It is critical to properly manage family finances in order to live a happy and peaceful life with financial independence. When a married couple fails to manage their spending or come to an agreement on financial decisions, they may find themselves in an endless cycle of arguing. It is necessary to coordinate a budget and financial planning with the entire family in order to get through the many financial decisions that come with married life, as well as to maintain an open dialogue about the family’s finances.
Part 1 Coordinating Family Finances
1. Discuss your finances with your partner in an open and honest manner. It is important to establish financial honesty throughout one’s life, but it is especially important to do so before one’s marriage is finalised. In the event that one partner has a poor credit history or significant debts that are not disclosed prior to marriage, this can lead to resentment and problems in the future. Before you get married, you should sit down with your partner and talk about his current financial situation, including how much money he makes, where that money goes, his credit history, and any large debts he may be burdened with. This sets the tone for the rest of your lives together in terms of financial transparency.
2. Meetings to discuss money are held on a regular basis. Decide on a specific time of the month when you and your family will meet to discuss your finances. Possibly, this meeting can be scheduled to coincide with the receipt of the monthly bank statement or the payment deadline for monthly bills. In any case, use the time allotted at this meeting to evaluate the previous month’s expenditures, track your progress toward long-term objectives, and propose any changes or major purchases that you would like to make. Only by talking about money on a regular basis can you turn it into a comfortable and fruitful experience for yourself.
3. Don’t entrust the management of the family’s finances to a single individual. Many families choose to delegate responsibility for all of the family’s financial matters to a single individual; however, this places an unnecessary burden on that individual and causes others to be unaware of the family’s current financial situation. Furthermore, if that person leaves the family, whether through death or divorce, the remaining members are completely oblivious to how to manage or even access the family’s finances. This problem can be resolved by dividing up tasks between you and by managing finances on an as-needed basis.
Meetings with financial professionals, such as those with a loan officer or an investment advisor, should be attended by both you and your spouse.
4. Make a decision on your account setup. When it comes to setting up joint accounts, families have a variety of options. Some people prefer to keep everything in one place, while others prefer to keep their finances largely separate. In order to pay for household expenses and your mortgage payment, you should have a joint account, at the very least. At the end of the month, you can divide these expenses in half and each transfer an equal amount of money into this account to pay for these expenses, thus reducing your monthly expenses. An individual’s spending habits may cause disagreements, so having a separate account can help avoid these conflicts.
However, make sure to set monthly spending limits for each of you so that no one person ends up spending the entirety of the family’s funds.
5. Individual credit should be built up. Despite the fact that your finances will be combined, it is still important for each of you to have a good credit score on their own. In doing so, you will not only ensure that your credit will be good when you apply for credit jointly, but you will also ensure that your credit history will remain intact if you decide to separate. Simple solutions include having separate credit cards, each of which is only in the name of the spouse who uses it, and keeping track of your spending on them.
Part 2 Using a Budget
1. Decide on a budgeting structure. Before you can create a budget, you’ll need to figure out how you’re going to stick to it. Even though many people can get by with nothing more than a notepad and a pen, others find it more convenient to keep track of their spending using a spreadsheet or financial software. There are a variety of free software platforms available online that can be used to create and track a budget, including Microsoft Excel. Programs such as Mint.com and Manilla, for example, provide completely free budgeting services. If you’re looking for comprehensive financial software, look no further than Quicken or Microsoft Money.
2. Take a look at your current spending patterns. During the course of one month, make a note of every time you spend money, even if it is only a few cents. Make a note of how much money you spent and what you purchased. Gather with your spouse at the end of each month and total up your combined spending. To get a clear picture of where the family’s money went that month, include all of the family’s major expenses. If possible, divide your expenses by category (e.g., home, car, food, etc.). Then, make a comparison between that amount and your total after-tax income. This is the starting point for determining your financial situation.
When totaling your expenses, it may also be beneficial to consult your bank statement to ensure that you didn’t forget about any recurring payments or online purchases that you made.
3. Bring your group together to create a budget. Take a look at the spending habits you’ve compiled. Do you have an excess of something? Alternatively, are you spending more than you earn? Work backwards from here to identify areas where you can make cuts if necessary. To the extent that it is possible, try to free up money that can be used to fund savings or a retirement account. Create spending limits for specific categories, such as food and entertainment, and make a concerted effort to adhere to them over time.
Always remember to budget for unexpected expenses, such as minor medical bills or car repairs, in your monthly budget to avoid being caught off guard.
