Today features a guest post from Living Almost Large. She has an interesting perspective on relationships and money – something we should all consider before we walk down the aisle.

Hi I’m LAL from LivingAlmostLarge and LAL Musings. I am a twenty-something DINK writing who writes about personal finance and everything else. I am searching for true financial freedom and the ability to one day “Live Large”. I recently hosted the Carnival of Personal Finance, Festival of Frugality, and Fabulous Festival, check them out. Also I’m looking for guest posts in December so please contact me at livingalmost at gmail dot com!

I wanted to write about relationships and finance. Personally I didn’t have to deal with the stress of finding someone financially compatible. I met my DH at 20, and all I was interested in was a cute body, fun to party with, and a sense of humor. If I had to do it now though?

Money – Deal breaker?

How big a deal breaker is money in a relationship? When does it become a deal breaker if it is? Does it matter more to women or men? I think money can be a deal breaker. I also believe that money itself shouldn’t be the deal breaker but rather a person’s relationship and values with money is the true deal breaker. But how do you decide if money’s a deal breaker?

First, while I believe being debt free I realize that’s not necessarily how some people live. Thus the most important thing in a relationship is whether you are on the same page financially? Do you agree about how to spend and save money? I relate it to being comfortable with a person’s religion. Do you respect their values or share them? Can you live with their values for the rest of their lives if they never change? How a couple compromises really is the deciding factor in how a marriage/relationship will work. If you cannot come to a compromise or have shared values then it’ll never work.

Second, if you are incompatible financially is one person willing to change? Does the person in debt and irresponsible with money want to change for themselves? Or are they doing it for you? Perhaps debt is a deal breaker to you, but will the person changing really not resent the change?

Third, does the type of debt help? Does a person who only has student loans seem more acceptable than someone in credit card debt, car loan hell, and collections? Or is it all the same? I believe that the type of debt can play a role in deciding if it’s a deal breaker. If you meet someone at 25, they are more likely to still have student loan debt. However at 35 or 45? Perhaps student loan debt might seem more unacceptable.

Fourth, are the spenders in a relationship changing? Perhaps someone is $100k in debt from student loans, cars, and credit card; but if they are working to pay it off and have reformed their spending habits does it matter? Is money and debt still a deal breaker or are their new values and habits enough? I don’t believe you can easily disregard the change in attitude and values.

Finally, I’ve only talked about debt, but what about income? Does it matter if a woman earns more than the man? Should it? Is it a deal breaker? I think that unfortunately this is one of the bigger and more biased deal breakers. Many women want the option of staying at home, thus they are looking for men able to “bring home the bacon”. Thus while it shouldn’t matter what a person earns, in many cases it can and does influence the relationship.

By the way this is only applicable if you are old enough to have a conversation about money and reason out these judgments. If you are 18, it’s likely money and values won’t be what drives a relationship!

Note from Aryn: I wholeheartedly agree. I was in my mid-twenties when I met my DH. By that point, I was looking for someone who had a decent head for money. He wasn’t yet completely stable, but I could see the potential. We’ve grown together over the years and now usually agree about the major money things, even if we’ll always have core differences in some of our financial views. We’ve learned to compromise and agree on the big goals, and that’s what matters.

Last month, I showed you specific steps toward the big money discussions.  Now it’s time to talk about the small, daily talks that should also be happening. My husband and I have always been pretty open about money, but we didn’t really talk about it regularly when we were both in grad school and poor. We mostly just dealt with making sure we had enough to pay our bills. Then we determined to get out of debt. Once that process started, our infrequent talks about money became almost daily occurrences. At this point, we probably briefly discuss some aspect of our financial picture at least every other day.

When it comes to couples and money, landmines lie ahead, unless you both approach it with the right attitude. Here are my five tips for a peaceful transition from financial separation to daily chats:

Don’t Be Defensive
If you’re used to spending your own money and managing your own money, it might feel weird to “get permission” for a purchase, but don’t be defensive. Once you realize that you’re both working toward a goal, it’s easier to be open with your reasoning. Explain why you want something, how much it costs, and when you want to get it. If your partner disagrees, listen openly to the reasoning. It could be that the purchase can wait, or it might be that you need to find room in the budget for it.

Start Small
Start by reviewing the last month’s spending and income. Again, no judgment. Don’t demand to know what your partner spent $20 on lunch or $50 on pants. Just review the categories and discuss anything that seems high.

