8 money management tips for newlyweds

By Mark Helgesen

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, April 9 2014 1:10 p.m. MDT

Financial problems are a major contributor to marriage problems and divorce. Here are 8 tips to help couples stay on the same page financially.

BartekSzewczyk, Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Editor's note: A version of this article originally ran on the blog Debt-Free Mormon. It has been reprinted here with permission.

A marriage has a higher likelihood for success if a couple can agree on these four things: children, religion, in-laws and money. I didn't make that up. I just read it somewhere and I think it makes sense.

But what I would like to focus on is the money part. Here are eight money management tips for newlyweds.

1. Agree on the basics

Hopefully the discussion of money comes up before you are actually married.

At some point during the dating game, how one or the other tends to feel about money and debt usually reveals itself. Whether or not someone is good at handling their money becomes pretty clear if you spend enough time together.

The question is if you disagree with how your spouse or future spouse handles money, what are you going to do?

Whether or not someone is good at managing money is not a deal breaker, but how partners want to go about managing their money in the future and refusing to admit if they have a problem managing it could be. If he loves debt (loves credit cards and borrows money for everything) while she hates debt (budgets her money and puts money in savings to buy the things she needs), there could be a problem.

Couples must decide how they are going to handle their money and agree on how they feel about debt, savings, spending, etc. Remember, just because someone isn't good with their money doesn't disqualify them from being a good spouse, but the attitude about it going forward probably does.

2. Have a household budget

A new household budget should be set monthly. Every month you and your spouse should sit down together — with the TV turned off, cell phones down and without the iPad (unless you are using it to make the budget) — to discuss what the upcoming month will look like. As The Huffington Post reported last year, financial problems are one of the leading causes of divorce, especially if the problems begin early in the marriage. Having a family budget meeting monthly will help you avoid this unnecessary tension.

In this meeting you should both agree on how much money will be spent, how it will be spent and where it will be spent. If you must fight and argue about money, this is the place to make your case; but do it graciously and lovingly. Whatever you work out, put it in writing, agree on it and then stick to it. You each should get equal say on what goes into the budget. This is a team effort, not a tyranny. The budget should be a contract, a commitment to each other. Don't mess it up. You promised.

A budget should be zero based — meaning income minus all the household expenses (expenses, debts, savings, investing, etc.) should equal zero. Every dollar should be accounted for and put somewhere, even if it means you put some in a cookie jar. Whatever you decide to do, do it together and stick to your plan.

3. Transparency

Both of you should have equal access to all accounts, passwords, usernames, etc,. Your accounts should be joint accounts — one checking account, two debit cards. None of this separate accounts stuff. It opens the door for dishonesty. You should both be able to know what's going on with the household finances.

You're married now. No longer is it my money or my checking account or my credit card or my car loan. It's our money, our income, our debt, our checking account. We are married now. We work together. We tell the truth. We.

4. Have an emergency fund

Every household should have an emergency fund. Of course, depending on your current financial situation, the amount of money in your emergency fund will vary.