I didn’t care who you were—could have been my mamma, my daddy, my sister, best girlfriend, the Dhali Lhama, or even Ghandi himself– I still wouldn’t have listened! When I married my husband Des, and he willingly took on every red cent of my debt—I knew right then and there that he was a keeper! Nobody could tell me shi…. about that man then, and though I’m not as starry eyed as I once was, they honestly can’t tell me anything about him now. He’s been taking care of me for the past 15 years and it started before the two of us even wed.
When we were dating I was in graduate school, at that time I didn’t have a car. Des made sure I never walked home from classes at night, in fact, since I was car-less, he basically drove me anywhere I needed to go. When I finally did get a car, it was him who took me to find one and he made sure I got a good deal—he even replaced all my car tires when he saw the were bald( I didn’t even know what bald tires were!).
Then we moved in together—at the time we both worked and agreed to split all of the bills; everything was going fine, but then I got pregnant and miserably sick. I vomited so much my throat bled, and because I couldn’t eat I lost nearly 40 pounds. One morning Des saw me throwing up in the bathroom, while I was trying to get ready for work: he said, “why don’t you just quit. I got you.” And that was it– I laid back in the bed and he went to work. That’s been our dynamic ever since.
Now, before all the feminist watch dogs come to fetch, let me be perfectly clear—I have not missed having a “career” one bit. I began working when I was 14 and stopped when I was 26—In those twelve years, I’d done more jobs, minus stripping or whoring, than I cared to list, so staying home was not at all bad. In fact, it gave me the space and opportunity to focus on my children and on being a better wife; it also gave me the ability to focus on my strengths and weakness and the room to develop myself in my own time.
Nonetheless, as much as being a stay at home mother gave to me, it demanded things from me too: for instance, I had to learn how to be frugal and thrift and how to cleverly stretch a dollar the same way I did a meal. It meant living in cities I didn’t care for, because that’s where my husband found a job, stints of having to share one car, and even sometimes sewing socks, just to save a dime.
Over the years, there have been financially lean times, (we once had to raid our son’s piggybank to purchase a used washer), and there have been seasons when we’ve had surplus money to invest and save. We’ve experienced some hard-learned money mistakes, (failed business ventures, wasting money, etc), and had many disagreements (sometimes very contentious) over finances as well; because, let’s face it, sharing money with another person for the rest of your life is hard. Still, it can be done, and below are some tips to help you and your spouse do it more successfully!
Here are 7 financial Do’s and Don’t for married couples:
- Don’t be ignorant to your family’s real financial situations! This was a hard one for me. I’d spent so many years struggling with finances and bills before I even met my husband, that when he took over the role of solely bringing in the money, I was relieved. The problem was that I also became willingly ignorant to details of our income and expenses, and it often left the two of us on completely different financial planes. To avoid making this mistake, Do make sure both parties are fully involved in the finances. Each person should know exactly of how much money comes in each month and the total sum of monthly expenses—this assures that the two of you are at least starting on the same page. Too many couples, us being one of them, go years skipping this step, then end up quarreling because one person may think they have more money than they do, or, one or both are not accurately accounting for all expenses going out.
- Don’t fail to plan. This one is crucial. Every couple should have at minimum, a one, three and five year financial plan. Do you want to buy a house, get all credit cards paid off, get an investment property, maybe start a business? Knowing what the two of you are working towards, both short and long term, will give you more impetus to structure your finances in a way to make those things happen. Therefore, it’s important that you DO Make a budget and stick to it (for clarity on this, refer back to #1).
- Don’t waste money! When we think of things we do to waste money, many of our minds go to things like eating out too often, forgetting to turn off lights, or purchasing things we really don’t need; those are legitimate money wasters, but there are more. Being overly invested in liabilities– trendy clothes, late model cars, and the newest model televisions– are other popular, but sure ways to throw money down the drain. Instead of going that route, Do live more simply, especially while trying to get ahead. For example, instead of leasing a new car every year, or buying one when your old one is paid off, keep your old car if it still drives well and save or invest the extra cash. Same for buying a house: Buy the best house you can get at the lower end of your mortgage limit, then again, save or invest the extra funds.
- Don’t Leave the House! Okay I’m exaggerating, but not really. Every time you leave the house, you’re more likely to spend money than when you just stay home. There’s the cost of gas, then the temptation of purchasing food or other items while you’re out. Even too many “girls days” or after work drinks with friends can add up quickly, not to mention the weekly family days and yearly vacations that also come at an expense. Instead, Do put your money into enjoying your home! It’s where you spend most of your time! One way I do this is by making sure my home is nice and cozy, both inside and out—I buy good linens, nice furniture, mulch, plants, bikes and outdoor toys for the kids—anything that makes it comfortable for us to be at home. Instead of frequent family outings, we stay in and have movie nights, or play board games and have family dinners. Instead of yearly vacations, we go somewhere big every couple of years.
- Don’t Be a Slave to Plastic! While credit is needed for some situations, like purchasing a house, or a car, too many of us use credit for things we don’t need and that make no financial sense, like buying a designer purse or surround sound for our TV. This get’s really bad during birthdays and holidays, when people are in a frenzy to buy gifts. Instead of that, Do use cash for purchases and give free gifts. This tool takes financial discipline, but, it’s how we saved the money (for down payment and closing costs) to purchase our first house. For about a year prior, we divided our expenses into categories and allotted a certain amount to each, then we placed those increments of cash into their respective envelopes. To make purchases, we only used money from those envelopes, which prevented us from spending money we didn’t physically have. As for buying gifts, try going a year giving “thoughtful” presents for all holidays and birthdays: to save the money to purchase passports for our family of seven, we gave each child an entire birthday month devoted to them: late bedtimes, no chores, all their favorite meals, special outings with mom, etc. They didn’t miss the gifts at all.
- Don’t Spend all You Make. One of the oldest financial sayings in the book, and that we should’ve heeded sooner, is “Pay yourself first!” There was an elderly man that counseled us when we first married who told us this all the time. Did we listen? For probably the first six years of our marriage, the answer was no. We spent nearly every penny we earned and wasted both time and money in the process. What couples should Do is Invest! Have money taken out of your accounts for saving, investing, and the like before it ever reaches your hands. Setting up your accounts like this ensures that you always pay into your family’s interests, before you pay anyone else.
- Don’t be fickle. I laugh when I think about it now, but my husband has had several business ideas over the years, some costlier than others; some successes and some duds. Each one had a certain level of cost associated with it and thus, set us back somewhat financially. Then there were all the moves—we have lived in 6 different cities, averaging a move about once every three years. Those costs add up. Do heavily weigh all business ventures and plant roots to grow! Starting a business, moving to a new city, changing careers, or pursuing a long held dream, all seem like wonderful ventures until you have to deal with the bottom line, or the financial repercussions of going forward with such ventures without out fully weighing the benefits and potential losses.
Tell us what marital-money tips you’ve learned over the years? We’d love to hear them!