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The best marriage advice we ever received

Here’s the marriage advice that you need to know. In actual fact, it’s more financial advice than marriage advice, but was the advice we were given as newlyweds.

Ten years ago, hubby and I were engaged. It was an exciting time, despite the stresses of planning for a wedding. As the bride-to-be, there felt like a million jobs I had to get organised.

One of these was to schedule pre-marital counselling. This was important to us. We weren’t getting married for the wedding. Sure, we were looking forward to the big day and celebrating with our friends and family. Mostly though, we were getting married to begin a life together. I had never stayed over at my fiance’s house so moving into his place was a big deal.

We drove down to our old pastor’s house on the coast. It was nice to get away from the busyness of life. We enjoyed a meal together and then got into the session.

Our pastor and his wife spent time going through a range of topics including expectations, communication, and love languages. They spoke about how to approach conflict in a marriage and to ensure that our relationship would stand the test of time.

These were important things to consider and talk about.

One final topic that they mentioned was this.

Live on one income from the start.

Our very wise pastor and friend gave us some quality advice. He told us to live on one wage from the start of our marriage.

Did we follow this advice?

Yes. We listened carefully and took the advice.

When we first got married, we were both working full-time as professionals. It was exciting seeing the pay come through.

We lived off hubby’s wage, using his income to cover the mortgage, groceries, bills and other expenses.

My wage went into a separate account so we wouldn’t spend it. We each had joint access to both accounts but were very intentional about how we used it.

With my income, we paid off a remaining university debt, a remaining car loan, tax bill, and large dental expenses, and threw the rest at the mortgage. When we sold our unit and bought a house, my wage paid for renovations and then a trip overseas.

By the time our first baby came along just over three years later, we had put ourselves in a good financial position. I wish I’d started contributing extra to retirement and investing outside of superannuation back then, but it just wasn’t on my radar.

I realise that not everyone is partnered or earns a double wage, nor earns enough to do this.

However, if you do happen to live on a double income, perhaps consider giving this a go. It’s been a game changer for us and I’m so glad that we were given this advice from the start of our marriage.

What does living on one income look like?

When we get a pay rise, we don’t increase our spending. We make it count.

We pay ourselves first. We automate this so we don’t get tempted to spend it. The money leaves our account just after payday and disappears from view.

Even better, set up a direct debit into a separate bank account.

My pay goes straight onto the mortgage. This is in addition to what we send to the mortgage each week via direct debit.

When we don’t watch it, it seems to accumulate faster. Even though I am not working much right now, it all adds up.

Here’s an example of how to allocate your spending:

Income One (all the typical expenses)

  • rent or mortgage payments
  • groceries
  • utility bills
  • insurance
  • car running costs
  • health insurance
  • medication
  • internet
  • phone and bills
  • hobbies
  • clothing
  • holidays
  • gifts and presents

Income Two (anything extra or on top of this)

  • paying off debt (credit card, car loan, student loan, Buy now pay later balances, Centrelink bill, etc)
  • saving an emergency fund
  • building up sinking funds (renovations, upgrading furniture and appliances, car, holidays)
  • paying off the mortgage faster
  • investing in shares or property

One income not enough?

If one income is not able to cover all of the expenses, there are a few things that you can do.

  • Look closely at your expenses. Is there any way to get these down? I have some ideas here.
  • Increase your income. Ask for a pay rise. Do some overtime. Consider extra study. Change jobs or careers. Take up a second job.
  • Consider starting a side hustle to give you a little more breathing room financially. This may be for a short period of time or longer if necessary. See here for some side hustle ideas.
  • Do what you can with the income that comes in and use what you need to of the second income. For some people, their income is simply not high enough or you might live in an expensive city. There is only so much you can do. You can still make progress and be intentional with what you have, even if you can’t stick religiously to living on one income.

Why live on one income?

There are many benefits to living on one income, especially when you first move in together or get married.

This is contradictory to the way that most people approach their finances. As people earn more, they tend to spend more. This is known as lifestyle creep.

When we choose to live on one income rather than spending both, we don’t get used to living with a double income. Instead, we learn how to make it work on a single wage. We free up cash to put towards our financial goals.

By taking this advice to live on one income, it meant that we wouldn’t get used to having such a large income only to find it a shock when it came time to have children. Not everyone wants to stop working or reduce their hours after having a baby, but it was important for us that we did this. It was also a perfect opportunity to use the money wisely.

