4 Financially Smart Tips for Newlyweds

LARABETH MILLER

 

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.

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Stewardship in Marriage

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Time and time again we see in Scripture the call to be good stewards of the spiritual and temporal gifts God has given us.   

Christian stewardship means more than generously sharing our time, talent, and treasure. It means that we “... receive God's gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.”

Stewardship looks differently for each couple, and husbands and wives should take time to pray about and discuss what it means for their particular family during this season of their life. Here are some ideas to get the conversation started: 

Budget prayerfully

When couples create a budget, they generally form it around a particular goal they want to achieve or a vision they have for their lives. For example, paying off student loans, buying a house, or saving for college. 

Creating a budget in this way makes sense, and will help your family use money prudently and intentionally, but consider inviting God into the process. 

Instead of simply asking the question “What do we want to do with our money?” ask God what He wants you to do with it. 

His plan might look a bit different than your plan in the beginning and it will probably require you being more intentional with your finances, so you can make room for the more important things.

Tithe

The idea of tithing goes back to Old Testament days, but it remains an important responsibility of members of the Church today. The Catechism states: “The faithful have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities.”

Traditionally this meant giving 10% of your income, but the Catholic Church does not mandate a specific percentage. However, the spirit of the tithe has remained over the years. We should return the first-fruits of our labor to the one who ultimately gave them to us.  

You can choose to tithe to your local parish, and/or to another Catholic charity. Pray and discuss with your spouse how much you can tithe each month, and where you feel called to donate.

Give from your need

Remember the widow in the gospel of Mark who gave two small coins into the temple treasury? Of her, Jesus said: “This poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” 

Of course we should be prudent with our finances, but too often we use our lack of money or resources as an excuse not to give. 

But true generosity requires sacrifice. It’s easy to be generous with our excess but it takes virtue to give from the little we have. This might look like forgoing our daily cup of coffee from the nearby shop, or inviting people to your home to share the meal you prepared. 

We practice stewardship when we take what we have been given and joyfully share it with others.

Practice gratitude

Stewardship means recognizing that all of the gifts in your life come from God, and involves giving from that gratitude instead of from obligation. 

Take some time each day with your spouse to think about the gifts in your life and thank God for them. 

Recognizing the generosity of God in turn helps you to show generosity to the people you encounter each day. It also helps you find satisfaction with what you have so you can live a more intentional life.


About the Author: Carissa Pluta is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. She is the author of the blog The Myth Retold. Read more

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How to Avoid Fights about Money

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Much stress and many arguments in a marriage often result over money.

In fact, studies have shown that money is the number one issue couples fight about. But it doesn’t have to be.

Here are some ways to help you and your spouse avoid those dreaded money fights.

Talk about your financial history

Many marriage prep programs include discussion on finances but they don’t always dive as deep as they should. You and your partner should not only talk about how much debt you might be bringing to a marriage, but also about each individual’s “money mindset.”

How was money talked about in your home growing up? How do you feel about how it was talked about? Are you a spender or a saver?

Getting to the root of your money mindset can help them better understand their significant other, and help you as a couple to make adjustments.

Share your expectations

Many arguments in marriage result because of misunderstandings. If the couple does not clearly communicate their expectations when it comes to finances, it will likely result in an argument.

Will you have a joint bank account when you get married? Will you need to discuss with one another before making large purchases?

Sharing your expectations when it comes to money with your spouse or fiancé can help eliminate any confusion between the individual philosophies. It also allows the couple to have more meaningful conversations about finances, that will help avoid potential future arguments.

Set financial goals together

When my husband and I got married, we had several large student loans that we needed to pay off so getting out of debt became our major financial focus. But as we near the end of our student loans, we have shifted our focus on saving for the future.

What do you hope to accomplish in the realm of personal finances? Do you want to get out of debt? Do you want to buy a house? Save for your kids to go to college? Discuss your hopes and dreams with your significant other.

