Money and budgeting seem to be at the top of many New Year’s plans. Finances can add stress to a relationship, but it’s obviously preferable that we know how to manage our finances before we are married, as well as have some sort of idea of how we want to share finances once we are married. What are some of your recommendations for planning your finances and budgeting your money now so that it will be less stressful down the road? Do you hope to share accounts with your spouse or have a yours/mine/ours system? How have you seen other couples manage their finances in a way that works well?
I remember very well when we talked about marriage the last year I was all-but-directing RCIA. Deacon John said, “The number one topic couples fight about is finances.” He pronounced it “fih-NAN-ces,” though, not “FI-nan-ces” like everyone else I know, so I remember it because I was bewildered for a second. Then I realized what he said and started nodding in agreement. The fact wasn’t surprising at all; it was just a pronunciation problem.
So yes, money is a big problem for everyone, not just married couples, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to discuss this topic in the Not Alone Series. There isn’t always much we can do prepare for marriage in general (as opposed to preparing to marry a specific man), but we can absolutely improve our personal finance knowledge, skills, and practices. It’s our duty as good stewards of the time and treasure God has given us. There’s no use thinking you can put off making a budget because you’ll just let your husband handle the money. If you never get married, it’s all you.
I spent 2015 focused mostly on personal productivity and efficiency, but 2014 was all about personal finance. I hit the nadir of my rudimentary money management system when a federal holiday, paycheck timing, and my end-of-month and beginning-of-month bills collided. I panicked because I literally did not know if I would be able to pay for everything. It was the good, productive kind of panic, though, because it led me to You Need a Budget (YNAB). (And yes, everything was paid for.)
YNAB saved my financial life. I talk about it like a love story. YNAB revised its methods and software at the very end of last year, so I unfortunately can’t endorse the current web-based version and the current phrasing of the Four Rules (because I don’t use them), but YNAB 4 (a.k.a YNAB Classic) is still my jam. Read my YNAB love story, and drop me a line or comment if you want to hear more. I have the same enthusiasm for YNAB as I do for GTD, grammar, and Jesus. Maybe those shouldn’t be on the same level, but they are!
I guess my greatest financial asset is my budget. I have a budget, it’s a good budget, and it works. I can point to literal thousands of dollars in cash that I have saved and spent on needs and wants. I don’t live paycheck-to-paycheck. My net worth is positive. I haven’t had to access my Baby Emergency Fund (I read The Total Money Makeover) since I finished building it. I have no credit card debt, and I’ve paid for Christmas in cash for the last two years. I just paid for a couple of car repairs in cash and without blinking, and although I have student loan debt, I have a plan to pay it off early. Based on my experience, I am convinced that zero-balance budgeting is the only way to live.
My only other marriage-related financial advice is to never have a “yours, mine, and ours” system. Marriage is supposed to be about total self-giving, right? I hear plenty about how that includes your fertility, but I almost never hear about how that includes your money, too. Yeah, it’s scary not having a contingency plan, and it’s scary giving up control, but isn’t it all a little bit scary? I say just go ahead and toss in financial risk with all the other risks you’re taking going into marriage, because holding back your money is a risk in itself. On a practical level, I also agree with YNAB that having multiple bank accounts that you use for specific purposes adds unnecessary complexity to financial management, which is already complex.
My money management philosophy used to be to just work, pay everything, always be a little confused, and hope for the best. No more. Now, I am on top of it. Take note, potential husbands: the faint of financial heart need not apply.
Next week’s topic: Spiritual Motherhood
Most of us single ladies (and many married women) aren’t mothers here on Earth, but that doesn’t mean we’re not mothers at all. Christianity has a long tradition of “parents” who become our leaders, protectors, guides, and counselors by spiritual means instead of physical. Do you have spiritual children? Godchildren, adults you sponsored through the RCIA, your close friends’ kids, or students? How do you build relationships with them as a mother? Have you ever spiritually adopted an unborn baby in danger of abortion, or a priest? Are all women called to be mothers?
Link up with Rachel at Keeping It Real.