You’ve cracked the one little-known key to a happy life: being in a committed relationship. But, if you are a new couple, your love will likely get tangled up in financial matters sooner or later. If you have been in the trenches for a while, I bet you have fought or undergone lots of tension over the subject of money.
Well, relationships and money go hand-in-hand. Hence, it’s time you and your partner have an open couple budget talk.
What transpires if one spouse makes more money than the other? Will that person cover the majority of the expenses? What are your plans for your partner’s current debt? Do you combine your money, or would you follow the “every man on their own” concept?
These monetary queries can be challenging, but the solutions will become apparent when you create a budget together. So how can you make a reasonable and efficient budget as a couple?
Prepare yourself for a thrilling budgeting guide.
How Much Should I Budget for 2 People?
Now, you’ve moved in with your partner and are excited about this new life chapter. However, you have no idea how to budget your income to ensure you live comfortably within your means and maintain excellent financial health.
Well, there are many budget strategies you should consider. Commonly used budgets include:
- The 50/30/20 rule
- Envelope budgeting system
- Zero-based budget system.
The 50/30/20 Budgeting Rule
According to the 50/30/20 guideline, budgeting is a fantastic and easy strategy to manage your money. The guideline, in essence, divides your costs into three broad categories and spares you the work of breaking down your finances.
1. Needs: 50% of Your Income
To make the 50/30/20 rule work, you must know your post-tax income. To calculate that number, deduct all the taxes from your net income. With your take-home pay, it’s time to figure out how much money goes to each category.
Let’s say your monthly take-home pay is $12,000 each month. The rule permits you to spend $6,000 on needs, $3,600 on wants, and $2,400 on debt or savings. What expenses fall under this category, then?
The expenses that fall under this category are your must-haves or absolute necessities. They are usually the same for most people, regardless of their line of employment, neighborhood, or financial plans. The mandatory expenses may include: utilities such as water and electricity bills, healthcare, food, transportation, and housing.
Why does the needs category enjoy the largest share of the pie? Here is the thing: these are things we cannot live without, and the list is enormous and hence takes up a large share of our income. Besides, personal finance experts suggest that no more than 30% of your total income should go to housing.
This revelation leaves you with 20% to cater to other needs. It can be difficult to spend 30% of your income on housing. You can, however, make adjustments to keep a reasonable budget. For instance, consider renting a house or apartment close to your workplace to reduce transportation expenditures. Or set up a solar system to cut electricity costs in the long run.
2. Wants: 30% of Your Income
Wants are things you do not necessarily need in your life. Among other luxuries, some wants include expensive gym memberships, high-speed internet, road trips, presents, subscription services, television packages, and alcohol.
These are unnecessary expenses, although sometimes they become mandatory to some people. For instance, a gym membership may be more of a need than a pleasure if your weight poses a health risk. Or if you work remotely at home, you need internet.
Go over your wants list and cross out the items you are ready to give up to satisfy the 30% guideline. However, make sure to fit in some enjoyable activities. After all, who doesn’t need a little pleasure in their lives?
3. Savings/Debt: 20% of Your Income
The savings/debt category caters to your future and a faster debt payoff strategy. Use this money for a retirement plan and start planning for your future, pay off your credit card, and set up an emergency fund in case you have unforeseen expenses.
Caution: Debt payments to offset the loan faster should be in the 20% category. Loans that require minimum repayment should be in the 50% category. Why? Your lender will write a negative review on your credit reports if you don’t make the minimal payment, which will impact your ability to take out loans in the future.
Tip: Consider reducing your wants and allocating the extra cash to the debt/savings area. Adjusting your desires will help you organize your financial life earlier and advance your efforts toward a promising future.
The Envelope Budgeting System
The envelope system is a tried-and-true way to help you stay on a budget, especially if you have trouble controlling your spending. It entails giving each category of spending an envelope (either physical or virtual). Each envelope has a specific amount designated to cover the category’s spending.
To start, choose a spending category for each envelope. Then, decide how much money you should allocate to each class. Indicate the starting amount on the envelope and subtract after every purchase. For instance, if the personal grooming envelope had $200 and you spent $150, the envelope should read $200-$150=$50.
