Marriage is a huge commitment and it brings the highest highs and the lowest lows. A successful marriage takes so much work and constant giving. Dan and I have been married for almost six years now and while we are no experts, we have learned a thing or two. We thought what better month than February (the month of LOVE) to share some things we’ve learned over the years.
Did you know that the #1 reason for divorce is money? I would have guessed the top reason for splitting was watching a Netflix show without your spouse or eating the last brownie, but I’d be lying if I said we haven’t had a disagreement or two about money. How you spend, how you save, and how you think about money can make or break your relationship.
In partnership with BECU, we sat down for a Q&A to break down some of the ways we have learned to prioritize each other, keep each other accountable and support each other with our financial goals.

What is your biggest piece of advice for a successful marriage?

Chandler: My grandparents shared this with me and I firmly believe the key to a happy marriage is to always have something planned as a couple to look forward to. This can be a vacation, concert, trip to the spa, etc. Dan & I set up a savings account specifically for this. We put a little bit of money into this account each month, via automatic transfer in online banking, then use it for various trips & getaways throughout the year. By setting up an auto-transfer, we never see that money so it simplifies the saving process!
Speaking of having something to look forward to…retirement! Being that I’m in my mid-twenties, we still have a long road ahead of us before retirement, but it is never too early to start planning! I opened my first retirement account when I was 22 and have been making monthly contributions ever since. Though the accounts started small, they will continue to compound until retirement, where I’ll be spending my days laying on the beach and reading cookbooks!
Dan: My biggest piece of advice for a successful marriage is to not take things so seriously. At the end of the day, if you can’t laugh and be silly together, life is bound to get boring. The goal is to always have fun together.

How do you manage your finances as a couple?

Chandler: We are in a unique stage in our lives where we have double income and no kids, so we are fortunate to have less expenses than other married couples. However, we are paying around $50k for each of Dan’s four years of medical school.
You can imagine funds are tight, but we work as a team to stay on budget and respect each other and our work. We have always shared a bank account and it’s worked for us. Everyone is different, but we have found that sharing a bank account keeps us both accountable and simplifies our spending and budgeting.
It’s so important to talk about finances and learn your spouse’s spending habits before you get married. Talk about student loans, career aspirations, etc., and set expectations for how your future finances will look so you are prepared.
Dan: I let Chandler handle everything. That’s the key.
Just kidding (kind of). In all reality, we are not spenders. We are really good about saving on daily, remedial expenses. We carefully evaluate what is worth the money and what is not. If something important to us we spend, if not, we don’t. It’s possible to have a lot of fun while still being financially savvy.

How do you keep things fresh and exciting in your relationship? 

Chandler: We love to take nightly walks around our neighborhood where we leave our phones at home and just walk and talk for an hour. We will talk about our day, new business ideas, our future, what we had for lunch, etc. It’s just nice to get out of the house, away from technology, and get moving together.
We also like to sit down at the beginning of each month and nail out some specific financial goals, along with game-plans to achieve them. We push each other to aim high and dream big, but also give each other support constantly. Our HUGE (and super intimidating) goal this year is to pay off all our student loans! You don’t want to know the number, but just know this is not going to be easy. Instead of just setting that goal and keeping tabs on it all year, we are taking action to make it happen. During my Financial Health Check with BECU last month, the Financial Health Check Specialist taught me the debt snowball payoff method and created an awesome graph that tracks each payment and lets me know how close (or far) we are from hitting the payoff goal. The debt snowball method starts by organizing your debts based on amount, interest rate, and other factors and helps you decide which ones to pay first so you are maximizing your payments.
Dan: Always make time for fun activities, even when there’s no time for them. We always try to prioritize each other and make time to do the things we love. Even if it’s just sitting in the hot tub for 15 minutes and relaxing, every little bit counts. We really like being active together. This winter we are focused on spending a lot of time skiing. Sometimes it feels like we don’t have time to go, but usually that’s just an excuse and we end up making it happen anyway.

How do you overcome challenges?

Chandler: We’ve overcome challenges by taking the time to learn each other’s ‘Love Language’ and how to show that love. My love language is quality time & Dan’s is physical touch, and learning how to interact in our preferred language has helped us prevent conflict.
Also, giving each other space! This applies to personal space, friend space, financial space, etc. Dan and I are both very independent. On that note, we both need our alone time. I used to dread alone time and now I need it! I go on a solo lunch/movie date at least once a week. Which, if you haven’t gone to the movies solo, it’s truly wonderful because you don’t have to share your popcorn, Diet Coke, and Swedish Fish. Besides, you can’t socialize during a movie anyway. Dan also loves his alone time and needs it for his sanity. It’s so important to respect that and give your spouse space to live their own life and spend money on things that matter to them. We try not to hover over our bank statements and harass each other for silly expenses. Instead, we recognize that we both work hard and deserve to be rewarded (while still being responsible).
Dan: The best way to overcome challenges is to disregard anything out of your control, realize that most obstacles aren’t the end of the world, and continue to enjoy the things you love. 
We have found the best way to achieve marital bliss is to be open and honest about or expectations. Because we have meaningful discussion and open communication around our budget, finances, and future, we’ve been able to stay on the same page and achieve our financial goals as a team. Oh, and make sure your spouse knows to save you the last brownie because Chandler has made it clear that eating the last brownie is truly unforgivable.
This post is sponsored by BECU. All opinions are my own.