4. Improve your situation and make adjustments to your budget as needed. Maintain a regular review of your budget in order to eliminate wasteful spending and to make necessary adjustments to your budgeted amounts. If you have a child, for example, you may find that you need to completely overhaul your financial situation. In any case, you should be on the lookout for areas where you can cut back and save more money. You’ll discover that you can have the same level of happiness while spending significantly less money than you do now.
Part 3 Saving for Life Goals
1. Make a decision on long-term objectives as a group. Bring up your savings goals with a friend or family member, including saving for a down payment on a house, for retirement, and for other large purchases such as a car or boat. Make certain that you and your partner agree that the purchase or expense in question is one that is worth saving for and that you both agree on the amount that will be required. Saving and investing efforts will be better coordinated as a result of this.
2. Make a fund for unexpected expenses. Every family should make an effort to maintain an emergency savings account in case things go wrong. Who knows when one of you might find yourself out of a job or in the midst of unexpected medical issues? In addition to preventing future debt, an emergency fund can provide you with some financial security and flexibility. According to conventional wisdom, it is recommended that you save three to six months’ worth of salary in a savings account; however, this amount may be more than enough for some families while being insufficient for others. Fortunately, there are several financial calculators available online that you can use to estimate how much money you will need to save in order to cover your expenses.
Using a search engine, look for emergency fund calculators to see if any are available.
There is also an app, HelloWallet, that provides this type of calculator as an additional feature.
3. Reduce the amount of debt you owe. Your first and most important goal should be to pay off your current debt. The only way to qualify for more credit as a couple and move forward with saving for other goals is to pay down student loans, car loans, and other debt. To get out of debt, everyone should work together to make more than the bare minimum payment on each loan (as long as there are no prepayment penalties for doing so). Work together with your spouse to develop a strategy and timetable for paying off your outstanding debt. If necessary, assign one of you the responsibility of making certain that debt payments are made on a monthly basis.
4. Put money aside for retirement. Couples should begin thinking about their retirement as soon as possible after they get married. The reason for this is that money placed in a retirement fund at a young age will earn significantly more interest over the course of its life than money placed in a retirement fund at a later age due to the effects of compound interest. Make every effort to increase your retirement savings, including attempting to maximise your employer’s 401(k) match (if one exists), taking advantage of IRS-mandated 401(k) savings limits, and increasing your retirement savings amounts on a regular basis if it is possible to do so without straining your financial situation.
Prior to putting money into education funds for your children, you should start saving for your own retirement. This is due to the fact that scholarships and grants will always be available for education, but will not be available for your retirement.
In the absence of a combined retirement portfolio, make sure that your risk profiles and asset allocations are in sync with one another.
5. Make a budget for your educational expenses. If you intend to fund a portion or the entirety of your child’s higher education, it is best to begin saving as soon as possible. Starting with 529 savings plans, which provide special tax benefits to students, you can learn more about your options. Contact a financial advisor to learn more and to get started on your savings plan right away. If you don’t have much time before your child starts school, look into government loans and grants, as well as your options for obtaining federal student aid, if you are eligible.
Part 4 Staying on Track
1. Don’t make large purchases without first consulting with your partner. Establish a monetary limit for what qualifies as a “major” purchase and stick to it. Obviously, this will vary from family to family, but the important thing is that you have a clear limit in place.. Purchases exceeding this threshold must be approved by both spouses before they can be carried out, according to the agreement. Keep this rule in mind at all times and notify the other immediately if either of you violates it. Keeping large expenditures hidden is a surefire way to get into trouble.
2. Avoid incurring unnecessarily high levels of debt. Stay on track with one another by refraining from taking on debt for medium-sized purchases such as furniture or jewellery. Together, you should plan out these purchases in advance so that you can pool your resources and afford the full amount of the purchase. In the long run, you will save money on interest payments as a result of this. In addition, keep tabs on each other’s credit card debt at all times. If your spouse is unable to make her credit card payment, it may be in your best interests to assist her. Missing a monthly payment will negatively impact your combined credit score, which you will need if you want to apply for a large loan such as a mortgage.
3. Make use of software to keep track of your finances. With all of the budgeting and financial planning software options available today, you’d be a fool if you didn’t take advantage of these valuable resources. For starters, keep track of your monthly spending in a shared spreadsheet, such as those available in Google Drive or Microsoft Excel. This type of document allows both of you to have access to the sheet and make changes as necessary. When it comes to budgeting, there are apps such as HomeBudget and Mint that summarise the family’s budget and assets into a simple user interface that anyone can use.
There are also apps for keeping track of financial paperwork, such as FileThis, that can be downloaded.
Try out a few of these apps to see which ones are the most effective for you. Most of them are either free or inexpensive to use, or at the very least provide a trial period of some sort.
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