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Money + Marriage: How to tackle the topic as a team

We spoke with nationally recognized financial expert Lauren Lyons Cole about how to talk about money in your marriage

Money + Marriage: How to tackle the topic as a team

Money can be tricky ground to cover in a marriage.


Gone are the days when you can online shop to your heart’s content ? or splurge on an expensive girlfriends-only vacay with no one to answer to but yourself (and your bank account.)

Nope. When you’re married you’re at the stage in life where any financial decision you make will not only impact yourself, but your family as well. And that can be a tough pill to swallow.

And this generation of new moms has a lot on their plate. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it’s estimated that outstanding student loan debt in America has hit the $1 trillion mark. Student loans have now taken the second highest debt spot in our country, behind mortgages and slightly ahead of credit cards. Now throw in that first big family trip to Disney you’ve been dreaming of planning, the bigger house you’re saving for, and your little one’s childcare cost...needless to say, we have a lot on our financial plates.

Debt, savings, and budgeting are sitting there waiting for you to cut right into them...not at your husband. So how do you talk about that financial plate you share with your partner?

We chatted with Certified Financial Planner and nationally-recognized financial expert Lauren Lyons Cole about how you can come up with a realistic budget for your family and the best tools to do so as a team.

When dealing with debt in a marriage, or a specific savings goal, many experts recommend having a budget. What are your tips for creating a realistic budget together?

Typically, spenders and savers end up married to each other, which can lead to a lot of tension around money. It’s relatively easy to create a budget, but it’s a lot harder to stick to it. One of the best things you can do, surprisingly, is leave room for both partners to have some “fun money.” If the budget is tight, that could be as little as $10 or $20 a month each.

Are there any budgeting tools you recommend to help you stick to your budget?

I love Mint! Sweep is another good app. And many people have success with You Need A Budget.

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Can you talk a bit about communication between a couple in regards to sticking to the budget? How often should you check in with one another about numbers? How often should you talk about how it’s going for each of you realistically and emotionally?

It’s always helpful to try to understand each other, rather than judge each other. Money is an emotional topic, so it’s important to be patient when discussing it. If money is particularly tight, checking in daily or weekly may be necessary. Otherwise, monthly or quarterly would be fine. The important thing is to remember to set aside time to focus on your money together, as much as you might not want to. Plan to reward yourselves after with something you both enjoy (that is within the budget).

It’s always helpful to try to understand each other, rather than judge each other.

When most couples today bring student loan debt into a marriage, and maybe even their own credit card debt, etc. — how do you decide what to tackle first? It can be overwhelming.

Debt can be very overwhelming, and most people do not like having it hang over them. Before coming up with a debt repayment plan, you really have to get a good handle on your budget. That way you’ll know where you can cut back so you can put more toward your student loans or credit card debt. Keeping up momentum is the biggest challenge, and different people respond to different motivators. Slow and steady might work well for one family, where speed might be better for another. Keep trying things until something sticks. If you haven’t been successful with one strategy, try another.

What advice do you have for the mother who goes to Target and spends $150 each time even though she usually only needs to buy diapers? (Asking for a friend...)

This is so normal! It happens to everyone. In fact, Americans spend about $200 a month on impulse purchases, which adds up to $2,400 a year. That’s enough for a fun family vacation! I think setting a fun savings goal can help curtail those purchases. It’s easy to overspend if you can afford it and don’t really have a reason not to. But if you’re saving up for something exciting, like a new car or a trip together, it makes it easier to cut back.

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A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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Sorry, you can’t meet our baby yet

Thank you for understanding. ❤️

In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.

I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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