Ask Chuck: How to Financially Prepare for Marriage
I am not married but would like to be one day, but who knows? Should I plan to live as a lifetime single in my financial planning?
Single but Hopeful
Dear Single but Hopeful,
First, I am glad you are interested in marriage! While there is nothing inferior with being single, whether by choice or otherwise, marriage is a means which God designed for us to experience the priceless riches of a family. The world needs more strong, Godly families. I also applaud your wisdom evidenced by the forward-looking question you have asked. Here’s my simple, direct answer: You need to manage your money for an unknown future. This is actually what all faithful stewards do, married or not.
Preparing for an Unknown Future
Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 8:7, “Since no one knows the future, who can tell someone else what is to come?” You and I and everyone else in the world do not know what tomorrow will bring–whether we will be married or single, whether the economy will go up or crash, whether we will be healthy or weak or even whether we will live or die. The wise acknowledge the uncertainty of tomorrow and prepare spiritually and financially. So here is my basic advice to help you be ready for tomorrow.
Spend Less Than You Earn
This is the key to good stewardship. It is essential as a single or as a married person.
Frugal spending now will strongly impact your lifestyle decisions. The freedom you have as a single person provides flexibility to plan ahead while still enjoying the fruit of your labor. Keep a budget. Now is the time to stop overspending. Avoid impulsive and extravagant purchases. Learn to wait at least 24 hours before making a buying decision. Or, like my wife, put things in your online shopping cart but don’t buy them immediately. Analyze the pros and cons of the item, compare prices, check your motivation for buying and pray for discernment as to whether it’s a necessary purchase.
Use your free time to increase your skill sets in a radically changing work environment. This can be done through extra education or via a mentor. Ask for a raise or start a side job. Enroll in our online classes to expand your financial knowledge. You don’t need to set a goal to get rich; just be faithful and excellent at what you do, God will honor that with better compensation in the long term.
Establish this habit now to experience a lifetime of joyful giving. If 10% is daunting, start with 1%, then increase it every month until arriving at 10%. You may desire to exceed that, but 10% should be a minimum you strive for. It will be an opportunity for you to trust God with the remaining 90%. In fact, you may find yourself sacrificing in other areas so you can give as the Lord leads. For us, it means driving older cars, cooking meals at home, shopping sales for clothes, etc. so we can give to others.
Establish an Emergency Fund
Emergencies happen, and usually when they are least expected. That is why it is critical to always be prepared. Job loss, illness, accidents, extended family situations all contribute to emergency needs. Replacing tires or appliances are not emergencies because they are inevitable maintenance costs. The absolute minimum should be $1,000. Most experts recommend enough funds to cover at least three to six-month’s worth of living expenses. 40% of Americans can’t cover a $1,000 emergency expense. Don’t be in that 40%!
Pay off student debt, car loans, credit card debt and any personal loans. A clean slate communicates self-control and financial wholeness to a person you may want to marry in the future. The two most popular methods for debt repayment are the debt snowball and debt avalanche. Avoid consumer debt in the future. When using credit cards, always pay them off, in full, at the end of each month. Educate yourself on the truth about debt. Use Christian Credit Counselors if you have a problem with carrying credit card balances.
This is typically the biggest expense in budgets, but it need not be. Especially while you are single. Roommates can cut rental costs and help pay down a mortgage when buying a home. Proper maintenance will prevent penalties and costly expenses. Always avoid too much house and analyze if renting or buying is best for you at this stage of life.
Stay Healthy and Have Savings
Take care of yourself through healthy eating, consistent exercise, and adequate sleep. Discipline yourself to stop any vices. These steps will strengthen the possibility of living a productive life. Max out 401k contributions and HSA plans, if available.
Learn from those who practice sound financial principles. Read biographies. Meet with like-minded Christians and find a mentor who will guide you on your financial journey. Analyze your friendships. Do they propel you to live in obedience to Christ? Are they impacting you positively? Or, are they a negative influence? Choose to spend time with those that propel you to be better in all areas of your life.
Whether single or married, live in gratitude for all God’s given you. Don’t neglect to take vacations. Serve on mission trips. Read to broaden your knowledge and volunteer in your community.
Live One Day at a Time
Develop your spiritual life and Christian community. Attend church regularly and get involved serving where your gifts and skills can bless others. Read through the Bible on a regular basis and participate in a Bible study. A Christian worldview is necessary in making wise financial decisions. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 ESV). Renewing your mind daily will guard your heart and keep you on the right path. We only have today, so live at peace where you are right now; trust God for your tomorrow.
Originally published on the Christian Post, January 24, 2020.