Financial stress is a real cause of conflict in marriages. If one person is a spender and the other a saver, this can cause friction. One person wants to spend money on experiences and the other prefers to pay off the mortgage.

With the ever-rising cost of living, this can be stressful.

Expect the unexpected

This is because life happens and we cannot rely on having a double income forever.

  • Pregnancy
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Job loss
  • Accident
  • Illness
  • Becoming widowed
  • Caring for a child with a disability
  • Becoming a carer for ageing parents

We just don’t know what is around the corner. Life is full of unexpected events.

Some are wonderful and others are life-changing.

We can reduce the impact of these events by planning for them in advance. It is important to make sure you are covered in case of the unexpected. Work your way up to having 3-6 months of expenses saved up in an emergency fund. This can sit in your offset account reducing your interest payable in the meantime.

Sign up for Income Protection and Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Insurance. This may be a part of your superannuation but might not be enough (kind of like having travel insurance with your credit card – they may not pay up when you need them to). Do your research to see if you can increase your cover or look outside of super to get coverage.

Be aware that if you are on unpaid maternity leave, your insurances may not be valid. After taking fifteen months unpaid leave, I found this out. Even once I was working, I was not covered again until payroll confirmed with my superannuation provider that I have recommenced work.

Not everyone wants to hear it.

I once mentioned this financial advice to a friend as she was preparing to get married. She laughed at me, kindly, and replied that with their high incomes, they would never need to worry about money. They would have plenty to live on and would not have to resort to such a thing. This went for reading any financial books, listening to podcasts or meeting with a financial planner. It was not something they needed to bother about.

Oh, the arrogance.

Look, I understand the feeling of not wanting to hear suggestions about doing things better. I’m a work-in-progress when it comes to taking on feedback. I tend to get defensive and explain all the reasons about why this wouldn’t be good for me or about how I’m doing a mighty good job myself thank you very much or perhaps can you go and give this pep talk to someone else.

It’s not always the right time. It can be just another thing that we need to think about or make time to look into.

We can be resistant to change.

Sometimes we just need to walk our own journey and figure things out along the way, as frustrating as this can be to others trying to help us.

In his book, ‘The Millionaire Next Door,’ * Thomas J Stanley looks at the concept of comparing millionaires to see what they have in common. He concluded that people in high earning jobs such as doctors and lawyers tend to have high expectations about how they should be spending their money. Think big house, nice suburb, new cars, good school, flashy handbags, designer clothes and overseas holidays. They feel pressure to live an affluent lifestyle like those around them.

Yes, they may be on a high income but so are their expenses.

In comparison, he found that although professionals such as teachers, accountants and social workers earned far less, they had far fewer expectations on them about how they should be spending their money. Middle-class workers felt less pressure to live in the right suburbs or houses.

This meant that their money was their own. They could spend it on what they liked.

They made the most of what came in and often had high savings rate compared to the higher income earners mentioned above.

Regardless of how much you earn, you need to learn to manage this effectively. There is no point being a high-income earner if you are frivolous and have nothing to show for it.

I’m not a newlywed. Is it too late to start?

Not at all.

If you are in a long-term relationship or marriage, it’s never too late to take charge of your finances. Whilst it is advantageous to start well, this isn’t always possible. You may not have known any better. You may not have both been able to work. You might have had a baby early on in your relationship. Your wage might not have allowed you to do this.

Whatever the reason, now is the time for action. Look at your finances and see what you can do. Are you able to live off one income and save the rest?

Where to from here?

If you are engaged, newlywed or about to move in together, now is the perfect time to look at your finances. I’d encourage you to read the Barefoot Investor* and have a Barefoot date night. There’s a reason that he has sold over two million copies.

When we are intentional with our finances at the start of our marriage, it can set us up for life.

It means we get used to living on a little less so later we can live on a little more.

It means we won’t get a shock if or when we drop to one income.

It means we have enough savings for the unexpected.

It means we are living well within our means.

It means we can sleep better at night.

We can enjoy our lives today while being ready for our future. A little sacrifice and planning early on in our marriage is worth it.

What financial advice would you give to newlyweds? Comment below or I’d love to connect with you over on Instagram or Facebook.

Melanie Wegener

[Disclaimer: I’m not trained in finance so don’t take it from me. Feel free to grab ideas from this post but always see a professional for advice that is relevant and personal to your situation.]

* Please note that this is an affiliate link. If you buy the book on Amazon, I might receive a small amount of money. You do not need to purchase from here. It does not cost you more to buy this way. I simply include it because it can help my small business out if readers choose to buy from this link.

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