Wedding season: What to do with all the checks?

Before you go shopping, make a list of what you actually need, to prevent yourself from buying every great deal you see.

Wedding  (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Let me start by wishing a huge mazal tov to my nephew Eli on his recent engagement. As we have successfully made it through all the Lag Ba’omer bonfires with all forests still intact, it’s now time for wedding season. I’d like to focus on some financial issues that newlyweds will face.
For the new couple, many important decisions need to be made. Where to live, the color theme for the wedding and perhaps the most important decision of them all: what type of mattress cover is needed! One major issue that is often neglected is exactly how the young, inexperienced couple will handle their money, or in other words: what to do with all the checks? More often than not, young newlyweds have very little, if any, experience managing financial issues. After the wedding, they are plunged into a new world, where there is a household to run and finances to take care of. Specific to Israel is also a common issue of the couple still in the middle of university and trying to make it on limited income. As this can be a very daunting task, here are a few tips on how to live in a financially disciplined manner.
Budget The first thing is learning how to budget. It is especially important to keep track of each shekel spent and each shekel earned. Writing down each expense in a notebook can be very helpful to understanding what money is being spent on. Make sure that monthly and annual expenses do not exceed income to avoid getting into an overdraft situation – where many problems start.
I do a lot of volunteer budgeting work, and I have seen many couples who have accumulated as much as $25,000 in debt within six to seven months of their wedding simply from setting up their home. A newly married couple should realize that they are just starting out, and while it would be nice to achieve the same standard of living as their parents, it probably took their parents years of hard work and saving to get to where they are now. Do not attempt to do it overnight, especially if you are living on a shoestring budget.
When making a budget, start with your income and then write down your planned expenses, to fit the expenses within the income. This is how to take control of the situation.
You dictate how to allocate your funds, as opposed to letting your expenses get out of control. The moral: Live within your means.
Examine spending decisions Every spending decision that is made can have a crucial effect on staying out of debt. When you were single if you felt like buying a cheese Danish and can of Coke, you wouldn’t hesitate about making the purchase. Now you also need to be financially accountable to your spouse, and if you are living on a small salary, you need to prioritize expenses. This is the case whether deciding to buy a new wall unit or whether to pay 25 NIS for a six-minute cab ride when you could walk instead.
It is always a good idea to ask yourself if a purchase is necessary.
Before you go shopping, make a list of what you actually need to prevent yourself from buying every great deal you see. Sticking to a specific shopping list prevents the purchase of superfluous, unnecessary luxuries.
As I have written many times: Couples who are being supported by their parents and/or in-laws should not take this generosity for granted. The use of a parent’s credit card doesn’t mean that the couple should go out to restaurants or cafes for lunch multiple times a week. The parental support is a privilege, not a right, and needs to be treated as such.
For this reason, it is always important to show gratitude.
Many parents who are supporting their married children complain to me that they feel as if their children take this rare gift for granted. They are happy to provide the financial help, but they are disappointed that they have never received a simple thank you for their support.
Start saving As soon as possible, a new couple should start a disciplined monthly savings plan. It is a good idea to use some of the wedding money for this purpose. Many couples receive a substantial amount of money as wedding gifts, and even though this may seem too far in the future, it would be a good idea to put it away for a down payment on an apartment, pay for a bar mitzva or even marry off children in the future. If a couple starts saving immediately, it makes future expenses much easier to deal with.
Mazal tov! The information contained in this article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc., or its affiliates.
[email protected] Aaron Katsman is a licensed financial professional in Israel and the United States who helps people with US investment accounts. He is the author of the book Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing.