3 Money Tips to Keep Married Couples Happy vs. Hostile

Recently, we looked at 8 tips for newlyweds in debt. Indeed, while it’s admittedly not as romantic as talking long walks at dusk, making wise and practical money-related decisions is not just important for a happy marriage.  In fact, it’s essential!

Why essential? Because the number one cause of marital breakdowns isn’t what you think.  The Lack of shared interests, constant arguing, pesky in-laws, lack of intimacy, or even infidelity are bad, but not the worst. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, the most common reason why couples head to marriage counseling — and then in many cases, to divorce court — is money woes.

The bad news is that there is no magic wand (or app) to keep all money problems at bay. It’s something that all couples — including the 1-percenters out there who certainly aren’t immune from marriage-induced financial pain — need to deal with throughout their relationship.

However, the good news is that there are practical and proven tips that go a long, long way to keeping married couples happy vs. hostile. Here they are:

  1. Talk about money.

Couples will talk about all kinds of sensitive and intimate stuff: rashes, phobias, fetishes (you don’t need all 50 shades of grey — just a handful will get the job done!), and the list goes on. But when it comes to money, even the most transparent couples tend to clam up — usually for fear of sparking a fight. The irony is that unless they talk openly about money, then instead of avoiding tension, couples put themselves on a one-way journey toward conflict.

  1. Don’t hide large transactions.

Couples shouldn’t have to report every purchase they make down to the last latte. But they should certainly share the news — preferably ahead of time — when they make large transactions. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of time before thousands of dollars that should be in an account are missing.  Then, the accusations and insults fly, fast and furious. And if you think that hiding transactions is a rarity, think again! A poll by CreditCards.com found that 20% of people in a relationship have spent more than $500 without telling their partner.  Plus, about 1 in 20 spouses maintain secret accounts or credit cards. Yikes!

  1. If you need help: GET IT!

Last but certainly not least, many people think that since they were good with money before marriage (or at the very least, they weren’t obliged to declare bankruptcy), that this acumen will naturally and automatically flow over into their married life. This is not necessarily the case. A marriage is not merely a collection of two individuals.  Nope.  Marriage is an altogether different entity that is far more complex. There is no shame or embarrassment if couples admit they need financial management help from an expert. On the contrary, it is a sign of maturity and responsibility.

If All Else Fails… 

Sometimes, even couples with the most robust spending and savings plan and the best of intentions run into massive and, frankly, un-fixable debt problems. If this is the road that you’re on — or you suspect that it’s where you and your partner will be in the future — then your best move may be to consult a bankruptcy lawyer. This doesn’t mean that you will (or that even you should) file for bankruptcy. But you certainly need to know what your options are, so that you can make choices that protect your long-term financial health and, indeed, your wonderful marriage.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

8 Tips For Newlyweds In Debt

If you’re a recent or upcoming newlywed, congratulations!  This is an exciting time, of course, and there’s so much ahead!  You’ve got many things to look forward to.  However, if you’re like many newlyweds, debt is a part of your life.  Nobody likes debt, but most of us have it.  Here are some tips for newlyweds in debt.

Be Honest

Hopefully, by now, you know everything there is to know about each others finances.  But, if you don’t, it’s never too late.  Make sure you both come clean about all of your debt.  You have to know where you’re starting from.

Rank Your Debt

Newlyweds in debt should make it a goal to get out of debt, or reduce it as much as possible.  Once you have all of your debts listed, start ranking them.  Figure out which ones you would like to get rid of first.  A variety of factors can tie into these decisions.  Do you have some debts with small balances that you can get out of the way easily? Are there high interest rate debts?  Or, do you owe money to family that you’d like to pay back?  Each couple will rank their debts differently, but it’s important to have a plan.

Create A Budget

Once you’re married, it’s important to create a budget.  If you’ve never done a budget, the first step is to simply track your spending.  Make sure you know where every dollar that you spend is going.  Also, understand every dollar that’s coming in.  Then, you can make a budget based on this information.  Sometimes you’ll have to adjust your budget as seasonal changes can create variances throughout the year.  The idea is to have money left over that you can use to pay down your debt faster.

Cut Spending

After you’re in tune with your budget, look at ways you can cut spending.  Every dollar you don’t spend is money you can allocate toward your debt.  Can you go out to eat less?  What about not having drinks while out for dinner?  Could you make your coffee at home?  A few dollars here and there may not seem like much, but it adds up quickly.

Increase Your Income

While cutting spending can free up money, so can bringing more money home!  Work hard at your job.  Apply for promotions.  Look for new opportunities.  In addition to your regular job, look for side hustles.  Can you tutor? Would you enjoy driving for Uber or Lyft now and then?  Can you house sit or clean a house or two?   When you have extra money, throw it right to accelerating your debt payments.

