Marrying Your Finances: File Jointly And Save!
Getting married? Congratulations! When it comes to money and marriage, you're probably more occupied with wedding plans and expenses than your future household budget. Although the wedding day is an important new start to the rest of your lives together, so are your upcoming combined finances. (Learn how to break down and understand a corporate budget, in How Budgeting Works For Companies.)
You may be surprised to find there are many financial benefits (except for that catering bill for the big day, that is) to tying the knot. Here are some ways your nuptials will put money in your collective pockets:
Combined Income and Assets
This one may be obvious, but take a moment to think about it. Your financial resources have just doubled, which will open doors that may have been closed when you were still single. With your higher combined income, you'll likely qualify for better loans, including a higher mortgage. With the current tax incentives for home buyers, now may be the perfect opportunity for you two buy a home together.
As you combine your income, you'll also want to look at your combined assets. Savings accounts, real estate holdings, and yes, even his ugly old couch and her china collection are now both your assets. As you're preparing to tie the knot, make a list of all that you'll be owning (and owing) together, so there are no surprises (like an unexpected tax bill for that condo she owns) in the future. (This costly coverage protects your mortgage lender - not you. Find out more in 6 Reasons To Avoid Private Mortgage Insurance.)
On top of the benefits of your combined income, you're now sharing expenses. That rent or mortgage payment? You just got yourself the perfect roommate to split your housing cost with. Utilities, phone, groceries - you're no longer paying for all of these on your own now that you're married. Take some time to assess all of your bills for ways to save by combining your expenses. For instance, cell phone companies offer family plans that could save you both some cash every month. Sometimes when you live by yourself, eating out may be a cheaper alternative than cooking for one. Now you are cooking for two, combining your grocery bill will save you money, significantly.
When going over your expenses, pay particular attention to your insurance costs. Car insurance rates are lower if you're married, especially for young males, and you can save by bundling your plans with the same provider. Life insurance, home owners or renters insurance - all of these may also be reduced, now that you're married. If both your employers offer health insurance, look at combining yours under the best plan as a family. Sorting through insurance plans and rates can be a hassle, but just remember: you're putting money in your pockets every month.
Right now, the IRS (http://www.irs.gov/) allows you to deduct $11,400 from you combined income if you file jointly - twice what you can deduct individually. Although this doesn't seem like a direct benefit, once you deduct other itemizations, you'll more than likely come out ahead when tax time rolls around. If you or your spouse has itemized deductions, children or other dependents, childcare or education expenses, these will all reduce your combined taxable income. Filing jointly will most likely lead to lower taxes; the tax code is complex though. To get a concrete idea of where your married status will put you with the IRS, take each of your latest tax returns and pretend as if you were filing jointly. You may be surprised at the financial benefits. (For many couples, it pays to file for taxes together. But what are some of the obstacles you should watch out for? Find out, in Newlywed Tax Returns: Wedding Present Or Party Crasher?)
Banking and Budgeting
Now that you've pooled your income and are paying the bills together, you may want to open a joint bank account and come up with a budget. Although there aren't any monetary benefits to sitting down together to crunch the numbers, here's a nice advantage: you're not doing it alone. We all face financial crises in our lives, and it's just a lot less stressful to face them with a spouse by your side than on our own. Likewise, when things are looking up in your budget, you can celebrate together. Two really are better than one, especially when it comes to money.
While you're looking forward to the big day, picking out the wedding cake and flowers, take some time to sit down with your spouse-to-be to look at your finances. Be honest about your assets and bills. Examine some of the ways you can save money together, and you may find you'll have even more to toast on the big day. (Use this quick parental guide to help your child learn this process and establish good habits. Filing Your Child's First Income Tax Return.)