It’s a well-known fact that after the engagement ring slips on, the wedding plans take off.
So if you’re ready for this big step, go ahead and sort through tough money topics now before you get caught up in flower arrangements and cake flavors.
And go deeper than just laying out your debts. Hit areas like investing for retirement, merging your bank accounts, and balancing your monthly budget. Here are five premarital must-dos for every couple.
1. Open Up and Be Honest
Start with the big stuff. Share exactly how much you owe on student loans, credit cards and car payments. This will become your future spouse’s debt too! After you’ve opened up, keep talking. Discuss your views on money, including what your parents taught you about finances—and what you do and don’t agree with. (Kindly, of course!)
And if you’re coming from a previous marriage, talk about alimony or other expenses you’re bringing into your new union and how to incorporate those into your household budget.
2. “Marry” Your Accounts
Combining your money into one account is a crucial step in marriage. You are becoming one. Keeping one area separated can lead to others. And you want to set a positive precedent from the get-go.
Working together from a shared account brings honesty, unity and a sense of “we’re in this together!” Now is the time to mentally prepare for becoming one—financially and otherwise. But don’t sign on the dotted line and join accounts until after you’re man and wife.
3. Start Budgeting Together
Go ahead and put your combined incomes and expenses into a budget, and determine what a typical month is going to look like.
It's good to practice budgeting together once you get engaged. That way, you can make sure things are working smoothly when game time finally comes.
And after the wedding, revisit the budget each month to make adjustments as needed. Be sure to give each other lots of grace as you work out all the kinks.
4. Make a Plan
Once everything is on the table, determine what Baby Step you are on as a couple. If you were on Baby Step 4 but your bride-to-be is on Baby Step 2, then guess what? You’re on Baby Step 2 now.
But that’s all right. You love this person with all of your heart, so taking “her” debt as “our” debt is a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.
Most importantly, set priorities together and make a plan for moving through the seven Baby Steps as a team. This includes dreaming together and setting goals for the future like investing, traveling, and owning a home. The better you plan, the bigger you can dream!
5. Put Your Relationship First
Whatever you do, don’t stress. Your relationship is so much more important than facts and figures.
Getting on the same page about money is extremely helpful, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of your union. Just keep that in perspective when you come to the table. And remember, it takes a few tries to get this budgeting stuff right.