Newlywed Finances 101: Budget, Discuss, and… Budget!
When my partner and I met in Israel in 2013, we were both ready to get married. Using principles typically found in observant Judaism, we dated intentionally, discussing our life goals, where we wanted to live, our spending and saving habits, and whether we wanted kids or not – all within the first two weeks of meeting.
Fortunately, we were incredibly compatible, and it didn’t hurt that I was absolutely enamored with her. A month after we met, the Defense of Marriage Act was overturned. I remember jumping up and down in the street in excitement.
She proposed on the promenade where we would walk on Shabbat, overlooking Jerusalem, just five months after we met.
Relationship (budgeting) goals
Early in our relationship, I had read about couples who lived on one income with two or more kids. I wanted to try emulating this. By doing this, we could save significantly more and not go into debt. My partner has student loans and I don’t, but surprisingly, they have not been a big deal. At about $100 a month, we can easily afford it.
At the beginning of our marriage, my partner was working full-time and I was working part-time. As a result, my paycheck went directly to our joint savings account and hers went to our checking account. We began using Mint to track our spending and keep a budget. It was our first step towards dealing with newlywed finances.
SOME MONTHS WE COMPLETELY FAIL OUR BUDGET, BUT THE MORE WE MEAL-PLAN AND STICK TO IT, THE BETTER.
While I don’t eat dairy or meat, my partner eats kosher meat but no gluten. We’ve had to get creative in how we plan our meals. Eating real food – including reducing our sugar intake – has made a significant difference on both our bodies and our wallets.
Because we are committed to reducing our consumption of processed foods and increasing our consumption of organic produce, our grocery bills are higher than they use to be.
We didn’t worry about organic foods in Israel because everything was local and seasonal and I didn’t think about it as much. Now I think about it a lot!
To compensate for our growing grocery bill, we began cutting back other spending, like shopping and entertainment. Thus marked our first compromise with newlywed finances.
Saving as a couple
Even so, budgeting is a constant struggle. Not because we spend money on a lot of things, but because I always worry about whether we are saving enough. With my part-time income going straight into savings, we are saving about $900 a month, but we could always do better.
I’m only just starting my freelance business, but I expect my contribution to increase over the next year. Our current newlywed finances are low. Living with my parents, we spend $100 a month on utilities, and we budget $350 a month for groceries.
Living frugally & budgeting carefully
For the last two months, we have gone over that budget, but we almost never eat out anymore, so we don’t feel that bad about it. Plus, we use everything we buy. We aren’t food hoarders.
We also maximize our credit card rewards. One card we have gives five percent cash back on the first $250 we spend per month on gas and groceries, and we make sure to use that one specifically for those purchases. And we got the Southwest Companion Pass at the beginning of the year. When we travel to Emet’s family in L.A., we only pay for one ticket.
Is it easy all the time? No. We definitely wonder whether we spend too much sometimes.
But each time, we go back to our newlywed finances, go over where we spend and re-evaluate our priorities – eating well. Will our current plan to live on one income still work when we have children? All we can do is try!
One thing I must stress is that our ability to live on one income works because we communicate well and we set up our priorities early. If I wanted to spend hundreds of dollars on new clothes and my partner wanted to spend weekends skiing, it wouldn’t work. When we do need something new, we do our research.
We use discounts wherever possible, and we carefully decide whether we really need what we buy. Plus, we’ve significantly reduced unnecessary shopping, which has definitely cut back expenses.