When we were engaged one of the top things we heard from numerous people is how money is the biggest reason for divorce. Being both accountants we looked to each other and decided that it would be our strongest point. We wanted to be united and not pulling each other in different directions.
We struggled a bit when we were newly married. We had no real concept of how much money it took to live neither of us having lived by ourselves before. We knew it would be more than we expected. What hurt us was treating money exactly the same way we did before we were married. You can't do that. You aren't an individual in the purest sense anymore. You need to think of the other person when you purchase something, when you plan to purchase something, etc. Even though we thought of each other, we didn't plan together and that hurt us. We didn't go into debt but we were definitely headed that way.
What stopped the downward spiral was a huge reality check when we started doing our budget on Mint.com. The website lets you set each part of your budget, goals, investment, etc. It gives you graphs and more to show you how you are doing and even notifies you when you have gone over budget. When we first started we noticed that we had a negative net income for the last couple of months. It was a huge eye opener. Even though the money was there, we were depleting our savings unintentionally. In that moment we decided we needed to reroute our marriage back on track.
We set our goals, like my new car, and more long term goals like a house and a trip for our five year anniversary. Since then, which was three months ago, our net income has been been in the green! Now we spend our money with purpose, setting aside our tithe and goal amounts and still have some for a emergency fund. Now that we have purchased my car, our goal for the rest of the year is to get our savings back up to where it was. Next year, we want to get as close as possible to paying off Brian's car. we should almost make it, almost three and a half years early, which is nothing to sneeze at.
Ever since we started focusing more instead of preferring to remain oblivious, our marriage has gotten stronger. We both have our goals in keeping track of our finances. Brian focuses on making sure our bills are being paid and I make sure that I save as much as possible. I watch what I spend in groceries and make sure to make enough for all of our meals so that we aren't spending money at restaurants when we don't need to. We found our trouble areas were food and the home. Food because I had not figured out a routine as well as overspending in groceries/restaurants. I was buying wayyy to much and we would throw it away. I've gotten much better at estimating how much we will need for all of our meals during the week. A meal plan and grocery list have become my bread and butter. I have all of my recipe ingredients written down so that it's planned our week. It works out great. We waste little and are eating healthier than before. Perfect.
Home decor items was also a trouble are since it was our first home and we had nothing. While we would love to have it fully decorated, only certain areas are. We stopped at decorating the living room and our bedroom which are mostly used. We bought a couch, bed and an entertainment center. Everything else could wait. Even that sent us on the road to debt, so we reined it in. We have borrowed furniture from Brian's parents, such as our dining table and chairs as are our side tables in the living room. It may not be what we want, but what we really don't want is to have a ton of debt.
We both have gotten through college without having debt and we certainly don't want to start now. Our rule for finances, which is that we will not be divided but united in all decisions and planning, has been our number one rule. I'm sure it has saved us from many threats to hurt our marriage. It all started with a budget, which can be scary or exciting depending on who you are (we love budgets, I mean we are accountants!). Mint.com makes is non-scary for everyone. It's so easy to use. If you don't have a budget, start there. You will love it!
One big lesson we learned is about our priorities. As much as we love being comfortable and would like a fully furnished home that we owned and the fancy vacations and more, we know that those are also not our priorities. Maybe one day we'll be there but it isn't the be all end all. Early on in our engagement and marriage we talked about gradually being able to give God more than 10%. We want to be able to one day give away at least half of what we make. We want to keep our priorities with God. The fact of the matter is, you can't take any of this stuff with you when you die. While it may be nice during our lives here, it doesn't mean anything when you get to the other side and you spent all of your money on things that are meaningless. Put your money where it matters. In relationships, fellowship, missions, charities and God. We all like to live comfortably, but that doesn't mean we have to sacrifice God and it also means that in giving back to God we have to sacrifice our comfort. When you give to God, He gives back. Usually it's an exponentially more than what you originally gave. He gives back opportunities, gifts, relationships, love, laughter, a promise for your eternal life. Quite a beautiful gift in return for some of our luxuries.