Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 21, 2002
Newlyweds get tools for family budgeting
Money disputes lay behind much marital discord
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Money is one of the leading causes of marital discord. To avoid friction and achieve financial success, couples should develop a financial plan early in their marriage, says a seasoned financial counsellor.
A married couple can be financially successful if they plan wisely from the beginning, says Glenis Shanks, an Edmonton financial counsellor with 27 years of experience in the field.
Shanks led a money management seminar for mostly newly married couples at St. Theresa Parish Jan. 13. The seminar was put on by the Newlywed/Marriage Connection Program.
Throughout the two-hour session, participating couples did budgeting exercises and were given budget forms to start their own financial planning.
Shanks stressed the need for couples to develop a budget and to stick to it. A budget helps save money as well as spend it well.
Budgets should have precise goals but should be flexible enough to be changed in case somebody loses their job. Goals can be short-term, medium or long-term and can include those relating to family, housing, work, education, leisure/recreation, personal development and future security.
"Most people don't like to budget but it will allow you to save if you are planning a vacation or starting a family," she said. "Sometimes the budget reduces impulse shopping and increases self-esteem."
Preparing a budget should be a simple task for those who have done their homework. First, couples should list all their net income and then list their expenses. "If you have been keeping track of your expenses for a few months, you should be able to devise an accurate budget," Shanks said.
The budget should include all expenses, not just obvious ones. Shanks said hidden costs such as holidays, sports equipment and school supplies are often overlooked but should be included on top of regular expenses.
Couples should also set aside for irregular expenses like Christmas, car maintenance and home maintenance.
When preparing the budget couples should priorize their needs and wants, Shanks said. "If your wants and needs are not very close, you have to compromise. You have to decide what your budget can afford."
The budget should contemplate an equal personal allowance for each person to cover his or her personal needs. "A personal allowance brings fairness into the relationship."
Deciding who will pay for what in a relationship is also important, although most couples pool their incomes in joint accounts. Shanks also recommends setting up an account for irregular and annual expenses.
Who should handle the budget? Preferably both, to avoid blaming one person if she or he overspends.
"Couples should try not to overspend their income using credit," Shanks said. "They really need to make a pact to live within their income."
Big items like a home or a vehicle or a special vacation can go on credit but the couple has to make sure the payments fit the budget and their income. "Other than that, they should try to pay cash for most things."
Shanks recommended couples revise their budgets every six months or whenever there are significant changes in income, goals or expenses such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities or food.
Shanks said although most people think of budgeting as "always doing without," its benefits are immeasurable. "Budgeting helps you meet your goals and helps you get the things that you want," she said.
Murray and Christina Fletcher, a young couple married for over three years, said Shanks' seminar gave them tools for getting their finances in order and setting up a budget that's "a little bit more organized."
Erika and Mike Bealer, married for just over a year, said the seminar gave them helpful guidelines on managing their finances. "I think we are doing a fairly good job but she gave us many new ideas," Erika said.
"We don't really set aside for personal allowances," noted Mike. "Now we are going to give each other a personal allowance."