Things to talk about before you get married

by Erika Torres

As most of you know, Eric and I dated for a grand total of about three months before we got married. We were riding on the “I’m-so-in-looOOOoovve” cloud and didn’t really stop to question the logistics of how we were financially going to handle this union.

I believe the only financial conversation we had after we decided to get married was:

Me: How much money do you make?

Him: <insert amount here>

Me: Oh , I make <insert amount here>. That should be good, right?

The end.

Not exactly what you would call in-depth. And as someone who takes pride over excellent financial management, this just goes to show you that Love.Is.Blind. Eric could have told me that he had $50,000 in debt and I still would have married him. Maybe. Just Kidding! Maybe.

(We did go through this book though, and I highly recommend it to get the convo flowing. Although I’m assuming this is stuff most long-term relationships have already discussed.)

I wouldn’t really change anything about our love story, because we’ve learned a lot about each other this past year (He learned I’m not really Mexican because I don’t like spicy food, avocados or raw tomatoes, and I learned that he definitely does not think about finances the same way I do) but if I had to offer any advice to anyone else walking down the aisle, this would be it:

1) Know each other’s debt. And don’t take their word for it. If someone has student loans, a car loan, and credit card debt–you should definitely ask to see bank statements. Not necessarily because the other person is lying, but because someone who has a lot of debt or pays only the minimum balance, might not actually know their true debt. They may only think they know and may be burying their head in the sand when bills come.

2) Start talking about finances before you get married. Most people don’t just blurt out how much money they make on the first date–unless you’re dating an Orange County douche bag who drives a Mercedes and brags about his finances when in reality he’s living off of mommy and daddy. Finances are extremely personal–like religion and politics, you just don’t go there. Start talking about long term goals and what you each expect your lifestyle to be. Who’s the frugal one? Who’s the spender? How often will you be dining out? How much do you expect to save a month?

3) Figure out the cost of living together. For most people, this may be easy if you’re already living together. Eric and I weren’t. I figured our rent would go up when we got our own place, but I didn’t take into account the cost of utilities, or extra food (My grocery bill went from about $100 for lil’ ole me, to about $300-$350 for both of us. Guys eat a lot).  Because of this, and because I didn’t really know Eric’s true income until after we were married, we very quickly found ourselves struggling to make ends meet at the end of the month. That’s very stressful.

4) Decide how you’re going to manage finances. Someone has to do it. But always include the other person. It was unanimously decided I would handle the finances. Not only am I better at it, but I thoroughly enjoy it. Place “Dork” stamp here.  However, Eric has full access to all our accounts, and I show him my little notebook where I track all our expenses, and the Excel spreadsheet as well. Me=Super Dork. At the beginning of the month, I give him the monthly run-down of what we need to be careful on, and how much we expect to save.  At the end of the month, I tell him how we did. But mostly, he just lets me do my thing–as long as he gets his monthly budget money.

What would you recommend people talk about before they get married?

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Lindy Mint May 16, 2011 - 11:18 pm

We dated for a year, but were friends for three years before that, and still never had the money talk. I took a clue that the fact he paid all his bills was a good thing. But that’s about as far as my investigation went.

Luckily, he didn’t turn out to be a deadbeat. 🙂 And we’ve been able to grow to find a common ground in our spender-saver relationship. But yes, talking about money ahead of time can never go wrong. And if it does go wrong, then that might be a red flag.

Teacher Girl May 14, 2011 - 12:13 pm

This is a great post Erika! I know that some of my married friends who are struggling right now could’ve really benefited from reading something like this.

Laura Lewis May 13, 2011 - 4:52 pm

I wrote a post about this same topic almost a year ago… I covered a lot of areas I think —

The Coach's Wife May 13, 2011 - 10:31 am

those are great tips! I’m in charge of our money too and I have a little notebook and I send the Mr. updates on “be careful on this or that” so we stay on track. It’s hard though, it took us about a year to really get our joint finances figured out and running smoothly, and we still hit bumps. My addition would be to discuss how you are going to tackle debts.. snowball them? pay the minimum and then put large amounts toward the debts (like tax refunds, bonuses, etc).. our biggest discussions are usually “action plans” to get our debt down and how best to allocate our money toward the debts.

jobo May 13, 2011 - 8:27 am

These are great tips Erika! I also think that these should be taken into consideration when you live with someone too, in addition to when you are married to them. Because you are sharing finances, basically, then too.

A Super Girl May 13, 2011 - 6:20 am

This is great advice, especially about figuring out the cost of living ahead of time, which I haven’t really thought of. Sure, as DD and I get ready to walk down the aisle, I’ve thought about what we should be spending on rent, but I haven’t thought about the other things, nor have I thought about what’s realistic in our budget.

Finances really are no fun!

brandt @ NewHouseOnTheBlog May 13, 2011 - 5:17 am

Good to know we weren’t the only “quickie-marrieds” out there. We started dating May 2006, got engaged November 2006, and were married July 2007. Did we have talks about finances? Kind of. It was basically looking at others and saying “Oh, we won’t be like THEM.” And for a while, we were pretty good about it, to an extent. We all have our “vices.” For us, it was eating out. Now that we’ve been graduated for the past 2 yrs, it’s been a little bit of a lifestyle change, but moreso in the fact that we save much more than we did previously.

I would also recommend good long looks at how the person was raised. Did they come from a lot of money? A very frugal family? Do their parents have lavish vacations and Christmases and birthdays every year? Do they keep things simple and not a lot of fluff? This wasn’t a problem with Ashley and I, since we both came from similar frugal backgrounds, but I’ve seen this from others. One comes from a pretty posh life growing up, and wants to continue that lifestyle, and once they get married, there’s some huge tension. So I would throw that in there as my addition.


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