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7 Tips to Stop Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck

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Now that you’re getting married soon, you might be thinking about other “grown-up” stuff you’re hoping to tackle next: taking an epic vacation, planning a family, buying a home. Unfortunately, as you well know if you’re in the midst of planning your nuptials, adulting is hella expensive. And if you’re the person who responds to a question about the state of your savings account with, “LOL. What’s a savings account!?” you’re not alone.

According to the fourth annual Love and Money Survey by TD Bank, more than one-third of U.S. consumers (34 percent) confess to living from paycheck-to-paycheck. The survey polled almost 1,800 Americans across various ages and found that—surprise!—finances rank as a major source of stress. Anxiety about retirement tops the list at 18 percent, followed by 14 percent of responders worrying about not being able to provide for their families, and 12 percent concerned by an inability to pay off debt. All of these fiscal frets are causing people to put off reaching their financial goals. (For example, 42 percent of millennial couples reported having to pump the breaks on buying a home.)

Ready for some good news?

We’re not sweeping these woes under any chic, affordable rugs; we’re addressing them! The majority of respondents in committed relationships—60 percent—said they discuss finances with their significant others at least once a week. Millennial duos are most loose-lipped, with 97 percent saying they have money talks at least once a month, compared with 88 percent of couples across all age groups.

And it’s not just conversations being shared. Assets and responsibilities too are increasingly a joint venture in relationships, the survey says. The results tallied 55 percent of couples combining their money, 70 percent of couples sharing decisions around large-scale purchases, and—drumroll, please!—61 percent of women reporting being the primary decision-makers for everyday purchases.

Yada, yada, this is all great, but you’re wanting a little less talk about talk and a lot more talk about action, right? How can you STOP living paycheck-to-paycheck? What plan can you and your partner START right now to save enough cash money to get away somewhere exotic, have a baby, put a down payment on a home, or wild out and buy a customized Intrepid yacht? (My fiancé really wants one of these. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ )

To find out, we tapped Dr. Jane Greer — a nationally-renowned relationship expert, psychotherapist and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship — and Jason Thacker, Head of Consumer Deposits and Payments at TD Bank. Follow their seven bits of advice below, then tag us in your boat selfie when you’re rolling in it.

1. Make A Weekly Dinner Date to Discuss $$$

Even if you’re already having money talks once a week, make it a “thing” by scheduling it. Greer suggests picking a week night after dinner so it’s part of your routine—and hey, everything’s better with food. “Even if it’s only for 10 or 15 minutes, build it into a time when you are both home and won’t be distracted by other things,” she says. And as Thacker points out, “Meeting so regularly allows you to discuss and amend your budget as needed.”

2. Open A Savings Account and Automate a Payment in There

Even if it’s only $20 a month, the point is you’re building a good habit, and automated payments mean you don’t even have to think about it!

“If you want to achieve financial independence, start by automating your finances,” says Thacker. “Setting up services like direct deposit and automatic transfers can do more for your savings than you realize.” Thacker also suggests looking into automatic online bill paying and retirement contributions. You’ll always pay bills on time and invest in your future, again with very little effort on your part. High-five, fellow lazy millennial!

3. Prioritize Your Expenses (And Include All the “Little” Stuff Too!)

When couples sit down to make a budget together, the big-ticket expenses (rent, utilities, gym fees) are easy to remember, but Greer says you should write down everything. “Include the taxis and coffees so you can literally see everywhere your money is going,” she says. “You can take stock of the realistic financial landscape — not the fantasy of what you wish it would be.” Next, rank the expenditures in order of how important they are to you. You may be surprised to find you and your partner value very different expenses. But, if one of you cannot function without your daily coffee (consider buying one of these for your home), help the other one to understand that, and be willing to sacrifice somewhere else!

4. Cut As Many Reoccurring Expenses As You Can

Speaking of things like gym fees, are there any reoccurring money-sucks in your life that you can cancel entirely? “Get rid of extra stations or cable,” suggests Thacker. “Freeze or cancel monthly memberships or subscription services that you’re truly not getting your money’s worth out of. Use it instead to build up your savings for future financial needs or an emergency fund.”

5. Consider a Joint Account for Accountability

The increase in couples who are choosing to combine finances makes us feel like you guys are hoping to approach all your #MoneyMoves as a team. What are two benefits of being on a team? Accountability and progressing towards a common goal.

“Opening a joint account means each partner can see what their partner is spending money on, and what’s important to them,” says Greer. “They’re both aware of the whole picture so there’s no room for sudden surprise expenditures, that could leave them without the financial resources they need.” Again, “learning how to address your differences in priorities will make you more effective problem-solvers together,” says Greer.

Additionally, Thacker says that he recommends couples open a joint savings account because working together to achieve a certain goal, like a larger purchase or vacation, can be very positive for your relationship. You both win!

6. Meet with a Financial Advisor and Set Three Types of Goals (Immediate, Short-Term, and Long-Term)

Encouragingly, a fair number of millennials (38 percent) are already seeking the support of a financial advisor, but Thacker wants everyone to schedule a meeting.

“Sit down and create a plan,” he says. While you’re at it, ask your expert to help you identify three different kinds of financial goals: immediate (cancelling the music streaming service you never use), short-term (paying off student loans), and long-term (pillowing out your retirement fund). Then, you can figure out the particulars. “Even if there is a big difference in salary, as long as you work out a plan on how you’re spending and saving your money in a way that feels equitable to both of you, you’ll be about to meet your goals without either person feeling they had to sacrifice what was really important to them.”

See more: What To Do If Your Partner Is Bad With Money

7. Lay Out Your Pipe Dreams to One Another

Our last tip? Don’t keep things from your partner. (24% of Millennials reported keeping a financial secret from their significant other!) Instead, tell each other all the crazy things you’d spend money on if you had it, no matter how ludicrous, indulgent, or embarrassing. If you force yourselves to be comfortable enough to do that, confessing your vice for high-end sex toy shopping won’t feel as scary (or will it…).

“Because of social media, Millennials are more open to sharing about everything they do,” says Greer. “Talking about money is a natural part of this, and gives everybody a feeling of involvement. Being upfront about what you want and how you spend minimizes guilt—and the anxiety that comes with worrying your partner will find out and disapprove.”

Jessie Mooney

The author Jessie Mooney

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