You want to begin married life on financially-secure footing.

By Blythe Copeland
February 03, 2020
JGI/Jamie Grill

While you and your partner are working on perfecting every detail of your wedding day, from the types of garden roses you love to the exact shade of blue for the linens, plan to put that same thoughtfulness into your newlywed finances, says Matt Bell, personal finance expert and author of Money and Marriage: A Complete Guide for Engaged and Married Couples. Avoiding these common money mistakes at the beginning of your life together can put you on a path toward more stable finances—and a happier marriage.

Related: Conversations to Have Before Combining Finances

Mistake Number One: Going into debt for your wedding.

Many couples start their marriage with consumer debt or student loans from one or both partners, and adding wedding-related expenses only makes the payoff that much harder. "As difficult as it may be, try to think past the wedding day," says Bell. "Will you really want to start your marriage with wedding debt?" Work together to create a budget and stick to it by prioritizing your most important spending and focusing on your future plans. "Once you know how much you have available for the wedding, you can begin sorting through the many decisions, aiming for the nicest possible wedding at a price you can afford." Financial health often requires compromising between what you want and what you can spend, but, says Bell, the decreased stress on your relationship that comes with getting out of debt is worth the tradeoff in the long run.

Mistake Number Two: Rushing into other spending decisions.

Many couples feel pressured to buy a new house to go with their new marriage, but a hasty purchase can backfire. "Getting married is a big life change, so I recommend not taking on any other major life changes right away," says Bell. "Buying a house is a big decision financially and emotionally. It can be stressful, and that can be tough on a new marriage." If you spend the first year or two renting, or living in one partner's current home—even if it's a little less square footage than your dream home—you'll benefit from having time to adjust to married life before taking on the challenges of house hunting or home ownership (like broken sewer lines, worn-out hot water heaters, and unforgiving mortgages).

Mistake Number Three: Keeping financial secrets.

Sharing your financial history—from your debt to your nest egg—when you combine your accounts is a smart choice, says Bell, as is thinking of both the debts and the savings as shared property. Not so smart: Hiding your spending (or saving). "Divorce attorneys have told me that when money is a primary issue that brings a couple into their office, very often the issue was that one spouse was racking up a lot of debt without the other spouse knowing about it," says Bell. "By the time they found out, it was too late. Their finances were a mess and all that trust was gone."

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