When Eric and I started dating, we ate out all the time. We went to movies and we had a blast. Many days per week, we – well, Eric – spent money. This is not abnormal when a couple doesn’t live together and spends most of their time together outside of the house. However, this type of lifestyle and spending can easily follow a couple into their marriage. When a newlywed couple is working all day, there is such a temptation to get take-out food or to go out to a restaurant to keep from having to cook. With no kids and two incomes, why not?
While I’m not suggesting that couples should never have fun and never spend money (in fact, see the last post Everyone Can Win the Lottery), I am urging couples preparing for, or even thinking about marriage, to begin good money habits now. In retrospect, we wish we wouldn’t have eaten out as much and would have done the following: Plan fun, low-budget options that both of you enjoy. Bring food from your refrigerator with you and have a picnic. Perhaps instead of a theater movie every week, you could go to the Redbox most weekends and to one movie a month – or find a sport or games you both like to play. However, do make it a point to intentionally and specifically plan for high-budget evenings – even while dating. Some high-budget evenings are good: every woman likes to be spoiled once in a while and every man should indulge from time to time. When you plan for them, the more special they become.
Why is this a big deal? If I get married, and we are both working hard with no kids, why should we deny ourselves as many high-budget evenings as we want? In short, because it’s highly unlikely you will remain in this season of life forever. Saving now for the little ones to come will take a huge burden off of your shoulders when children come. Additionally, if you are already accustomed to saving money and not eating out constantly – or entertaining yourself with high cost activities – it will be that much easier to transition into parenthood. Maybe babies won’t come for a while? Still, it’s wise to prepare for uncertain futures… one or both of you may be out of work someday and will need the reserved funds. If you have money saved, it doesn’t have to be a life-altering crisis. Planning ahead isn’t the most fun you’ll ever have, but having that economic buffer brings a sense of peace that no amount of spending can.
A good rule of thumb to strive for in early marriage is to live on one person’s income and save the other’s income. This will get you used to living on less than you make and will beef up your savings account quickly. If both of you plan to work full time, with or without kids, I still recommend doing this. There have been a number of women I’ve talked to who thought they would always work, but after having their first baby, decided they wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. This may seem like an impossibility for you, but trust me, it’s better to be prepared and have the option to stay home than wishing you had the option and being forced to work when you would rather be home because of the lack of funds.
You will rarely run across someone who says, “I wish I had not saved so much money;” however, in times of an economic downturn, many can be found who wish they had not spent their previous income so frivolously. Saving money does not have to mean your life has to be miserable. In fact, placing importance on saving early, and doing it, means that you will have options for your future. Plan ahead, enjoy your family without hurting your long-term savings, and you won’t be disappointed in the years to come.
Thinking five to ten years down the road, for which large expenses will you need to prepare?