The Zero-Based Budget System
A zero-based budget suggests that subtracting your expenses from your revenue equals 0. That does not automatically indicate that you are on a spending spree. It demonstrates that every cent of your income goes to a particular purpose (either spending or saving).
The zero-based method aims to give each penny a practical purpose. You can allocate your funds to various spending categories randomly using the technique. For instance, if you run out of money for a specific item in one category, you can move it to the next category or the next month’s budget.
How Do Married Couples Make Budgets?
When married couples sit down with a Certified Financial Education Instructor or on their own to make budgets, they decide which financial arrangement is suitable for their relationship. Typically, you will have a variety of choices:
- Pull everything into a joint account
- Separate all finances
- Live off one income
1. Pull Everything into a Joint Account
In this setup, you would share the savings and the expenses through a joint account with your partner. The advance of this method is the sense of unity as “mine” becomes “ours,” and everything goes into one basket and comes out of the same basket.
The method is relatively easy to manage as no separate monthly spreadsheet updates, divisions, or resources are required. It is also easier to track spending and eliminate disagreements on who should pay an unexpected bill.
However, it necessitates total openness and trust between you and your partner. You should commit to working together and toward a common objective. There should also be an agreement on discretionary spending to prevent spouses from interrogating one another about their spending patterns.
2. Separate All Finances
With this approach, every partner manages their accounts separately. Many newlywed couples opt to keep individual accounts, especially if they brought along debts or those with very distinct financial management habits—those who want to continue enjoying financial independence also choose this method. Nonetheless, separating the finances means splitting expenses. There are two ways to this approach:
The 50-50 budget means each partner contributes an equal amount to pay the bills. It works best when both partners have similar incomes. However, it can be straining for one partner if they earn less than the other. It can also delay your future ambitions, such as acquiring a home if one spouse cannot afford it.
Split the Bills According to Income
The strategy is more compassionate toward those who make less money because only a portion of their income goes to paying bills. For instance, you agree to pay 40% of the expenses if you earn 40% of the household income.
Couples who use hybrid budgeting have joint accounts and individual accounts. The plan operates in two ways: First, both paychecks go into one account, debts cover costs, and accumulated savings are settled. The couple then places the remaining amounts into their personal accounts for leisure.
Second, each partner keeps track of their accounts while contributing to a joint account they use to settle shared expenses. The hybrid approach lets partners spend their funds however they like without negatively affecting the other party. It stops uncomfortable inquiries such as, “Did you have to spend so much money on a pair of shoes?” as partners are free to use their funds any way they see fit.
4. Live Off One Income
This method’s primary goal is to save money and requires the couple to live off one person’s income. However, the technique fits best if the income from one salary is enough to pay off all the bills.
Usually, the partner with a higher income pays off the expenses. Couples who use this method plan their finances carefully and have an emergency fund to ensure they do not touch on savings paycheck.
Tip: No couple budgeting method is perfect. Consider experimenting with the mentioned strategies until you find one that balances your individual and shared money. Go through the benefits and drawbacks of each method until you find one that blends well with your goals.
What Is the Average Budget for a Family of 2?
Without a doubt, life has become pricey, particularly with the rise of inflation in the past year. With the harsh economic conditions looming over everyone, couples are more concerned than ever about getting their monthly expenses right. Unfortunately, underestimating a cost can throw your budgeting strategy off the window.
You must compare your household budget to everyone else to get a broad idea of how much you will allocate to each expense category.
The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that a family of two spent, on average, $5,572 a month in 2020. Here is a breakdown of typical expenditures for everyday expenses based on the same data.
Housing and Rent
Homeowners pay an average rent of $784 per month. However, the cost largely depends on where you live. For instance, a two-bedroom apartment costs $3,001 in San Francisco, California, while in Houston, Texas, it costs $1,023. The homeowners pay on average $800 per month in mortgage interest, homeowners insurance, maintenance, and property tax.
Transport and Car Insurance
On average, Americans spend about $819 on transportation. The expenses may include car insurance, gasoline, maintenance, and a car payment. However, the cost may vary depending on the distance covered daily to work, car model, and age. Those who commute to work may spend less.
Food and Groceries
A household of two people spends between $250 and $400 on food and groceries every month. The spending varies since some families scale down their spending because they shop consciously. For instance, they avoid certain brands associated with high costs or go slow on some products such as red meat.