Check the Budget Regularly
When we were first married, I would frequently check the budget because it felt weird to not know my daily balance all the time. At first, my husband would tease me about it and I got embarrassed, so I started sneaking peaks when he wasn’t home. Now he regularly asks for my input and I feel comfortable reviewing it anytime.

Offer Regular Updates on Your Progress/Expenses
Your updates don’t have to be long, drawn-out conversations. It can be a simple comment in passing. Something like, “We’re going to be able to pay an extra $100 toward our student loans this month.” Or, “We have to set aside $300 for my sister’s wedding next month.”

Make Money a Part of the Conversation
After you’ve gotten used to casual updates and checking the budget regularly, you’ll probably notice that money discussions become a part of your everyday discussions, without stress or anger. At that point, you’ll also be on the same page about your goals, aware of your income, and aware of your expenses. You won’t need to have long sit-down talks because they’ll arise organically out of discussions for other things. You’ll say, “I just sent the wedding RSVP. I’m going to buy a gift tomorrow. I’ll probably spend a $100. What do you think?” Your partner will agree or disagree, and then the matter will be settled as you move on to other things.

Start small by just talking about what you spent today if you’re not used to being open about money. Over time, those conversations will become just a part of your relationship, and your relationship will be the better for it.

When my husband and I first got married, we divided up our financial responsibilities: daily bills were his and taxes and investing were mine. Most of our conversations centered around our lack of money, with my occasional irritation about one of his purchases. Now that we have money, and are steadily working on debt, we’ve begun to change the way we talk about money. Here’s how we got started and how you can learn to be more open about money with your partner.

Talk Regularly About Current and Long-Term Financial Goals
Right now our long-term (ish) goal is to buy a house. We also need to start really saving for retirement. Our short-term goal is to pay off a couple more student loans. When I proposed saving 10% of our income recently, he laughed, but that’s the usual order of things. I suggest a money move, he doubts it, then he comes around.

The point is that we talk about it – even if we’re not on the same page right now. We don’t currently have a scheduled time to talk, but it seems to occur every couple of weeks for regular updates and sporadically for major shifts in our thinking.

Be Aware of All Financial Positions
We both have access to Quicken, so we can check up on the money at any time. We also both know the log-ins for our joint accounts. He’s showed me where to find the passwords for his other accounts, but I can’t remember where it is. I need to be reminded of that, and add the information to access my 401K.

Every couple of weeks, he updates our monthly spending forecast, based on changes to income from windfalls, commissions, and expense reimbursement, and then I “look at the money,” which is my way of saying I review his plan and ask questions about why he’s allotted X dollars to Y or why the balance on Z is so high this month.

Right now he’s not checking up on the investments in my retirement account, but I did rebalance this weekend and inform him that we’ve lost less than the market average in the last year. Then I reminded him that we need to open to Roth IRAs soon, and why we want to open two rather than one.

Divide Responsibilities
Since we both work, we’ve divided up the responsibilities. We looked at our strengths when dividing up our financial tasks. Since I had experience with investing, and my dad is a former CFO who advises me, I handle the long-term stuff and the taxes. My husband likes the nitty gritty, so he does the bills. In this respect, we’re the opposite of most couples.

I also seem to be the one in charge of worrying about how much we spend and whether we’ll have enough for retirement, while he’s in charge of telling me we can afford to live a little. In this respect, we’re in line with what researchers have recently learned about the way men and women think about money. More women than men are very concerned about having enough money for the distant future, most likely because we live longer. We’re also more likely to buy something for the home or our children than for ourselves, and when we buy for ourselves, we buy based on one or two factors like quality or ease-of-use. Men are more likely to buy big ticket electronics and feature-rich toys (even if they have no use for the features) for themselves.

Whatever You Do, Talk
Many couples are uncomfortable discussing money. It leads to tension and may even cause a fight, but it must be done. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Follow these steps to get started if you want to be on the same page:

1. Scheduled a weekend afternoon to talk about money. Mark it on the calendar.
2. On that first day, talk about your goals. You might be surprised by what the other wants. You could try making two separate lists and ranking the importance, then choosing the most important goals to work toward together.
3. Make another appointment for a month from now. Come prepared with your recent paystub, annual salary, bank statements, credit card statements (all of them), and investment statements. Compare your investments to make sure that your separate retirement plans are in line with your joint goals and that you’re not over-invested in one sector and under-invested in another because you both bought the same things. You should also compare your salaries. Many couples don’t really know what their spouse makes. You need to. And finally review your bank statements and credit card statements. Talk openly about what you buy and when.
4. Keep doing this every month. The more you do it, the easier it gets. At your next meeting, develop a plan to meet your goals, whatever they might be, and commit to put X dollars per month toward that goal.

