Deciding where to live, if you’re going to have children, and who takes out the garbage are some of the big and small decisions newlyweds have to make together after the wedding gifts are put away and they’re ready to start their lives together.
There are also financial decisions to make as a married couple, though they may not be as easy to discuss as who’s making dinner on Sunday nights.
Here are some financial priorities newlyweds should set — together:
Set a budget: A good way to start is by living within your means and setting a family budget. Start by making a list of your monthly income and expenses, and decide which are must-haves (rent and groceries) and which can be eliminated or at least cut back (cable TV and dining out).
The goal is for your budget to leave you with enough extra money each month to save for other goals, and to not spend more than you have. If you have debt, including credit card debt, come up with a plan to pay it off.
Financial goals: Discuss your individual and joint goals, and start saving for them. These can include having children, saving for a down payment on a house, buying a new car, and funding retirement accounts for each of you.
Insurance: There are a few insurance needs to consider when you get married. A family health insurance plan may save you money, as will having all family cars on one auto insurance policy. You may also need extra homeowners or renters insurance to cover all the possessions you now have together, including jewelry and all of those expensive wedding gifts you just received.
Life insurance is important when you’re married, especially if one spouse doesn’t work and relies on the other person for an income, or if you’re going to have children soon.
Tax withholdings: Getting married can lower your taxes. If one spouse isn’t working, then the other can add them as an allowance on their taxes, allowing them to change their withholding from their paycheck and bring more money home. An IRS worksheet can help make this calculation.
Bank accounts: Joint checking, savings and emergency accounts, along with keeping individual checking accounts for pocket money, are bank accounts worth discussing as a couple. Splitting electric bills in half, as you may have done in college, is over.
Once you get started on these accounts, give yourself six months or so to get used to them before deciding to make changes. A budget and joint bank accounts, like a new marriage, can take a little work.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist who specializes in personal finance topics.