First Year Finances

Carefully Planning and Growing

Elisa & Patrick Maloney of Brooklyn, New York

Elisa saw a savvy negotiator in Patrick the night they met—he won the chance to try and kiss her over another guy at his fraternity's barbecue... by beating him at rock-paper-scissors. "Okay, I found this out much later," Elisa admits. "If I'd known at the time I wouldn't have kissed anyone!" Luckily, Patrick managed to win her admiration, too. "When he left, he didn't just ask for my number, he pulled out his cell phone and made sure he spelled my name right as he programmed it in," she remembers. "He then called as soon as he got home a couple of hours later. I was impressed by his determination. We started dating that week."

Turns out the couple had a mutual determination when it came to building a future together. Soon a wedding was in the works. Conversations about finances had always been a part of the mix. "We reached settlements on a lot of things when we moved in together," Patrick, 32, an accountant, says of early financial discussions. "The most frequent argument is when neither of us feels like cooking and we can't order in because it's not part of the food budget."

Though no formal prenuptial agreement was made, Elisa, 31, a facilities coordinator, made some wishes for the future known. "The only issue we discussed was a small college fund I'd started for my niece when she was born," says Elisa. "And then it wasn't really a case of 'if we get divorced,' but more along the lines of 'if something happens to me, this is what this account is for.'"

Through these talks, the couple realized they had different approaches to finances. Elisa learned about saving for the future early on. "My mother helped me open my first savings account at a small local bank because I wanted a trampoline," she recalls. "I became an avid saver, watching those little amounts total up in the passbook. I never got the trampoline, because by the time I had the money it was too hard to part with it."

Patrick had a similar experience via a savings account set up by his parents that allowed him access to deposit and withdraw funds. He credits that experience with teaching him self-control. And he gives Elisa props for helping him develop a deeper understanding of savings. "She showed me what was important and how to get there," says Patrick. "Now that I'm married, I realize it's about us and it's our money. I've learned not to be quick to spend money on unimportant things like electronics and DVDs."

Thanks to the help of family, the couple was able to financially contribute to the wedding and honeymoon without incurring debt. "We were able to pay cash for everything with a little careful planning," says Elisa. As they settled into married bliss and newlywed budgeting, they realized something about careful planning: You need to except the unexpected costs. "The only thing we've ever disagreed on is when unexpected things come up. Do we take away from the next month's budget to make up for it or just let it slide?'

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