(Updated March 22, 2017)
When you got married, you get the feeling of “love can conquer all.”
Then bills, daily needs, monthly rents and perhaps old debts creeps into your home to give you nightmares. Well, you are not alone.
Marriage is a love and money balancing act (plus a roller coaster ride of emotions).
We are in the second spot in terms of relationship fulfillment. According to 2016 Pru Life UK’s Prudential Relationship Index (PRi), 87% of Filipinos tell their partners, “I love you!” at least once a week.
In addition, (and quite contradictory) 35% of couples have arguments every week and the usual reason is money matters. Yes, 46% (almost half) of the couples argue about money. When you were just dating, it may not be too much of a deal. Guys may be expected to pay during the special occasions, but most of the times girls also chip-in, especially when they are both working.
When a couple finally takes the vow and unite in holy matrimony, they become as one and they live happy ever after!
In fairytales, it may be true, but in reality, married couples will fight every now and then from petty stuff (toothpaste tubes) up to serious misunderstandings. Since you are newlyweds, it is best to understand how to balance love and money.
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Money can’t buy love, but money can give you the feeling of security for the future. By the end of this article, you must be able to:
- Know your spouse’s financial habit
- Embrace each other’s financial weakness
- Appreciate how important it is to be “financially naked” with your spouse
- Make effective budget plans together
- Gain understanding on how to deal with differences in the way you handle money
- Understand the need to have a planned date for financial discussions
- Inspire each other to work on your common and individual financial goals
Here are 10 practical tips to save up and achieve financial security.
- Understand each other’s financial habits
Before you marry your spouse, you think you know everything about each other. His/her mannerism, what ticks him/her, favorite color, shirts, songs, movies, and food. You might even finish each other’s sentences. Yet, do you know your partner’s financial back ground, habits, concerns, and goals?
It is awkward to ask financial questions in a straightforward manner. Right? Filipinos are usually NOT comfortable talking about money especially if you just got married. You can start by asking how your spouse’s childhood was like. What toys he/she used to play with or where do they go during summer vacations. This will give you an idea on how your spouse was brought up and how his/her parents managed their family finances.
My husband grew up in Cavite and experienced running through fields, climbing trees and swimming in the river. He has four siblings and they used to play together with toy cars made by their father out of leftover woods from his carpentry shop. Now, after six years of our marriage, I can say that my husband is practical. He won’t even buy a new pair of shoes unless the old pair is totally unrepairable.
Experts say that if you understand your partner’s past financial habits, it can help you achieve your goals such as your dream home. Why does it such a huge impact? Because you can align your goals together.
Of course, you will also have to know if your spouse has an existing financial responsibility. Filipinos have close-knit family ties. Though they are married, a lot of them are still expected to help their parents and siblings financially. This must be clear to you and your spouse because it will impact your finances.
My close friend is a seaman’s wife. At first, she had difficulty accepting the fact that her husband is obliged to send money to his parents and siblings. After understanding her husband’s sentiments through an open-minded discussion, she learned to change her perspective.
This case is especially true to thousands of OFWs and seafarers. If you can’t accept that your spouse has this responsibility, then it will surely start a fight every now and then. If you find yourself struggling with this issue, then the key is in communication.
- Do not mix emotions with financial discussions
Ever heard of stories when a spouse walks out in the middle of the argument? Hurtful words may have been dropped and the root of the problem has been left unsolved. This will be followed by a sleepless night and a morning of puffy eyes.
If you are talking about certain money concerns, keep a level head and focus on the issue itself. Refrain from letting other issues mix in such as past disappointments or unrelated matters.
Discuss your finances regularly by having ‘dates.’ Talking about money does not have to be too formal. If you don’t want to go out in a nice café, you can stay home, open a bag of chips, pop soda cans, sit on the couch and dreamily talk about your goals.
Keep an open mind and listen (not just hear) your spouse’s ideas and worries. Be “financially naked” and honest. If there is a current financial struggle, talk about it head on without losing compassion and sentiments.
I remember my husband taking me to lunch at 7-11. After dropping jokes, he then said, “Mahal, ayos na gantong simpleng dates tutal nagmmahalan naman tayo diba? Siguro bawas na tayo sa paglabas pag-sahod tapos start na tayo mag-ipon. (Even this kind of date is enough as long as we love each other, right?Maybe we can drop the usual dates every payday and save more for the future?) That time I could not resist my laughter. It could have taken so much bravery for him to talk about dates and money. His words may sound cheesy but what he said was true.
We were newlyweds then and he made me realize that honeymoon is over and we better get serious about our finances and savings.