Laying out your desires will motivate you and your spouse to achieve them and help you create a more organized plan to meet these goals.

Create a budget and stick to it!

Whether you are trying to get out of debt or trying to save, making a budget with your partner can help.

After calculating your monthly income, create a budget that reflects your goals and family’s vision. How much will you save? How much will you tithe? Will you put aside money for a date night out or for a child’s birthday?

Be sure to revisit this budget monthly and adjust it to meet your family’s needs. A monthly finance meeting can help keep communication about money between spouses open, honest, and stress-free.


About the Author: Carissa Pluta is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. She is the author of the blog The Myth Retold. Read more

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Balancing Materialism and Majesty in Your Wedding Plans

SINIKKA ROHRER

 

If there’s one thing I remember from my engagement, it’s the difficulty of balancing the majesty and materialism a wedding involves.

Quite a few friends and family offered well-meaning advice about what a wedding day should look like. After every conversation, I'd look at my fiancée with fear-filled eyes:

“Do we really need to have a cocktail hour?”

“Is anyone going to care if we have favors?”

“Will anyone notice if we have faux flowers?”

The amount of material concerns pressed upon us was overwhelming. In the midst of these decisions, I remember wishing I had a way out from it all. I want to help give that to you.

Here is permission: you do not need to have a cocktail hour. No one will care if you have favors or not, and even if someone notices that you have faux flowers, it doesn’t diminish the beauty of your day.

Your wedding day is about more than pretty dresses, perfect centerpieces, and prime cuts of meat. It’s about uniting with your beloved, under the mantle of Christ.

Here are a few ways to feel balanced as you navigate material and spiritual concerns:

Set a budget and prioritize.

Your mother, sister, or aunt may be telling you you should get the dress you love, book the venue you’ve always wanted, and have the open bar everyone would love. The perfect dress, venue, and cocktails are all great things to include in your plans, but keep in mind what the bill will look like at the end of the day.

To help financial conversations go smoothly, make sure you (and whomever is helping foot the bill) set--  and stick to--a specific wedding budget. Identify what you’re willing to splurge on and list each of your top vendor priorities with your groom. In our case, for instance, I cared most about the photographer, and my husband about the DJ.

For all other details and costs, we made sure they fit our budget. That means our centerpieces, favors, and appetizers were not the fanciest, yet still offerings we could be proud of. It felt good knowing the bill was not crippling to ourselves or our parents after the day was done.

Respectfully say no.

Many times during my wedding photography career, I have run into the situation where an opinionated family member has a specific plan for how a wedding day will run and what it will look like.

If you have someone explicitly stating your day will not be good if it doesn’t have large floral centerpieces, an open bar, or any other item, this piece of advice is for you:

You are allowed to say no.

It might feel uncomfortable, but it’s healthy to respectfully decline ideas and put your foot down in order to help your day stay focused on what matters most.  

Despite the chorus of outside voices, remember this day is not about others, but about you and your groom--and ultimately, about Christ shining through the whole day.

Remind us all: it's the sacrament that matters.

Your attitude and choices can communicate to friends and family what’s most important to you: the sacrament of marriage itself. This is the reason why the details honestly don’t matter and the timeline is just a sheet of paper. Your sacrament will be beautiful and unifying. You can set an example of moderation, embodying the balance between your own experience and others' expectations.

You are Christ’s advocate for your wedding day.

You are your advocate for your wedding day.

There is no one else who will stand up to say enough is enough when orchids are overpriced and decisions start to overwhelm you.

You have the agency to stand up, step back from decision-making, and recall what’s most important.

The materials of this world are insignificant in comparison to the heavenly majesty of your wedding. I challenge you remember this daily, balancing any necessary cares of this world with the cares of the next.


About the Author: Sinikka Rohrer is a Christian wedding photographer and Spoken Bride vendor on mission to encourage brides with practical and spiritual encouragement on the way to the aisle. She is a lover of all things healthy, early morning spiritual reads, and anything outdoors.

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