 Have An Emergency Fund

Before you attack debt, make sure you have $1,000 set aside for unexpected costs.  It may be tempting to put every dollar to debt, but you need a cushion.  Life throws things at you, and if you have an emergency fund there, you won’t have to worry about adding more debt to your life should something unexpected happen.

Don’t Ignore Retirement

You may be tempted to put every dollar you can toward debt, even if you forsake retirement savings.  I would advise against that.  Even if you put just a couple percent of your paycheck toward retirement, it’s building a good habit for a lifetime of savings.  More importantly, if your employer offers a match, make sure you contribute at least the amount necessary to get the full match.  Otherwise, you’re leaving money on the table.

Look Ahead

Newlyweds in debt may find themselves with a great plan if they follow the steps above.  However, it’s important to look ahead.  Make sure you understand where you think you’ll be in a few years time.  If you plan on starting a family, have a plan on how that will impact your finances.  These decisions could alter the priorities you set earlier.  You may find you’ll balance things out differently if your long term and short term goals diverge, which they probably will.

These are just a few tips I have for newlyweds in debt.  Will they get you out of debt instantly? No.  It’s often a long road.  But, the point is to make progress, and these tips will hopefully help.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How To Have A Great Valentine’s Day

Editors Note: I’m competing in the Rockstar Rumble, which is a contest to select the best Personal Finance post of 2018.  Please go over and vote for my post in Game 43 “How Much Would You Replace If You Lost Everything”.  It would mean so much.  Thanks!

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.  This is the time where you have to buy chocolates and flowers, right? Well, not necessarily.  Only Hallmark and the florists really believe that!  Actually, it is possible to have a great Valentine’s Day without breaking the bank.  Here are a few ideas.

image from Morguefile courtesy of rosevita

How To Have A Great Valentine’s Day

  1. Make A Favorite Meal.  You don’t have to go out to have a great Valentine’s Day.  Sometimes staying in with a special meal works well.  Maybe something you make just once per year to keep it special.
  2. Send Along A Note. Since Valentine’s Day falls in the middle of the week this year, one or both of you will probably be working. Send a note in their lunch or wallet to let them know you’re thinking about them.
  3. Make A Card.  Why spend $7 on a card when you can make one yourself?  It will probably be more meaningful that way, too!
  4. Relax.  A nice massage along with a glass of wine can be a perfect little gift.
  5. Take a skip day.  If one of both of you works, maybe a skip day is in order.  This works really well if one can surprise the other.
  6. Don’t forget the kids. If you have young kids, include them on the fun.  Make the whole family feel special.  They’ll just feel loved in a different way, but will still be happy.
  7. Netflix and chill.  After the kids go to bed, pop in some Netflix, relax, and see where things go.

Valentine’s Day comes around only once per year.  While it can be a go-all-out type of day, it can be special no matter what.

Readers, what do you remember most about your favorite Valentine’s Day?   Do you prefer to go over the top or would you rather lie low?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Before Keeping Up With Them, Ask Who Are Your Joneses?

Keeping up with the Joneses.  We’ve all heard it.  We know what it means.  Hopefully we don’t do it.

Keeping Up With The Joneses: Who Are Your Joneses, Anyway?

But, since most people that you start comparing yourself to probably aren’t actually named Jones (though, some might be), I wonder who your Joneses are.  Meaning, who are the people that, when you see them, make you want to ‘keep up’?

For me, I don’t have actual people, but the people who fall into these groups are definitely my triggers.

People who build brand new houses

mb-2016-10-construction
People who build brand new homes always bring a tweak of jealousy. What about for you? Who are your Joneses?

I remember when my parents went through the process of building a new home back in the late 1980’s.  Although even then I knew that it was a stressful process (I remember more than story of my dad getting into near-shouting matches with the builder), it was fascinating to me to see ideas on paper and a piece of land get transformed into a home, and was something I wanted to do someday.  So far, I haven’t had the opportunity, so when I see people that are going through that process, it definitely strikes a chord.

People who remodel their kitchens

I’ve never had a granite countertop in any place where I’ve lived.  It’s been all laminiate counters for me.  Our home has a decent enough kitchen, but it is a late-1990’s kitchen that was, even then, fitted with the basics.  It’s functional but it’s nothing fancy. Although we’ve replaced the sinks, faucets, and dishwasher, it’s still very much a basic 1990’s kitchen.  Although we have no plans to replace it, I have to admit, when I see the photos on Facebook and such of people that do a kitchen remodel, I ‘want one’!

For me, these are the big groups that bring out the most longing, even if it is fleeting (which it is).  It doesn’t bring out the desire to go out and build a new house or start a new project, but more the thought process of ‘if only….’.  Eventually I realize that we have a great house and, compared to many I’ve seen, our kitchen is just fine.

So, just curious, readers, who are your Joneses, and to what level does it strike you?  How do you go about moving on when your trigger points bring out that feeling?  

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.