Also, preparing meals at home is cheaper than eating out. Other factors determining the average food and grocery cost include location, dietary restrictions, monthly income, and what you eat.
On average, households spend $344 per month on utility bills such as electricity, internet, water, gas, and cable. However, the costs may vary geographically. For example, the average Hawaiian’s monthly utility bill is $731, while the average person in Idaho spends an average of $350.
Clothing and Personal Upkeep
On average, an American spends $120 per month. However, cheap fashion has lessened the burden on how much people have to spend on clothing and related services such as shoe repair and laundry (though it comes at significant environmental costs).
You must include personal care products such as soap, haircut/salon, toothpaste, body wash, shampoo, and other essential items. On average, a family of two spends $60 on personal grooming expenses.
If you do not have employer-based insurance, you will likely spend from $180 to $11,150 a month purchasing a plan. However, the figure will probably change due to location, age, and personal characteristics such as obesity and smoking. The figure may rise due to over-the-counter medications and co-pays, among other healthcare expenses.
Memberships and Subscriptions
The average memberships and subscription are $237. Some expenses include gym membership, shaving clubs, online publications, wine clubs, and more.
How Do You Budget as a New Couple?
The first step to a happy marriage or partnership is to consider the direction of your finances as a young couple. But how do you address the sensitive subject, get away with it, and yet have fun? Here is a simple guide to get you started.
1. Set Your Goals
To achieve financial success, you and your partner need to start by setting SMART goals. The word SMART represents key pointers toward a workable budget. The pointer includes:
- Specific: Be deliberate and set definitive financial goals. Write them down in a few words. “We will buy a new car two years from now.”
- Measurable: Your goal’s success rate must be measurable monthly, weekly, or monthly. “It will cost $400 for this house renovation.”
- Achievable: The goals should be feasible. Are you financially capable of achieving the goals within the timeline?
- Realistic: Are your achievable goals reasonable? Can you finance them with your current income, or should you give them up?
- Time-based: How long will it take to achieve your goals? Setting timelines will help you invest accordingly.
SMART goals enable you to categorize your dreams into three: short-term goals, medium-term goals, and long-term goals. Your short-term goals can take a month or less to achieve. They help you progress towards your long-term goals. For instance, having a six months emergency fund means you do not spend your savings on unforeseen expenses.
Medium-term goals bind your short and long-term goals. These dreams are like short-term goals, although they take longer to accomplish (usually up to 10 years). The plans may include saving for a wedding, house renovation, a down payment for your home, or paying off a student loan.
Long-term goals are your future goals that require dedicated investment and savings, such as retirement plans. The dream can take more than 40 years of the whole of your working life.
2. Calculate Your Combined Income as a Couple
Now that you have your goals in place, it’s time to list down your sources of income. Determining how much money you have to cover your expenses and savings is paramount. First, record all the expected revenue from you and your partner within the time you are budgeting.
Your income source could be salaries, royalties, bonuses, or dividends. If you opt for a joint account, sum up the earnings to get the net income. If you decide to budget according to one’s income, calculate the percentage each partner should contribute to that budget.
3. List and Calculate All Your Essential Expenses
Making a list of all the necessary expenses is the next step after calculating the amount you have to spend. Your list may include rent, a mortgage, a credit card, food and groceries, utilities, car payments, or transportation.
At this stage, consider adopting the 50/30/20 budgeting rule. Also, have a rough idea of how much each one of your items should cost. Try and adjust your spending to ensure you stick to the budgeting rule.
4. Determine Your “Wants” Expenses
Again, sticking to the 50/30/20 rule, your discretionary category should accommodate things you want but can live without comfortably. They include vacations, eating out, or gym subscriptions. Consider categorizing the spending as either joint or individual.
Remember, each partner has their likings or hobbies. So, at some point, you may have to negotiate and decide which items remain on the list to play by the game’s rules. The sacrificing side of each one of you will be at play at this point.
5. It’s Time to Think About Savings and Debts
The remaining 20% goes to savings and debts. List all your savings and debt repayments and allocate money for each item. If the money is not enough, consider adjusting your discretionary items. Remember, they are things you can do without and still enjoy your life.
6. Keep Tabs of Your Expenses
Are you excited about your new couple’s budget? Here comes an essential and fun part: tracking the expenses. Tracking how you spend money helps you know if you are staying within the set budget. You can track your costs in two ways: spreadsheets or budgeting software.
