Overcoming marriage money challenges

How Financial Planning Can Help a Marriage

by Casey Quinn

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Days before our wedding a few years ago, my husband and I were asked if we had discussed things like finances and children to make sure we were both on the same page. Although this was a great idea, our responses wouldn't have made any difference to us. We were both excited about our pending nuptials and nothing was going to stop that wedding!

As it turns out, my husband and I are complete opposites when it comes to spending. He is extremely conservative with his money, while I like to splurge on luxury items like clothes, gadgets, and new cars. Over the years, we have found creative ways to work around our differences in order to avoid unnecessary friction. I still get to spend, while he still gets to save.

Establishing our financial goals upfront has been one of the keys to our success. Aside from our mortgage, we strive to avoid any type of debt. Our student loans, cars, and other big-ticket items have been paid off. We created a strict budget that ensures we are saving enough for retirement while still being able to afford the occasional dinner out.

For the splurges along the way, credit cards have proven to be a great way to add some extra funding to our budget. It's not at all what you might be thinking though. I applied for a rewards credit card that allows me to accumulate gift cards to the stores I frequently shop at. I charge everything from groceries to gas on this credit card. Every few months I cash in my rewards points in order to receive a gift card of my choosing.

If the budget is particularly tight during any given month, I can also cash in my rewards points for gift cards to our grocery store. If we want to undertake a home improvement project, I stock up on gift cards to the hardware store. If I'm aching for some new clothes, I pick a gift card to accommodate a shopping spree at my favorite retailer. I can also use my points to pay off a portion of my credit card balance that month in order to save some extra money.

Using a credit card to this extent requires a bit of discipline. According to the rules agreed upon by my frugal husband and me, nothing can be charged to the credit card if we can't afford to pay it off at the end of the month. If credit card balances carry over from month-to-month, interest quickly accumulates and it becomes counterproductive to our goals. The rewards credit card is also the only credit card that we have.

Credit card rewards can only go so far. When it comes to expensive items like televisions or exercise equipment, careful planning is necessary. As part of our budget, we deposit a fixed amount of cash into a money market account each month. Money market accounts typically offer higher rates compared to a standard savings account and they do not have the restrictions of a certificate of deposit (CD).

As time passes, the balance of our money market account slowly grows. When enough money has been saved, we can head to the store and pick out that new TV, or whatever prize we were saving for. While waiting to make the purchase can be painful, it does have its benefits. I tend to get really excited about new things when I first see them. After saving for a few months, that excitement tends to wear off and I can no longer justify spending our hard-earned money on the item. On the other hand, if we both still want the new item, the price has probably dropped while we were busy saving!

With a number of wedded years tucked under our belts, my husband and I have learned marriage does have its challenges. Careful planning and a whole lot of patience have helped us overcome these challenges and our marriage is now stronger as a result.

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