There’s so much to do before you say “I do.” Between finding a gown, booking a venue and sampling a series of wedding cakes, you’ve got a lot of items on your to-do list before you can walk down the aisle.
Because there’s so much going on pre-wedding, you might simply overlook one of the biggest hurdles a new couple has to face: merging their finances into one collective family pot. In order to make sure you and your future spouse start your union on the right foot, here are four of the biggest money goals you should hit before the big day.
1. Pay Down Your Debts
With all the planning and expenses that go into a wedding, it might be hard to imagine that you should also be paying down your student loans, credit cards and other outstanding debts. However, you’ll want to start your marriage out in the best financial standing possible, and your debts get in the way of that.
The first thing to do is speak with your partner and disclose how much debt each of you have. Combine that number to get an idea of what you should work toward pre-wedding: strive to reduce that number by half by the time they’re walking down the aisle.
You’ll find plenty of advice on how to do it, too. Most will advise you to start by paying off the accounts that carry the most interest so that you’re paying back as close to the amount you borrowed as possible. On the other hand, many people begin by paying off the loan or debt with the lowest balance so they feel accomplished and motivated to move onto other accounts once that one’s paid.
Other methods for paying back your loans include an automatic transfer so that you never see the money in your account, or setting aside a certain amount each month and paying your loans down like a mortgage until they’re gone. In the end though, it doesn’t matter how you do it, just get the ball rolling ASAP.
2. Downsize the Big Day
How big will your big day be? Of course you want your wedding to be a beautiful, romantic and memorable affair, but digging yourself into debt for a single day’s party might not be worth it.
Fortunately, many before you have pioneered the low cost, high glamour wedding look. You can cut corners without skimping on the high-class feel of your wedding; in fact, you may be surprised at some of the best ways to reduce your costs. For example, hiring a wedding planner may seem like an over-the-top expense, but they’re typically more efficient and cost-effective than someone who hasn’t put together a ceremony before.
You can also save money by relieving your photographers early — toss that bouquet at the start of the night — and by designing non-floral centerpieces for your dining tables. A little bit goes a long way, and you’ll be so glad you were budget-conscious when you wake up the day after you’re married without a huge bill to pay.
3. Marry Your Accounts (or Not)
Not every married couple shares a joint spending account, and that’s okay. Just because you’re in a forever relationship doesn’t mean you have to share every single thing. For some couples, it works better to have some money shared and some money separate. For others, they put everything into a single pot. Discuss this with your partner before you walk down the aisle so that you’re on the same page.
Another goal to have before you’re married is to decide who pays what, if you go for the separate account option. Many couples with split accounts halve their bills, too, while others say one party is responsible for the electric bill, while the other pays the phone bill, etc. No matter how you plan to divide it, have a plan in place before you’re married in order to transition smoothly into your new life together.
4. Share the Same Financial Vision of the Future
Finally, you’re about to be married: it’s time you and your partner discuss the financial future you envision. If you dream of buying a home, or going back to school, or paying off those aforementioned debts, that should be widely known amongst you and your partner.
No matter what your visions may be, you need to make sure they’re compatible with your future spouse’s visions, too. Of course, marriage and relationships are all about compromise, but your core life goals — think: buying a home, raising a family, earning a Master’s degree — should remain intact. Marriage is about working together, and you should both be able to accomplish your dreams with the proper support and, of course, the proper financial planning.
These are only four of the conversations you and your significant other should have before you walk down the aisle. But, once you figure out how you’re going to spend your money — and how you’re going to make your shared dreams a reality down the line — you’ve got the hardest discussions out of the way. The only thing left to do is live happily in wedded bliss.