Create a shared spreadsheet on Google Drive. A google sheet will allow your significant other to organize, edit, and analyze your budget from any location. It also allows you to discuss while editing the budget in real-time. It also has a fantastic revision history that points you to changes made to the budget in your absence.
Budgeting apps enable you to connect your bank account to track spending. Luckily, there are fantastic apps available such as Mint, Personal Finance, You Need a Budget (YNAB), etc.
7. Schedule Budgeting Meetings
Conducting budget dates more often encourage couples to re-evaluate their goals. It increases motivation, enhances communication, and ensures you and your partner are on the same page. Note: If, while budgeting, you did not allocate any money for eating out, do not despair. The budget dates can happen in your house over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. The bottom line is to find a relaxing opportunity to review your budget.
Couple Budgeting Apps
Keeping track of a couple’s spending can be challenging considering the multiple income sources, many expenses, and busy schedules. Therefore, it’s time to throw a budgeting app into the mix, avoid confusion, and make the process easy and fast. Luckily, many couple-friendly budgeting apps are designed to help you manage your finances as a team and always be on the same page. Here are the best couple budgeting apps to consider.
If you love budgeting through the traditional envelope system, the Goodbudget app offers much-needed relief from carrying cash around. The app allows users to divide their monthly income into virtual envelopes for each spending category. Once the envelope is exhausted, it is closed for the rest of the month.
Goodbudget’s free version provides 20 virtual envelopes you can use with one account and one or two devices. The premium app goes for $70 per year, offers unlimited envelopes and accounts, and can cater to up to five devices.
The budget app gives you and your partner a holistic picture of your shared account. It will enable you to view the account, loans, and credit card all under one roof. It also has a feature that allows couples to decide how much they want to share.
Therefore, it offers couples the ease of tracking shared and individual spending. The best part is that the app is free. The downside; Honeydue is only available for Android and iPhone. You cannot access it via the web or computer.
YNAB (You Need A Budget)
The YNAB app is ideal for couples who want to track every dollar that leaves their bank account and ensure it goes to good use. The app setup revolves around the zero-based budgeting strategy and allows for maximum saving.
The app has a feature that allows users to link accounts to monitor activities and create spending categories. Users then allocate an amount to each of the listed categories. The best thing about the app is that it allows couples to identify areas where they are overspending and offers valuable tips on adjusting based on their financial goals. It also categorizes the spending and will enable users to see where each dollar goes.
You can access the YNAB budgeting app from any device. The app costs $99 annually but has a 34-day free trial.
Tips for Choosing the Best Couple Budget App
Although each app has unique features, choosing one that will meet your needs is essential. Here are some features the best budgeting apps for couples possess
- Synchronization: Consider apps that synchronize your bank accounts so you can view each other’s balances and transactions. However, it should keep certain information private.
- Tracking: The best budget apps allow users to track bills and receive notifications on an upcoming due date.
- Customizable: The app should meet your needs as a couple. For instance, it should not be rigid but allow you to set limits for specific spending categories. The best app should be accessible from multiple devices.
- Communication: Ensure you settle for an app that allows you to communicate with each other on the platform
- Easy to Use: Choose an app that you can operate with a lot of ease. It should have an excellent user interface and come with educational tools too.
- Great Reviews: Choose an app with a sizable number of 4 or 5 online ratings. You do not want to settle on an app that does not serve the users’ interests, right?
- Cost: Consider budget apps with a free version but ensure they deliver excellent results. Do not settle on an app that offers a paid version if it does not have a free trial. You need to be sure of what you are about to purchase before committing your money.
The Bottom Line: Setting Up Your Marriage for Financial Success
The foundation of your partnership is honest communication, especially regarding how you manage money. Although it might be a hot subject, it is crucial to tackle it head-on, jointly, and by developing a budget. Decide on a budgeting method you are comfortable with before moving further. a shared account? Separate or hybrid accounts?
Establish your objectives and your net income after choosing a budgeting approach. List your expenses and consider how much each partner will contribute. The procedure could appear difficult at first, but if you stick with it, you’ll see a more comprehensive financial picture as you plan for the future. Finally, if your initial budget fails, try again and include a couple’s budget app to make it successful.