Getting married and merging your lives together can be a big adjustment. When it comes to your finances, it’s important to discuss how you’ll handle money together and manage bills as a couple.
Some couples stick to keep separate finances and managing money on their own after marriage. I don’t really recommend this and I’ll explain why soon enough.
Money is a key aspect of everyone’s lives and you’ll be spending and saving all the time with your spouse. It’s best to have a positive relationship with your household and keep open lines of communication. Here are 5 tips for managing bills as a married couple.
1. Assess Your Financial Situation
Assessing your entire financial situation is best to do before you get married. The key is to make it a regular occurrence. You want to get clear on what your goals are, how much each of your are bringing in, how much debt you carry, and what bills you have and are committed to keep after marriage.
Talking about financial goals is very important. It will help ensure you are both on the same page. When my husband and I were getting married, I talked to him about my goal for homeownership and when he agreed to the goal, we set up a timeline.
Imagine if I had just started saving money or changing bills around without sharing the goal I had and making sure he was on board with it.
When you’re both working toward the same thing, it becomes easier to manage money and bills together.
2. The Case For Combining Finances
Most couples choose to combine finances when they get married but the choice is totally up to you. My husband and I kept separate finances during our first year of marriage and it didn’t go that well.
We were already both pretty independent and had our own debt but keeping separate accounts kept us on separate pages. We still paid bills on time but I often wouldn’t know which bills my husband was paying, when he paid them, and how much they were which created some confusion regarding our finances.
Once we combined everything and started working together, it seemed much less stressful for us and easier to manage cash flow. Since we both work full time and have side hustles, we get paid an income at least weekly so it helps us manage our planned and unplanned spending while avoiding debt.
Combining finances has also forced us to communicate better. Most of the living expenses come out of my checking account while we use my husband’s account to manage saving and extra debt payoff.
Both accounts are with the same bank and connected so we can view all the transactions and transfer funds between accounts. Since the accounts are connected, we will label transfers for specific bills to remind each other. For example, if I see money has been transferred from my account to my husband’s account, he will generally leave a memo and note something like ‘student loans and internet bill’. When I transfer from my husband’s account for savings or debt payments, I’ll leave a memo saving something like ‘medical bill’.Here's how you can manage bills together in your household. Click To Tweet
3. Set Clear Roles and Responsibilities
When trying to manage bills together as a couple, it’s important to approach it with a teamwork aspect. At the same time, you want to set roles and clearly define responsibilities.
Talk with your spouse to figure out who will be in charge of which bill. I know some couples like to assign all the bill pay to just one person because maybe they enjoy it or seem more organized.
With my husband and I, we both split bill pay responsibilities and pretty much just fill in wherever needed. My role involves managing the budget while my husband will pay most of the bills.
We also set up automatic bill pay to help streamline the process. That way, we will pay all of our bills on time.
4. Get on a Budget
Getting on a budget is crucial if you want to successfully manage bills with your spouse. A budget tells your money where to go and can help you prioritize some of your financial goals.
I’ve been budgeting for a few years now and my budget has constantly changed as events in my life have changed. It’s important to update your budget whenever your expenses or income change to keep it realistic.
When I got married, I changed my budget drastically. Then again when we combined finances. Be sure to list out all sources of income, then all bills and expenses for the month. Make sure you have a positive cash flow or at least reach $0 when you subtract your expenses from your income.
You don’t want the number to be negative. That means you won’t have enough to cover your expenses for the month.
Having a budget is just one aspect of the equation. You also need to track your expenses. We keep our budget on a spreadsheet and cross off each bill when it’s paid. This helps us keep track of what’s remaining for the month. If my husband ends up paying a bill, he crosses it off in the budget spreadsheet and I do the same for whatever bills I pay.
If it’s an ongoing expense like groceries for the month or haircuts, we just put the current total spent each week. At the end of the month, we clear everything up and start all over again.
5. Have Weekly Money Meetings
Once you get a system down, communication is key when you’re trying to successfully manage bills as a married couple. Having weekly money meetings or ‘finance dates’ allows you to sit down together and discuss what’s going on with your finances and your goals.
It’s also the perfect time to check in and hold each other accountable. My husband and I like to plan out and discuss what expenses we’ll anticipate for the following week. Sometimes we go beyond that to the following months.
For example, we just started discussing holiday savings and how we’re going to prepare for Christmas. Setting aside this time to chat and stay on the same page has minimize the stress and worry we used to have surrounding money and paying our bills.
Managing bills together is a work in progress. By utilizing these tips, you can make the process a much smoother transition for the both of you.
How do you and your spouse manage bills together as a couple?