The Financial Planning Timeline & Checklist for Engaged Couples

Trust us, this may be the most important thing you do before the wedding.
Couple looking at laptop creating wedding financial plan
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by
Jenn Sinrich
Jenn sinrich headshot
Jenn Sinrich
The Knot Contributor
  • Jenn writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in planning advice and travel.
  • Jenn also writes for a myriad of other large-scale publications, including SELF, Women's Health, and more
  • Prior to becoming a freelance writer, Jenn worked as an on-staff editor at WhatToExpect.com, American Baby, Fit Pregnancy and FreshDirect.
Updated Mar 20, 2024

From the moment you get engaged, your mind goes into planning mode. Of course, you're excited, thrilled, happy, in love and focusing on enjoying the fact that you are, indeed, soon-to-be-married; however, for most people, the actual engagement marks the beginning of what can turn out to be a long and sometimes overwhelming period of planning.

One area that tends to require the most planning has to do with budgets and financials. And it's not just planning for a wedding; it's about laying the foundation for your future together, explains Blaine Thiederman, Certified Financial Planner for dinks, which includes preparing for the joys, challenges and the unexpected turns of shared life. "Financial planning can help couples ensure they are on the same page about their values and goals, prevent conflicts over money and secure their financial well being, which is essential for a happy and enduring relationship," he says.

In this article:

Engaged Couple Financial Timeline Checklist

One resource that can help you as you embark on financial planning is to create an actual timeline checklist for when you should complete certain financial goals and tasks. Here, financial pros share the items they recommend couples include on their financial timeline checklist post-engagement.

12-18 Months Before the Wedding: Start Budgeting

Budgeting for the wedding can be stressful, so a good place to start is a conversation about what you each imagine your wedding to look and feel like. Next, Thiederman recommends determining how much you can afford to spend without derailing other financial goals. "This may involve setting up a high-yield bank account that you name the 'wedding account,' establishing an agreed-upon monthly savings goal, deciding on areas where you can cut costs and possibly discussing contributions from family towards your wedding," he adds.

As you're planning, online tools such as The Knot Budgeter can help keep your finances on track and The Knot Vendor Marketplace allows you to build a vendor team that fits your wedding budget.

9-12 Months Before the Wedding: Establish an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is money that you set aside for the specific purpose being to cover unexpected expenses of financial emergencies. Think of it like a safety net that can come in handy should you need it and to prevent you from falling into debt or needing to borrow from family or friends. Not only will this fund help you start off your marriage with a strong financial foundation, but Bobbi Rebell, C.F.P., founder of Financial Wellness Strategies and author of Launching Financial Grownups, explains that it will also take away stress and tension should a financial burden inevitably come up.

6-9 Months Before the Wedding: Tackle Debt

Thiederman recommends tackling any outstanding debts together, whether it's student loans, credit card debt or personal loans. "Creating a plan to manage debt now can prevent it from becoming a source of stress in your marriage," he says. "Consider strategies like the debt snowball or avalanche method. Remember, once you're married; your spouse's debt is your debt in creditors' eyes."

3-6 Months Before the Wedding Set Long-Term Financial Goals

Tax accountant and financial expert Joshua Zimmelman recommends discussing what you want from your life together and how that will impact your finances. "Do you want to buy a home, have children, start a business, travel a lot, retire early…?" he asks. "Decide how you both want to spend (and save) your money —do either of you have credit card debt, student loans or other liabilities?" Making sure you're on the same page will help you create and follow through with your financial goals long term.

Get the Right Insurance

This might not sound like a fun to-do, but it's an important one. "As a new couple you are the financial stakeholders in each other's life, so you have to protect each other in the form of health insurance and life insurance," says Rebell. She recommends figuring out what kind of insurance you need, such as renters insurance, homeowners insurance and car insurance. "Newlyweds may come into the marriage with insurance but this is a change of circumstance and it makes sense to do a review of their insurance coverage," she adds.

How to Talk About Finances Before Getting Married

It's a good idea to talk about finances prior to getting married—ideally well before you're even engaged. In fact, Zimmelman recommends even talking about finances to some degree even while you're just dating. "Once you get engaged, you should have an even longer and more intricate talk about all aspects of their financial history and goals," he says.

Start with an open and honest discussion about your current financial situation, including income, debts, savings and credit scores, suggests Thiederman. "This transparency is the foundation of trust and teamwork in managing your finances together," he says. "Identifying shared financial goals, whether it's saving for a house, investing or planning for retirement, creates a united vision for your future and makes financial planning a collaborative effort."

When Should Engaged Couples Combine Finances?

It really depends on the couple whether it's a good idea to fully combine their finances or not, explains Zimmelman. "It can be convenient to have one joint checking account for paying bills and managing general expenses, both spouses should make general deposits in order to pay for rent, utilities, grocery shopping, etc," he says. "You may or may not want to keep separate accounts in addition to joint accounts, and, if you and your partner earn considerably different incomes, it might lead to resentment fully merging those funds."

He also points out that there are also times when you should keep your finances completely separate. "If one spouse owes money, separate accounts will help protect the other spouse from their debts," he says. "Co-signing loans is also especially risky unless you have trust in your spouse that they'll be able to help pay it back."

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