Building a life together means that you share dreams, memories — and finances. Both of you must work as a team to manage your financial obligations. To start, you need to know what bills and debts you have and are bringing into your relationship. Start your new life in control of your finances by gathering your credit history and bills and creating an organized, easy-to-follow system of tracking your debt.
Pull your credit report to get a list of your credit cards, student loans, hospital bills, mortgages, and others to whom you owe money. Call or go to annualcreditreport.com. Order reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion all at one time; you get one free report each year from each of these agencies. Have social security number and the address(es) of where you have lived for two years handy when you request your reports. Ask the reporting agency to check into or correct any errors. Contact the bank, loan company or credit-card company or go online to get updated account information.
Comb through your snail mail, electronic mail and papers. Look especially for accounts that have not appeared on your credit report. These might include electric, water, cable, cellphone and other utility bills; library fines, and gym memberships. You might find some of these, even overdue library books, on your credit report if you've been delinquent in your payments.
List family, relatives and friends who have loaned you money. Ask them to write down or email to you how much you owe, when payments are due and what you have already paid them. Get a payment receipt with the date and amount of payment.
List all of your debts and bills and keep track of them monthly. Create columns to list the name of the creditor, the interest rate, your balance and when payment is due. Save the list online, rather than in a notebook, so you can update information as a bill comes in. The cooperative extension programs for the University of Maryland and University of New Hampshire display sample worksheets. Microsoft Office provides many free budget and personal financial templates for download; consider using free budgeting software products, such as Mint, to keep track of bills.
- Federal Trade Commission: Free Annual Credit Reports
- Annual Credit Report: Frequently Asked Questions:
- American Student Assistance: National Student Loan Database System
- University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension: When Your Bills Pile Up
- Equifax: Free Annual Credit Report Once a Year: Credit Report Frequently Asked Questions
- Experian: Credit Advice: Unpaid Uility Bills can Appear on Your Credit Report
- City of Austin, Texas: Austin Public Library: Library Card Policies
- University of Virginia Marriage Project: "The Great Recession's Silver Lining?"; W. Bradford Wilcox
- National Foundation for Credit Counseling: Financial Education Blog: Women and Personal Finances
- Mvelopes Money Management: Home
- Federal Trade Commission: Facts for Consumers: How to Dispute Credit Report Errors
- Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service: Organizing Household Records; Joyce E. Jones; August 2001
- University of Maryland: Maryland Cooperative Extension: Fact Sheet 436: Getting Out of Debt
- Annual Credit Report: Request Form
- Michigan Public Service Commission: Customer Support Section: Consumer Tips; August 2011
- Experian: Credit Information Center: What is Credit
- Connecticut Department of Banking: Securities and Business Investments Division: "Your Financial Future Together: Saving and Investing for Newlyweds"
- Mint: Personal Finance Software
- Microsoft: Office: Home Budgets: Templates
- Register with the National Student Loan Database to keep track of your federal student loans. The database gives you online access to the amount you borrowed, whether your payments are current, and what you owe.
- Don't let your credit score take a hit from late or missed payments because you don't get your bills. When you plan a move, tell the Post Office when you change addresses; complete the change of address forms that come with your bills. Contact the creditor if you do not get a bill.
- Make sure you have more income than the total of your expenses and debt. If you see more going out than coming in, decide which expenses are luxuries, such as the pool or gym membership, and prioritize what you will pay. University of Maryland Cooperative Extension suggests that your friends, family or relatives might wait on payments until your financial crisis subsides.
Christopher Raines enjoys sharing his knowledge of business, financial matters and the law. He earned his business administration and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a lawyer since August 1996, Raines has handled cases involving business, consumer and other areas of the law.