- If your partner has an existing debt, pay it off as soon as possible
Why do you have to pay for your spouse’s debt? Since you got married, you now have joint financial responsibility. If your spouse has a debt with a high interest, then it will pull you together to a spiraling debt. It is best to pay it off as soon as possible especially if the debt is a loan from a bank.
Marriage may be good for your relationship, but will negatively impact your credit report with unpaid loans. The credit report is crucial for housing and car loan application because banks with utilize it to know if you can handle such responsibility. You would want to keep your credit report in good shape.
- Discuss having a joint account
Are you comfortable to have a joint account with your spouse? If you are a self-confess shopaholic, then a joint account can help you control your spending habit. Since the account will need your spouse’s permission every time you make a cash withdrawal, you will have to decide on your major purchases together.
There is nothing wrong with still keeping an individual account. Some couples have “three pots.” This means they have a joint account and individual bank accounts. The joint account may be for the household and children’s expenses and the separate accounts are for individual purchases.
After getting married, I still keep my own savings account while also chipping in with the joint account. I can buy stuff without having to explain myself. This way I can surprise hubby during special occasions.
What if your spouse suddenly decided to back to school or stay at home and take care of your kids? Then you will be the only one putting money on the joint account. Should you then close it instead and just have your own bank account?
The joint account means you are your spouse own it, it does not specifically require you and your partner to constantly put in cash. If your spouse decided to stop working for the sake of your children and future, then it is your responsibility to support him/her. But it is better to plan first before you make a sudden change in your cash inflow.
In 2012, I was able to convince my husband to go back to school and finish his master’s degree. I know he has been dreaming for it for some time and I’m willing to support it. I admit it had been frustrating at times. He had to quit his job and take a freelance job instead, just to help make ends meet. The financial situation has drastically shifted, but with prevent prayers, encouraging words and understanding, we were able to survive, (and so as our joint account).
After finishing his degree he is now in a better career shape. I could see the fulfillment in him. He is now convincing me to take 18 units of education as he knows that teaching has always been my passion. I know he will be there to support me financially and emotionally, but a change in finances will need more planning and saving up.
- Record your budget and savings diligently
To tell you the truth, I find this trick hard at first. I was used to spending my salary without keeping tabs on where my money goes. I was not much into saving then unlike my hubby. Though it is ideal to create a spreadsheet with a password, we usually write down our finances in a notebook. Only recently did we use apps to track our expenses.
Be open to your spouse and never hide any bills nor purchases. Include your bank account details, loans, investments and insurance policies if you have any. If you have documents related to these, keep them all in an envelope and put it in a safe place but make sure you can easily access them.
If you have a credit card, it is better to let your spouse know about it. After listing the expenses, sit and talk which ones are needs and which are wants. Then settle a goal of how much should put on your savings. Allot a certain amount for each other's personal expenses. Then stick with it.
Since you are married, you have pooled your money together. If you are hiding any expenses, this will not only be damaging your spouse’s trust, but it will also ruin the budget plan.
Why? Imagine yourself shopping for groceries. Upon reaching the cashier, you pulled out your ATM card. You were confident that you can pay off everything in the shopping cart. Surprise! Your ATM card got declined.
You will feel disappointed, embarrassed and hurt. Imagine if you are in an emergency situation. Such a disaster right? Now, imagine if your spouse discovers that the fund she/he had been expecting to be safely saved up is missing for unknown reasons. (Expect a war.)
When you make a budget with your spouse, encourage each other with kind words to stick with it. In case a sudden purchase need pops up, tell your spouse about it. Heated arguments might rise from time to time but hurtful words such as “Bahala ka na sa buhay mo!”will not settle anything.
- Create an emergency fund
Emergency does not include Channel bags going on sale for a limited time. Though emergency does not have to be life threatening, you need to consider when you can actually use this fund.
Access emergency savings when you lose your job, your car broke down, you suddenly need to go home to your province due to unforeseen circumstances, or a family emergency.
A few years ago, my brother-in-law suddenly visited us. He asked if he could borrow some cash. We were heart-broken when we heard his wife needed to have a medical procedure to keep their baby. She needed to have three liters of sterile water transfused to her womb for more amniotic fluid. The OB fee alone is P10,000 for this procedure. It is at this time that I realize how vital it is to have stashed money. It can literally save the life of your loved ones.
The emergency fund gives you peace of mind when you get in the middle of an emergency.
Why not just use credit cards? Credit cards may be useful for sudden purchases, but make sure you pay it on or before the due date to avoid penalties and interest rate. Also, credit cards are not always accepted.