Although it may be difficult at first, talking about your money and your goals will probably improve your marriage in the long-run. It will also make both of you more comfortable in the present. You may even discover, like I did, that talking about money helps you to improve your financial situation, which also improves the way you talk about money.

How do you and your spouse talk about money? Do you keep secrets or only pay attention to your area? Tell me in the comments or write your own post and link back to it here.

My husband and I aren’t very big on anniversaries (or birthdays). We’re very open to time-shifting them, skipping gifts, or holding one combination celebration for all our anniversaries and birthdays together. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to recognize our marriage, though. So here are ten frugal yet romantic ways we’ve celebrated our anniversary.

Focus on You, Not on Gifts
The first few years we were together, we gave each other gifts for our dating anniversary. Then we both started grad school, so instead we exchanged cards. That’s not to say that I’d say no to an upgraded engagement ring for our tenth wedding anniversary. It’s just that I don’t need some little trinket every year to remind me of our love. Instead, we use the money we would have spent on gifts to do other things, like start our house savings. I’d rather have a house than receive a teddy bear.

Merge Several Celebrations into One Larger Occasion
If you celebrate both your dating anniversary and wedding anniversary, celebrate them together on the same day. We’ve only been married for three years, but we’ve been together for ten. Our dating anniversary also falls near our birthdays, so we plan one nice evening to celebrate all three of those occasions together.

Take an Affordable Trip
My husband stayed at a bed and breakfast for our first dating anniversary, but we haven’t traveled for our anniversary since. This year, in celebration of ten years together, we’re using airline miles and a Luxury Link package to take a luxury trip at an affordable price. That trip will also be our Christmas and birthday presents to each other.

Return to the Location of Your First Date
I can’t do this anymore, because the location of our first date has closed, but it’s a popular one with many couples. Even if it’s just the McDonald’s you ran into after a late movie, being there again on your anniversary will spark some romantic memories.

Do Something Silly
Instead of being uber-romantic, head out to do something silly. Go the mall and take pictures in a photo booth, go to a carnival, or play mini-golf. Laughter’s a powerful aphrodisiac and takes the pressure off being romantic.

Look at Photos from Your Years Together
Before our wedding, I compiled photos of us together into one small photo album. (We’re not really camera people, so there weren’t many.) If you don’t already have a photo album dedicated to you as a couple, pull your favorites and compile them into a book to share with your sweetie.

Make Lists of the Things You Love about Each Other
This one takes some advance planning, but list one thing you love about your partner for each year you’ve been together, then exchange the lists on your anniversary. By the time you get done reading the list your partner made about you, you should be in a very romantic mood indeed.

Cook a Fancy Dinner
We do enjoy nice dinners out, but eating out is complicated for me. So rather than taking our umpteenth trip to P.F. Chang’s, this year I’m making us a lovely steak dinner at home. We’ll light candles, enjoy a bottle of wine, and watch our wedding video. Someday, we’ll finish our wedding album so we can look at that, too.

Take a Bottle of Nice Champagne to a Restaurant
If you’re set on celebrating in a nice restaurant, consider bringing your own bottle of champagne. One year a friend gave us a very nice bottle for Christmas. We took it to the restaurant and the manager waived the corkage fee when we explained the reason we’d brought it. Even if they charge corkage, the $25 you spend to open the bottle is much cheaper than the $100 you’d have to spend to buy a nice bottle from the restaurant.

Enjoy a Picnic in an Unusual Setting
If your anniversary is in the summer, shift the celebration to the weekend so you can go on a nice picnic together. Pack fancier fare than sandwiches and trail mix, and bring a bottle of wine. Then get in the car and pick a direction. Drive until you find a neat place to stop. You could find yourself near a cornfield or on a cliff, the point is to do the unexpected. If you have kids, don’t bring them. If your anniversary is during the winter, send the kids to a friend’s house and picnic in the living room in front of the fire.

No matter what you decide to do, the key is to spend some time together remembering your years together and looking forward to the years you have left.

If you’re putting your affairs in order, then a will or a trust is the first item you should consider. Even if you don’t expect to leave an estate, a will can be very helpful in disposing of the few things you do own or dictating your burial wishes. At the very least, it avoids the prospect of letting the state make the decision. Larger estates or couples with children could benefit from a living trust.

