie with premature wrinkles and split ends because she refused to pay for an occasional facial or salon appointment. 

Money is a tool. It is not something to be hoarded or wasted on frivolity, just use it wisely.

In Conclusion

I know that money might not be the most fun topic to discuss with your partner, but being practical and honest is key. 

It’s so easy to get caught up in what other people are doing and what other people think, but this is your marriage! Feel free to design it in a way that works for you. 

And above all, make sure that you are having the tough conversations and keeping money top of mind. 

This just the beginning. 

What tips do you have for managing money in a relationship?

Valerie Wade is an archivist and historian who grew up in Nacogdoches, Texas. She earned her B.A. in African American Studies and Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis. She went on to study United States History at Duke University, where she earned her M.A. She can usually be found at a park with a good book. She loves crafting, day-hiking, and hanging with her husband and their dog.

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