I am so very proud of my husband.
We got married in his second year of medical school, had a baby, moved to another town and held ourselves together while he worked 80 hour work weeks and studied for 9-hour exams. Then we spent $10k on interviews before he landed a fantastic job. My husband then graduated from medical school and carried his little family to another state to begin a new chapter.
Now we are proudly Dr. and Mrs. Miller, ready to welcome our second baby. Oh, and we have six figures worth of debt to pay off.
Truly, I’m laughing--because otherwise, I’d cry. And it might not seem like I’m very well-equipped to be writing about being smart with money. Taking on as much debt as we have is certainly a risk and stressor to any marriage.
But with any kind of monetary undertaking, even just creating a family, it is essential to learn how to be financially literate.
Money will always present itself as a major pressure in a marriage, yet if both you and your spouse are knowledgeable, it becomes a team effort instead of a fight. The virtues of prudence and wisdom are key here, in addition to faith in God’s providence.
Here, a few of the ways my husband and I have started our financial journey.
Identify your spending personalities.
This is an important topic to discuss before you get married. Consider: what are your spending habits like? Are you high maintenance? Do you budget your life already? What things are essential for you? What kind of financial examples did your parents display?
It's crucial to get an idea of how your future spouse handles money, because he or she will be your “business” partner for life. One of you might need to grow more sacrificial in your wants, while the other might benefit from loosening up on restrictions. Find a balance and learn how to compromise while identifying your shared financial goals.
Set realistic expectations.
One of my major pieces of advice is to stop looking at Instagram. There seems to be an ideal for millennials to have a house and two new cars by their late twenties. Some do accomplish this, but perhaps only with great debt. Its okay--and wise--to not be able to purchase a house right away. It's realistic to only have one car until a few years into your marriage.
It's also normal to not be able to have a social-media-worthy wedding. The life you and your fiancé are beginning is about both of you and how well you choose to shape it. God calls us to live with what he gives us, in order to care for each other and foster a simple, holy home environment. And your shared happiness will come easier without comparisons to everyone else’s seemingly “perfect” life.
Know your financial playbook.
Start with what you have, identify what is most important, and make a flexible plan together. Are you starting out with student loans? Learn how to refinance them and get yourself on a manageable repayment plan. Are you having a baby right away? Find out what your insurance covers and learn how to look for inexpensive supplies.
And, I cannot stress this enough: make a budget! Your budget will allow you to take an overall look at your financial state at any point and give you a clear idea of where you are. It will allow you to grow in prudence and help you identify what is realistic for your family in terms of housing, food, and utilities. Being sacrificial can go a long way! My personal budgeting resource is mint.com, which allows you to connect your bank, credit cards, and any other billing accounts online in one easy place.
Continue to grow in financial literacy.
These are great resources to start with, and it will only get better as you learn more. Pick up simple resources like Personal Finances for Dummies or find financial blogs for beginners. Always educate yourself before making economic decisions. It might not be the most entertaining way to spend your time, but I can guarantee it will give you greater peace of mind.
All this being said, the most important thing is to consider your financial decisions together and with God. No matter what kind of obstacles pop up, He will always provide. Basing your actions in prayer is a vital component, helping you both discern God’s will in confidence.
About the Author: Larabeth Miller resides in Florida with her husband and two children. She likes to write and paint whenever she's not chasing after her two-year-old.