If you’ve recently gotten married, you’re probably still basking in the afterglow of your brand new nuptials. It may not seem romantic, but one of the best ways to keep all of that happiness rolling is to make sure that you start your life out as a couple on the right financial foot, with a commitment to each other and to keeping your debt under control.
“Many married couples head to the divorce line when household finances become an issue,” says Jeff Schwartz, executive director, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.
“If you can keep your debt under control right from the beginning of your marriage, it will be far easier to manage. You’ll be able to direct your money towards reaching your goals together, rather than scrambling to pay bills.”
So, once you’ve walked down the aisle, it’s time to sit down as a couple and get ready for your future.
What’s mine is yours
Now that you’re married you share everything- and that includes any debt that you’ve accumulated as a singleton. Now that you’ve tied the knot, that debt is a joint responsibility, so why not set out a plan of attack to get rid of debt together?
Set a smart budget
Collaborate to set a budget that addresses your short and long term goals. Make sure to include a plan to pay down debt, as well as accumulate savings, no matter how little you start with.
Also make sure to include some “personal” spending for each of you, with room for compromise.
Lay down the ground rules
It’s a good idea to have some basic rules around spending. For instance, decide on a spending dollar amount that will require you to confer with your spouse before you purchase.
Not only will this ensure that you are on the same page, it will take the impulse out of impulse shopping. You’ll be forced to really assess if you are feeding needs or wants.
Communication is the key to any relationship. You have got to commit to full disclosure when it comes to your spending. Hiding debt will create a whole subset of problems that will strain your relationship, including betrayal and lack of trust.
Another good idea to promote transparency is to have all joint accounts, eliminating “secret spending.” There is an argument that keeping your own accounts is a healthy independence, but that can be accomplished by allowing for personal, discretionary spending in your budget.
The envelope please
Were you lucky enough to receive money gifts from your guests? You may be wondering about the best way to use that money. First stop should be to get rid of debt, especially if you had to use credit to pay for your wedding. It’s also a good idea to attack any lingering debts, like other high interest loans.
If buying a house is one of your goals, you are well advised to pay down your existing debt before you take out a mortgage. You’ll free up your cash flow, and leave yourself some breathing room.
Are you serious about getting out of debt? It starts with a plan and a commitment to your strategy. To get started call one of our trained credit counsellors or check out our free online debt analysis.