Why You Should Create a Sample Household Budget During Your Engagement
For many couples, wedding planning is their first opportunity to practice making financial decisions together. They get to see which person is the spender, which is the saver, and start to understand each other’s financial perspectives.
As you decide on the budget for your wedding, consider applying what you’ve learned about each other’s spending habits to create a quick sample household budget! Our officiant suggested we do this during our engagement, and it was extremely helpful in understanding how our newly combined household income would be used to pay our bills and provide for our basic needs...as well as what we would do with the money leftover.
Get Clear on Your Financial Big Picture
Creating a sample household budget is the first step to understanding where you are financially and creating a big picture for where you’d like to go. We’ve found it helpful to choose one main financial goal to focus on, and align our budget and spending efforts to help us achieve that goal.
When we got married, our main priority was saving for a down payment on a house that had plenty of space for entertaining and our future family. We decided that having a big car payment didn’t really line up with that main goal, so we continued to drive two cars that were both over a decade old. Sure, over the years we were definitely tempted to trade in for something newer, nicer, and in less frequent need of maintenance. But we had made the decision to make buying a house the priority, and by stewarding what God provided us with we were able to purchase our first home a little over two years into our marriage.
Your main financial goal may be paying off your student loans or credit card debt, which is a great goal! Regardless of who is bringing more debt into the marriage, it’s a great idea to work as a team to get debt free as soon as you can so that you can have more financial freedom. Moving forward, you might want to commit to only go into debt for essential items like a home, car, or student loans, and not to put any expenses (wedding or otherwise) on your credit card unless you plan on paying it off that same month.
Make a Plan for Managing Your Finances
Once you’ve got a handle on the big picture, you can decide what you’ll realistically spend each month. While one of you may be doing most of the actual spending for your household, it’s important to make a plan...and stick to it!
Have weekly or biweekly check-ins to hold each other accountable and ensure you are spending according to your means and financial goals. I update our budget once a week on Wednesday mornings and print out a copy to review with Jake when he gets home. This weekly routine helps us to make sure we are both on the same page and understand where we need to rein in our spending, and when we can afford to splurge on something.
Budgeting programs are an easy and effective way to track your spending, but they only work if you use them regularly. Whether you use an excel spreadsheet, or a budget program like YNAB or Mint, commit to updating your budget regularly!