In marriage, disagreements happen. Bringing two separate minds into one relationship is not all hearts and flowers. Some things, like financial planning for couples, should be discussed before the wedding. Of all the marriage tips for newlyweds I can think of, having a family budget might be number one.
Oh… probably because our first big argument as newlyweds involved money.
Words of wisdom for newlyweds: learn from our mistakes
When we got married in 1990, cell phones and the internet did not exist. We had to do things the old fashioned way. That meant keeping track of our finances with pencil and paper. We merged our two tiny checking accounts into one. And, for three months, life was perfect!
One day, I got home and opened the mail to discover that we had overdrawn our checking account. When two accounts combine into one and both people keep a running record of ATM withdrawals in their heads, well… let’s just say it doesn’t end well.
That night, we had our first big fight. I was angry at him for not keeping track of our balance. He was mad at me for not writing in my withdrawals.
Doors may have slammed. (My fault. Not his.)
He was super sweet and tracked down every ATM withdrawal. We really did mess up. He apologized.
Dang! It wasn’t even his fault. We both messed up, but he apologized. What a guy!
And then, we figured out a plan.
First, we cut up our debit cards! At that time, we didn’t use credit cards, so we had to plan ahead to make withdrawals at the bank. WOW!
Then, we made the “$5 Rule.” In today’s economy, that’s the equivalent of $10.
How the $5 rule works
It’s a simple rule: Neither of us was allowed to spend more than $5 in a day without running the purchase past the other.
Every time I wanted to buy something or eat out (besides a doughnut and plain coffee), I had to run it past my husband. Every time he wanted to do something that cost more than $5, he had to run it past me.
Believe it or not, it worked really well. We never overdrew our checking account again. We cut back on impulse purchases. AND, we realized how expensive eating lunch out every day could be.
Through the years, we tried to adjust the rule, part of our regular financial planning for couples.
BUT, even though I had a bigger budget since I had the kids with me and our income had grown, we just couldn’t do it. We still live by the $5 Rule — as a FIVE DOLLAR rule — to this day.
A real life example of the $5 rule
Today, I did some shopping for an upcoming trip.
Last night, I told my husband I needed a few things for the trip — and asked if he minded if I did some shopping. He gave me a thumbs up. I didn’t have to check in on each purchase or anything. Just letting him know I intended to shop gave him the option to discuss a limit.
When we first started the $5 Rule, that conversation would have gone more like:
- Me: Do you mind if I go shopping to get some things for vacation?
- Him: What do you need? How much will it cost?
- US — discussion.
- Finally — an agreement to amount. Usually.
- Sometimes there’d be a “no, we can’t spend money on that right now. Here’s why…”
But, we’ve been asking each other’s stamp of approval on spending for so long, it’s a really quick discussion these days based on respect.
A side effect of the $5 Rule is our mutual respect for the overall budget. The $5 Rule makes us both responsible for our finances, so we both keep an eye on the bottom line. We’re both more aware of where we stand.
It’s way cheaper to keep an eye on the bottom line than to pay for financial counseling for couples! And, it’s really nice that we don’t fight about money.
Know what I mean?
I think, after almost 29 years of marriage, this respect for each other is second nature now. I want the best for him, and he wants the best for me. We say yes when we can. But, when taxes or car insurance is coming due, we have a chance to call a pause.
a word to newlyweds
For those newly married or soon to be married, you and your partner are a team. What one does affects the other. It might seem strange to ask your partner for permission to go out to lunch or buy a pair of shoes. But when both of you put each other first, you’ll be unbeatable!
I am so thankful to be on this journey with Rob. Weirdly, I’m glad we overdrew our checking account three months in. Because of it, we have a solid financial plan. Talking about money is not awkward. Ever.
That’s a win!
Budgeting resources for home finances
If you don’t have a family budget or need to make improvements, here are some resources I recommend (affiliate links included for your convenience at no cost to you. Read my complete disclosure policy here):
- Budget planning notebook — plan monthly budget and track spending. Straightforward and easy to use. Good for those who just need to get organized.
- Spiral bound budget planning notebook — with prompts, tips and strategies. I love spiral bound binders, and the content in this one is great for beginning budgeters!
- Sort your $hit Out — this planner comes with attitude! It also helps you set and track financial goals. Clever notebook.
Books on finances that demystify this touchy subject!
- You Need a Budget by Jesse Mecham — how to break the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle!
- The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey — if you’ve heard of the envelope system or snowball debt payoff, here’s the book.
- Home Finances for Couples by Leo Ostapiv — if you struggle to talk about money but want a better financial plan, go through this book together.