How to Combine Finances with Your Spouse
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So you’ve decided to combine your finances in marriage. Congratulations! You’ve made a great decision.
Having joint bank accounts and managing money together is a key part of the work of marriage. You might now be wondering: how do we combine our finances? If you don’t know where to start on this journey, I think I can help you out. Let’s start with the first step!
1. Open a joint bank account
You probably both have your own checking accounts. That's normal when you're not married yet.
In order to open a joint bank account together, first you’ll need to decide which bank you’d like to have it at. I’d recommend choosing a large national or regional bank with lots of ATM access across the nation or region you’re going to be living in.
Once you’ve chosen, open the account! You’ll put it in both of your names, and you’ll each get cashier checks from your current bank accounts to deposit all of your money into your new account.
I would also recommend making this both a checking and savings account. It’s helpful to have options. Maybe your savings account becomes your vacation fund or your rainy day fund! Many banks will give you a checking and savings account together.
If one or both of you already has your personal checking account at the bank that you’d both like to have your joint account at, even better!
All you’ll have to do is let the bank know that you’d like to make your account a joint bank account. You’ll add the partner to the account, and then that partner can get a cashier's check from their old account to deposit into the new one!
It’s as easy as that folks. Do a little research, and then just walk into a bank and make it happen.
2. Make your spouse an owner of other accounts
Now that you have your main bank account set up, sit down and figure out which other accounts the two of you have. You might have an investment account, or a personal emergency fund.
Make your spouse a joint owner on this account! If you have a personal retirement account, like a Roth IRA or a 401k, you can just make your spouse the beneficiary of the account. This is such an easy step to take! If you don't see any easy way to do this online, then give the account provider or bank a call.
3. Make a plan for debt
Now that you’re married, it’s “your debt is my debt” now! Relax, the debt won’t last long. If you come up with a good plan together, you can rid yourself of debt in a few years max.
The key is to map it out. Lay out all of your debts and their interest rates.
Next, my suggestion would be to pay the minimum on ALL of your debts EXCEPT for one. This one special debt will either be the smallest debt, or the one with the highest interest rate.
For this debt, you’ll pay the minimum plus as much as possible. Throw as much extra money at this debt as possible each month! You’ll try to eliminate this debt as fast as possible, and then pour the money you were using to pay it off each month into the next debt when the first is paid off.
There is a lot of wisdom in paying off debts from highest interest rate to lowest, however, I am a big fan of the debt snowball method.
This method helps you gain momentum by paying off your smallest debt (in total amount) first. You gain momentum because you’ll have quick wins! If you have a debt of $1,000, you’ll be done with it in no time! You can keep moving onto to slightly bigger debts once you finish the smallest one. Before you know it, you’ll be paying off your largest debt, and freedom will be in sight.
4. Budget monthly
By far the best way to pay off debt is to budget for it. A basic budgeting template can get you off to a strong start.
Simply put, if you don’t tell your money where to go, then it will go to places you never expected, and debt will not be paid off quickly. It will linger for what seems like your whole life.
I cannot recommend setting up a monthly budget with your spouse enough. It’s a staple for highly successful couples.
And no, a budget doesn’t mean you can’t spend any money. Budgets can create freedom, and eventually lead to financial independence. Even after debt is wiped out, budgeting together as a couple is a bedrock to combined marital finances.
5. Split up tasks
Once you’ve set up a budget, try to make sure each of you are operating in your strengths. Does one of you like numbers? Maybe that person should be tasked with monitoring the budget and expenses every week or month. Course corrections are an important part!
Does one of you like to purchase stuff? Especially shopping in stores? Maybe that person should be tasked with doing the grocery shopping or pick up the household products each month.
You are a team, remember? Make sure each person can have a role on the team that they are comfortable with and excited about executing!
6. Have a money meeting at least once a month
If you are going to budget monthly, you’ll have to create that budget each month. This is a wonderful time to have a recurring money meeting together.
You can review the last month’s budget and how you did, you can discuss what should be on the budget for the next month, and you can dream for the future!
This monthly touch base is absolutely critical for you to be a couple that wants to stay on track with their goals and share their finances in a way that is honoring to both spouses. If you’re interested in ideas on how to structure your monthly money meeting, shoot us an email!