How Wills Work
A will performs three primary tasks:

  • Name your executor
  • Distribute your property
  • Name a guardian for your child.

In addition, your will can set up a trust for your minor children so that they’ll continue to be provided for. You can also choose to include your burial wishes in the will to guide your survivor’s in ensuring that they’re met.

Wills can be written jointly or separately. Separate wills are considered preferable because it allows the surviving spouse flexibility after the first spouse dies. If you have a joint will, the surviving spouse is forced to abide by the terms of the original will, even if circumstances change later. Once written, wills don’t have to recorded. Instead, they will be entered into probate court to guide the executor and the courts after your death.

If you don’t have a will, the state decides who will inherit your property and assets. In most states, your spouse, children, or other next-of-kin will inherit. If you’re unmarried, your partner often won’t inherit anything. If no relative is found, the state will keep your property. If you have children, it’s very important that you have a will that names their guardian, otherwise the court may choose someone you wouldn’t approve of. Without a will, the surviving spouse isn’t guaranteed to be named the guardian.

A will can be modified or revoked during your life. It can also be contested in court after your death, but this is rare. Most of the time it involves the heirs of the very rich or famous arguing about the disposition of assets and the courts rarely invalidate wills in any case.

How Living Trusts Work
If you have children and/or a large estate, a living trust is probably preferable. They peform the same tasks as will, but they avoid probate court, which keeps the estate private and avoids estate taxes. When the trust is set up, you transfer all of your assets into them and then retain their use during your life. When you die, the assets automatically transfer to your beneficiaries for their use.

A living trust often includes a durable power of attorney, which grants the person you name the right to make financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated. Both living trusts and powers of attorney can be revoked during your life.

How to Make a Will or Living Trust
You can write a will yourself or hire a lawyer. If you have few assets and no children, then a simple will using a standard free will template or forms from Nolo Press should be sufficient. You’ll need to sign and date it in front of two witnesses, who will also need to sign it. Handwritten wills are legal in some states, but a formal will signed by witnesses is preferable.

You should hire a lawyer or use a legal service like Legalzoom, which prepares legal wills at very reasonable prices, if you have children or plan to disinherit someone. You can’t automatically exclude your surviving spouse, but you can exclude any children who were born before the will was written.

If you have children or a larger estate, a living trust will offer more protection. Trusts must be prepared by lawyers. You can usually set one up for about $2,000, but it may cost more if you have a complicated estate.

Where to Keep Your Will
Your will should be kept somewhere in your home where it’s easily accessible. Although you can keep a copy in a safe deposit box, your heirs won’t be able to access the box without it. You also shouldn’t keep it in a home safe because your heirs may not be able to access it. Instead, keep it in a labeling filing cabinet or box with your other vital documents.

In addition, you should give a copy to your executor. Discuss your wishes with the executor and your children’s guardian before naming them in the will or trust, and again after it’s complete to ensure that they understand them.

If you used a lawyer, your lawyer will usually keep a copy on file. If you survive to old age, your lawyer may die first or the will may be in deep storage, so don’t count on your heirs being able to quickly access that copy in the event of your death. It mainly serves to protect you if there’s a question about the will after your death.

Even if you don’t think you need a will, take the time to make up a simple one if you’re married, have assets, or have children. Tomorrow I’ll explain the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, also called an Advance Directive, which is next most important document you should have.

This month, the Money Blog Network’s group project is budgets. I’m not in the MBN, but I’ve decided to post a blog about my method for creating a cash flow budget. It’s far more effective for my husband and me than a traditional category-based budget. MBN lists several other budget posts on their site, if you want to test a few different budgeting, and anti-budgeting, methods.

The Monthly Budget by Category
My husband and I use Quicken to track our daily spending. About once a year, my husband and I run out a Quicken budget, just to see how our actually monthly category spending has changed. Then we copy it into Excel so we can play with the numbers: how much more we would have if we paid off this loan or reduced that expense.

This is an example of what that would look like. If I were studying this, I would see that I could cut the dining budget and might consider reducing utilities expenses if possible.

Sample Monthly Budget by Category

The monthly budget is a helpful way to get an idea of how and where we spend money on average, but it isn’t necessarily useful for planning our monthly cash flow. The budget averages out our expenses rather than showing the blips as they actually occur. For example, auto-insurance isn’t paid monthly, but it appears that way in a budget. We have to plan for the blips, not the even keel budget. Instead of a line-item budget, we use a cash flow statement to plan our monthly bills and spending.

