Ten financial moves to make as soon as you're married.
The party is over, but now the real fun begins. Talking about saving and budgeting may not be that exciting, but it will set you up for a stable and happy relationship. As you enter the new world of marriage, use the transition as an opportunity to organize your finances together.
- Write out a budget
You probably know the big ones to include: income sources, recurring expenses, discretionary expenses and savings (including an emergency fund). But don’t forget about often overlooked elements, like clothing and personal care, or wedding and birthday gifts.
- Honestly assess debt
It’s better to address any debt you have now than later. Reserve some time to lay it all on your spouse: student loans, auto loan debt, credit card debt, and any other outstanding balances. Make a plan to pay off debt and add to your budget list.
- Open at least one joint account
The pros of having a shared bank account are many: it promotes openness and trust, and makes it easy to see exactly where your finances stand at any given moment. Some couples have a joint account for shared expenses, as well as separate accounts for personal spending. Figure out what works best for you. Consider applying for a joint credit card, too—one that offers an APR and rewards program that suits your spending habits.
- Decide how you will pay your monthly bills
Setting up a joint account can streamline the way you pay for your rent or mortgage, utilities, cable, etc. Alternatively, you could decide if one of you will handle the weekly groceries while the other will pay for things like dry cleaning and household items.
- Consolidate subscriptions
You can save a considerable amount of money by sharing your monthly subscriptions with your spouse. Look into gym memberships, too. Most offer family options that are cheaper than two individual memberships.
- Decide if you should file taxes* jointly or individually. In most cases, you’re better off filing jointly (the IRS extends several tax breaks to couples who do so)—but there are exceptions. Tax software or speaking with an accountant can help you figure this out.
- Make a bucket list
Talk about some of the big things you want to save for, like a vacation, a car, or a home. Make a timeline for how soon you want to make these purchases and start working towards those goals.
- Write a will*
It’s the last thing you want to think about, but it’s important. The good news is, if you’re under 50 and don’t have assets valuable enough to be subject to estate taxes, you can opt for a basic will that will cover you, just in case.
- Make everything legal*
Beyond your marriage license, think about other legal agreements you and your spouse should apply to your partnership. These aren’t just for the “super-rich”, so consider your extended families and the many things that tie you together. If either of you have children from a previous marriage and you didn’t sign a prenuptial agreement, consider a postnupt because it can protect you and your loved ones if you were ever to separate.
- Review your insurance
Here’s another instance where you can benefit from consolidating. Shop around because you may be able to find discounts on auto insurance for more than one car. If your spouse has better health insurance, join their plan as a dependent. You’ll also want to cancel one of your home or renter’s insurance policies if you’re moving in together for the first time. And look into life insurance; especially if one of you depends on the other’s income.