Financial and frugality tips for newlyweds

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So I’ve been married to frugal husband for over a year now. We are newlyweds who initially struggled to find our jam with respect to handling joint finances, chores, and expenses. As single people we were used to handling these things on our own so naturally, there was some adjustment at first. Marriage requires cohabitation and with that, a mingling of lifestyles of sorts. This meant having to reconcile and harmonize conflicting views and habits on money, shopping and other habits. Here are some financial and frugality tips for newlyweds:

 

1. While dating

 

Frugal husband has this to say: “Dating should not just be all about  happy thoughts and vacays and such. This is the time to start talking about budgeting and spending behavior of your girl/boyfriend.”

And I agree. Dating is the time you vet the person’s compatibility with yourself. There’s no need to ask for wild exotic vacays with your bf/gf. It is the time to observe whether your values (financial, family, moral values etc., depending on what you value in life) align. Financial compatibility means you align in terms of your priorities in spending. I know dating is supposed to be casual initially in terms of convo but sprinkle some seemingly innocent and innocuous questions here and there* and a guy/girl’s answers will give you meaningful clues on future money behavior.

 

2. Before deciding to marry a person

 

So it seems that you got to a point where you’re ready to settle down with the person you’re dating. Congrats! You’re so deep in love but please don’t let the haze of emotions blind you. Please be sure that this girl/guy is the one and condition your mind that from there on out, your decisions and actions will be limited and require the concurrence of your future spouse.

 

3. The wedding

 

Before the wedding please don’t be afraid to bare yourself before your significant other. I don’t mean sex lol but I mean bare your deepest financial secrets (outstanding loan balances current and long-term, financial responsibilities to family, etc., assets and liabilities) to your soon-to-be spouse. Your soon-to-be spouse deserves your honesty, love and respect. Note that your single financial status will be brought into the marriage and whatever liabilities / utang you have will be taken out of the joint marital assets** That’s fine and all as long as both parties are aware and so agree. You wouldn’t want to start your marital life on a lie or omission.

If you can, you may want to agree on how you plan to do your finances once married, who’s going to pay for what during or after the wedding. This makes all the difference during the marriage. I’m a romantic but strongly advocate a prenuptial agreement. Filipinos rarely, if ever, separate from their spouses*** but we must accept the reality that in a patriarchal society as in ours, the woman usually gets the short end of the stick in the event of a marital separation as it is the woman who usually has to give up/ lie low in terms of her career and earning power once she gets married.****

It is simply pragmatic to set property settlement terms when both parties stand on equal footing (both in love, both young, with ideally a great career) and are therefore able to think rationally, unlike in the context of an annulment / legal separation proceeding when both parties are adverse. A prenup is not merely just asset protection for either party, it may set out the penalty to be imposed for the spouse who strays or set child support payments and increase such payments as a penalty to the erring spouse.

4. The main show should be after the wedding—married life is the main course

 

Please don’t fall under the illusion that you must have the grandest wedding at the cost of having zero assets immediately after it. The wedding  should just be a great appetizer to whet your appetite for marriage, which should be the main course. Wedding gifts are always appreciated but they shouldn’t be expected. Be sure to set aside some money for when you move out of your parents’ house and move in with your brand new spouse.

Once you’re actually married, then it’s time to set in motion what was previously agreed upon in terms of who does what, how spending decisions are to be made. Open joint bank accounts as they’re useful in taking money out for joint spending decisions. Don’t let go of your single bank accounts as these are useful for when you want to spend some minor stuff on yourself and eliminates any (potential) conflict. As always, I recommend passbook accounts, never atm, for accounts where you plan to keep money for long-term projects like a house, car, etc.

 

5. Joint finances also mean joint spending

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PhP 200.00 / USD 3.80 Shopping haul: 1 sipi lakatan bananas, 10 ponkan pieces, half kilo tomatoes

Now that you’re married, challenge yourself to reduce spending and increase your saving rate!  Don’t be afraid to explore different avenues for shopping. Wet markets and farmers’ markets are great for fresh meats, fishes and produce. If you don’t have the time, it’s okay to shop at a conventional grocery/ mall too, if you have the income for it.

There are various things to try that may save money.  First, extend the life of two-ply facial tissue by using it one-ply i.e. peeling off one ply and setting aside the other for later use. Second, cook in bulk and freeze for later. This way, there will hardly be any excuse to eat out. I’ve gone the mustachian route one time and even froze some vegetables! It actually works. I am, however limited by the size of my freezer.

Third, brown bag your lunch. This ensures you eat clean and healthy food (because you prepared it). Fourth, in a pinch, a dinner out can mean fast food. There’s no shame in Jollibee or McDo. Fifth, limit your entertainment expense. If you’re out somewhere fancy all the time, this increases your chances of getting on the hedonic treadmill. Plainly, fancy things will lose their novelty and ability to bring you pleasure. In this summer heat, why go to a coffee shop when you can just turn on the airconditioning, make iced coffee (instant or otherwise) and stay in with your husband and cuddle up to a movie? For frugal husband and I, weekends may mean hikes up a mountain, heading to the beach, or a nice workout here and there. We enjoy being outdoors just enjoying the sun, fresh air and a nice view. The best things in life are free!

Don’t underestimate the joy brought by simple living.

Any more tips to add?

George

P.S.
*e.g. What will you do if you won a million in cash? What would you do if you had all the money in the world?

**In the Philippines, the default property regime after marriage is absolute community property regime (meaning all properties acquired before and during marriage is brought into the marriage and become property of both spouses), unless otherwise provided in a prenuptial agreement executed prior to the wedding.

*** As there is no divorce law and an annulment is costly and time-consuming to obtain. I understand that there’s a new law on annulment, but that’s a story for another time.

****Coincidentally a reason why a woman may feel trapped in an abusive marriage.

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