The Cash Flow Budget
The cash flow budget is a much better picture of our expected income and expenses for the month. These are actual bills we must pay, rather than categories that may vary every month. For example, if it’s an auto insurance month, then we know to reduce our spending in other areas to make up the difference. It also helps us plan our debt repayment because we know how much we’ll have leftover at the end of the month.

This is a sample of a cash flow budget for February. You’ll note that the numbers above don’t match the numbers here. There are two reasons: 1. I made many of the numbers up, and 2. Most of our recurring charges (utilities, cell phone, gym, etc.) are on one of the credit cards, so we don’t pay them as a separate monthly bill through our checking account.

Expected bills with variable due dates (like a bi-monthly utility) go at the bottom because we know they’re coming at some point, but not when.

At the beginning of the month, we look at our Quicken account balances for variable bills like credit cards and ballpark the payment amounts in our cash flow chart. We adjust with exact figures as the month proceeds and the bills come in. At the end of the month, we take the end number and add it to our debt payments for the next month. Once our debts are gone (except some student loans), that end number will go towards other goals like savings or investments.

In addition, it helps us see where the bills fall in relation to our income. For example, if we plan to make a big credit card payment, but know that the deposit that covers it doesn’t occur until two days later, we can reduce the payment. Then we can schedule another payment after the deposit.

Creating a Cash Flow Budget
If you want to create a cash flow budget, follow these simple steps:

  1. Get out your checkbook register.
  2. Create an excel chart with payment dates and amounts for all expenses for the last six months. Rather than the generic terms I use above, use the names of the payments, like Amex, Discover, and Sallie Mae.
  3. Use three columns for each month like in the above chart. We go across the sheet for each new month rather than down so several months fit on the screen at once. Although you’ll have to tweak it as time progresses, this gives you a good overview of when your various bills are due.
  4. Just before each month, review the expected expenses for that month and make adjustments for changes in your finances. Also review the previous month and carryover any remaining balance to the next month.
  5. At the end of the sixth month, copy the last month over to new columns and update the dates and amounts for month seven.

Once you get used to this system, you’ll probably find that you feel more comfortable with your finances because you always have a snapshot view of them. It doesn’t require special software and no one else has access to your data. If you don’t have Excel, you can use an OpenOffice or GoogleDocs spreadsheet, instead. This is very different from the system I used when I was single, but I much prefer it. Give it a try, you might like it!

Whenever I hear about the deaths of celebrities like Heath Ledger and Brad Renfro, my first thought goes to the children they left behind. I pray that the surviving parents have the strength to help their children through this. I also hope that the celebrities listened to their financial advisors and arranged for trusts and life insurance.

Most of us can only dream of earning the kind of money these celebrities make, but events like these are an important reminder of why every parent, spouse, or adult child with dependent parents needs a solid life insurance plan to cover expenses after their death. Unfortunately, deaths like these are also a reminder that tragedy can strike anyone at any time, famous or not.

Types of Life Insurance
Life insurance is generally available in two types: whole life and term. Your insurance agent is more likely to push whole life insurance because they earn a higher commission, but that doesn’t make it the best deal for you.

Term Life Insurance
For most people, term life insurance is the best bet. When you’re young, term life insurance is very cheap and rates rise as you age. You’re buying a fixed amount of coverage for that term, as long as you continue to pay the monthly premium. At the end of the term, you usually have the option to buy a new term policy. Terms generally range from 5 to 30 years. Use a site like NetQuote to get competitive quotes for term life insurance.

Whole Life Insurance
Whole life insurance is usually more expensive, but it contains an investment component. Your premium buys a fixed payout amount, but your payments also build cash-value. Most policies allow you to cash-out or borrow against the policy tax-free, although you usually receive less than you paid in. However, it usually takes fifteen years to build significant cash value. If you’re young and healthy, term is the better option. If you’re over 65, whole life may be your only option, but the cost will be dear.

How Much Life Insurance Coverage to Buy
The general rule of thumb is that you need a policy that covers five to seven years of your salary. So, if you earn $50,000 a year, you should buy a $250,000 to $350,000 policy. If you have very young children, you may way to opt for a policy equal to ten years of salary as a precaution. Although insurance is designed to cover the salary of the working spouse, many advisors also recommend buying coverage for a non-working spouse. They reason that the working spouse will have to pay for childcare, household help, and other assistance that the non-working spouse provided.