How about credit card cash advance? Isn’t it like getting a pre-approved loan charged on your credit limit? Just go to an ATM and get some cash. Cash Advance may surely is instant cash, but it has high-interest rates charged from the day you withdrew cash. You will also be charged a processing fee.
How about a personal loan? Online personal loans may be quick to access, but it is important to borrow from a legitimate lender. Loan sharks are out to take advantage of people who are desperate for cash and they charge unreasonable interest rates. They suck your money until nothing is left.
There is no better feeling than having cash at hand when you need it the most. Emergency fund is best started as soon as possible. You will never know when you are going to need it, so it is never too late to start chipping in a certain amount every payday. How much should be your target emergency fund? It is best to make it worth of 6 months’ income.
“Sana naagapan.” The classic story of Filipinos whose illness got worst because they had no money to have a medical checkup. They only seek the doctors’ help when they could not even walk anymore. Sad but true.
- Taking up an active role
Let’s say you finally decided to buy a car. Shiny brand new models are surely pricey. Who decides which car to buy and how much you should pay for a downpayment?
Discuss which banks you think offers the best car loan, which car could fit your daily needs, which insurance can fit in with your bank’s requirements, and how much cash should you shed for downpayment and other fees.
There is a handful to consider and the final decision must be well thought of by the two of you. It does not mean you have no trust in your partner. It means you are doing what married couples are supposed to do- being a team.
Don’t just agree with your spouse for the sake of closing the discussion. No matter how uninteresting loans, payments, and documents are, it is important to understand every detail. Why?
- Your spouse could have overlooked some important details on car sales and loan contract details.
- You might have some ideas which have never passed the mind of your spouse such as asking for possible package alternatives the dealer ‘forgot’ to mention or you could have the car windows tinted.
- In case your spouse suddenly passes away, you won’t be left in the dark.
“Ikaw na bahala,” can be risky. Have an active role when making financial decisions.
So, should you buy a car now or keep your savings to buy a house later?
Getting involved in financial decisions does not only mean making big purchases, it also covers creating financial goals. While budgeting means short term expenses which could be daily, weekly or even monthly, financial goals can span for years.
Align your financial goals and keep an open communication. You can’t be saving for a house and your spouse saving for a trip to Paris. Remember that you are going to get your savings from the same pool of resources. If you keep going in opposite directions, you won’t be going anywhere near your goals.
Together, make your goals specific.
- What type of house are you going to buy?
- How big is it?
- How much should you save up?
- When should you reach your specific amount of savings for your house?
- Is your goal possible or realistic considering your current finances?
- Know your employee and government benefits
Ever wonder what you can get from SSS, Pag-IBIG, and PhilHealth?
After all, you are paying the monthly contributions, right? (If not, then you must start now!)
Are you entitled to also have benefits from your spouse’s SSS, Pag-IBIG, and PhilHealth?
Either you are self-employed or employed, you must know the benefits you can get from these institutions and how to get them. You can get more affordable housing loans and you can have your hospital bills lessen. However, terms and conditions can get tricky.
- Build a “Fun Fund”
Too much financial talk can drain you and your partner, that’s for sure. And since money is the usual reason why couples are stressed out or argue, you can avoid these by keeping the romance burning. Balancing love and money needs maturity but that does not mean you will forget the inner “teens” in you. Have a small saving for “fun dates.” This does not have to be a fancy date. Eat street foods together, go to a fast food, or just buy snacks and have a movie date at home. If you have enough funds, go to the beach and watch the sunset together.
The best financial secret I can share with you is to keep your marriage strong. Never take each other for granted. Take some time to be active together. Talk more about other things in your lives, silly stuff and even things in the world that just happens to pass by your thoughts. Take a walk, go to parks or clean the house together. Of course, never forget to appreciate each other even for the little things.
If your marriage is strong, you will work harder to provide a better future for your family. You will be more determined to work hard and save up.
- Learn financial literacy together
Learning never stops, and it does not have to be boring.
Read books. Challenge each other (and be a sport) to finish a book in a year. Sometimes I just love silently reading together with my hubby. Read blogs too to get more tips from financial experts. There are housewives who share their financial experiences though blogs too.
Do not forget to share what you have learned and you can even take this opportunity to spark a conversation. Remember to respect your spouse’s ideas.
Marriage is a journey of a lifetime. It is wonderful to have a partner who unconditionally loves you and makes you feel that there will always be someone you can rely on. Marriage does not magically work on its own as it requires teamwork, patience, and love.
How do you deal with money matters as a couple?