Making Cents: The richer or poorer part of married life

Forget the season to be jolly, tis soon to be the season to get engaged. Between the buildup to Christmas, the day itself and then New Year’s Eve, social media will soon be filled with sparkling rings and pictures captioned ‘she said yes’.

When asked about money as couples plan their wedding, the focus is likely to be on the budget for the big day and the honeymoon. But a wedding is just the beginning of a marriage and how couples deal with money will always be a key issue in the relationship.

So while it is lovely to focus on how you are going to celebrate with friends and family, it is worth spending time thinking about and planning for the “richer or poorer” part of married life.

Even if marriage itself is not something you are concerned with, if you are at the stage of moving in with your partner, you should also consider opening up about finances before sharing a household.

First up, acknowledge that these may not be easy conversations to have.

Many Irish people were brought up to be very circumspect about money and it is not unheard of for couples to be engaged and still not know all that much about the other’s financial position. It can be uncomfortable but so is ending up in conflict because of money.

So where to start?

The first thing to do is get a full understanding of your current position. Sit down and discuss each person’s finances. Write down how much you both earn and any savings, both in your individual names and as a couple.

Crucially, you also need to work out exactly how much debt is owed between you, in sole and joint names. Any money owed will affect your ability to borrow in the future. This includes credit card debt and overdrafts, so include those as well as any mortgages and car and personal loans.

Many people accumulate lifestyle debt as young adults and it can cause problems down the line. If one of you has debt, decide if that person is going to take sole responsibility for clearing it or if the other person will help.

Once you know where you are, think about how you are going to deal with money in the future. There are several methods. You can keep your own accounts and divide bills, payments and expenses between you.

Other couples choose to pool everything into joint accounts with everything coming out of the same pot. If either of those sound extreme a middle way is to establish joint accounts for household spending while also keeping sole accounts.

If you decide to go this route, you need to consider how much each partner pays in and how much is kept for personal use. No matter what option you go for, you need to think about whether it is sustainable in the long term.

Many couples have to handle one partner earning considerably more than the other, do they then put more into any joint bills/repayment or do they get to spend more?

Also, if you have a shared pot, how are large purchases decided? Some couples agree that any spending above a certain amount should be agreed between them.

If you are planning for a long term future together, with a family, you should also discuss how children will affect your financial management. If you are keeping your finances largely separate, what happens when one partner is not working because they are at home with the children?

It is one thing to sit down and make a plan, quite another to live it. Conflict can arise when two people in a relationship have different money management styles, one a careful saver, the other inclined to swipe the credit card.

Be honest about the type you are and try to work out a compromise. People can have very different values around money, with some feeling controlled if they have to stick to a budget while others become anxious about debt.

If you don’t have some understanding of the others spending style, resentment can build up so talk about how you spend and why. If you think you would benefit from help getting organised with your finances you can contact MABS.

Pre-marriage courses and providers will also offer advice on merging finances.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

Lidl is the place to go this week if you want to update your decorations for Christmas. In addition to a wide range of baubles and lights, they also have candles and figures to deck out every surface of the home.

Naturally, the centrepiece of the range is a Christmas tree. They have a 6-foot high reusable tree on sale for €24.99. The tree is easy to set up with a plug-in system and labelled connections and can be folded and stored for next year. Tree decorations are on sale from €1.29, with pack of baubles starting at €1.49.

For €19.99 you can buy 30m of LED indoor fairy lights in a storage box while there is an 11.5m LED rope light on sale for €14.99.

They are also selling LED real wax candle figurines for €4.99. You can choose from snowmen, Christmas trees and pine cones which promise atmospheric lighting with realistic flicker effect and a six-hour timer with automatic repetition on a daily basis.

If there are any consumer issues that you’d like Gráinne to address or if you have problems that Gráinne could help with, she can be contacted at makingcents@examiner.ie


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