How Long a Term to Buy
Again, the general rule of thumb is to buy coverage that will last until your youngest child completes college. For young families, assume a 20-year-term. Many people buy coverage until their retirement age to recover lost income their spouse was counting on. Term life insurance for people over 70 isn’t usually available, or is prohibitively expensive.

Whether or not you’re a celebrity, life insurance is vital to anyone with dependents. Unfortunately, it often requires a tragedy to make us realize that and act upon it. If you don’t have life insurance, research plans today.

Yesterday morning NPR reported that the consumer price index had risen 4.1% since December 2006. They also reported that although wages have risen, they’re actually lower than they were in 2000 when adjusted for inflation.

I exhaled a stunned breath when I heard the first part. That’s a hefty jump for one year. According to NPR, it’s the biggest increase since 1990. When I heard the second part, I instantly felt poor and angry. I know my salary is higher than it was in 2000, but thanks to massive student debt and other debt, my husband and I both feel poorer than we did in 2000.

The continued rise of fuel prices is a big part of the problem for us. I drive less than 100 miles a week and have a fairly small tank, but pumping $29 into it when I used to only have to add $15 is frustrating. I have to fill it at least twice a month, so my fuel costs have effectively doubled in the last four years. When gas hit $3 the first time, it started to affect my choices. I now see some of my friends less frequently and attend fewer events because I don’t want to pay for the gas to get there.

Rising food costs also comprised a large part of the increase in the CPI. Those haven’t affected us as much because we don’t buy many wheat or dairy products, but it’s had some impact on our budget. The CPI was only up 2.4% when food and energy are excluded. Many economists choose to exclude those numbers because food and energy are not considered “discretionary spending.”

Now, realistically, when I look at my finances, I know I’m not poor, but I definitely don’t feel well off, or even completely secure. Our income has increased almost 1200% since we got married in 2005 (remember, we were both grad students, and thus actually poor. Not “top ramen for every meal” poor, but “spending all our money on groceries, gas, and books” poor.) We can put food on the table, we can pay our monthly bills, and we can even afford to live comfortably, but rising prices also make us feel more restricted in our choices.

Someday soon I hope that we’ll reduce our debt enough to a level where I will feel more secure even in the face of rising inflation and stagnating wages. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see that day coming when I hear news like this.

All the good financial systems in the world won’t do you any good unless you turn them into good financial habits. Here’s how I made managing my money a habit, and continue to maintain it even though I’m not in charge of paying the bills anymore.

So let’s start by admitting that I can be a bit obsessive when it comes to money. When I first got married and it was decided that my husband would manage the day-to-day money while I took care of investing and taxes, it made me a little crazy. I hate not knowing exactly how much money we have every day. So, first I made sure he adopted all my financial systems, then I made new habits to manage my money neuroses.

Regular Check-Ins
If you pay the bills, then your regular check-ins can occur at your weekly bill paying time, but you should also review your finances overall every month to see where your spending categories have changed and why that might be. Some, like fuel, are unavoidable, but you might also discover just how much you’re spending at the cafeteria now that you have a new job. It will also keep you in touch with your actual financial picture so you’re less tempted to overspend, or not so panicked that you’re afraid to spend any money. I call this “looking at the money” and I probably do it more than necessary, but it makes me feel better about our financial picture.

Schedule Money Talks
If your spouse manages the money, set aside some time once a month to discuss your financial goals and review your budget. That way you’re both motivated to maintain your course. It’s also important in case something happens to one of you. The other one has to be ready to step in and take over the bills at any moment.

Be Obsessive for a Couple Months
Like an exercise program, it takes a while to turn your systems into a habit. With the gym, they usually say that making it going for two weeks is enough to make it into habit. Since you probably don’t deal with your money as often as you go to the gym, I suggest being obsessive about your system for two months. Schedule set times to review the money and mark them on a calendar. After a couple months of practicing your entire system, it will become habit and you’ll be less likely to forget to pay a bill on time.

Be Flexible
Of course, once you’re done obsessing, you also need to be flexible to changes in your financial status. Getting married, having kids, buying new software, and earning more money can all change your financial habits. Give yourself time to adapt and find new ways to manage your money. It took me a while, but I’ve learned not to stress about my husband paying the bills, at least most of the time.

Managing money isn’t a chore once it becomes a habit. It’s just a thing you do because you’re an adult and not independently wealthy. It’s sad, but it’s a fact we all have to accept.

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