If couples invested as much time and resources in marriage planning as they do in wedding planning, would the world look much different? Perhaps the excitement and nervousness that come with the expectation of matrimonial may cloud the judgment of many regarding the ground realities of life. Marriage is more than just about the big moments (though they are important) but success or failure often lies in those day to day struggles, and how well equipped the husband and wife are to respond as a unit together.
In Malaysia, those Muslims who wish to marry are required to go through a ‘Kursus Kawhin’ (Marriage Course), where they are taught the basics of fiqh, especially regarding marriage, and given a few helpful reminders about adjusting to married life. What is missing though is a stress on financial literacy, of being able to manage expenses together and necessity of fiscal responsibility. This is critical since several studies have shown that financial stress is a huge contributor to divorce.
Below are just a few basic pieces of advice regarding ways to save. Saving is the foundation of being financially sound, especially if your monthly income is not that high to begin with. Of course, advice such as this is directed towards myself first before others.
1. Record Your Expenses
This is the starting point for any new couples who are serious about keeping their finances in order. If you do not keep track of what comes in and what goes out, any attempt to figure out your financial situation ultimately comes down to guesswork. While you may not be able to document every little miscellaneous expense, try and record at least the major bills, such as your rent, fuel, food, etc.
2. Make A Savings Goal
You do not want to end the month with as much or less cash than when you began it. Set a targeted amount for how much you wish to save and plan your budget around that. It shouldn’t be too low so as to make no impact, but not too high to be unrealistic. A usual base amount given is around 10 to 15% of your income should be saved for future purposes.
3. Cut Out Waste
Once you record your expenses, you can begin prioritizing those that are absolutely necessary versus those that are superfluous. This may not be an easy task, as some frivolities (in my case, used books) are particularly close to the heart. Hopefully after an honest one-to-one discussion, a couple can mutually decide where they need to tighten their family belt.
4. Stay Clear Of Debt
Getting a loan can have a painkiller effect; it can provide symptom relief but ultimately does not cure a disease. Entering into a loan is usually the easy part, having to pay it back is an uphill climb. Try to save while paying a monthly installment can be incredibly difficult. While not a cinch, it is better to do the tried and tested approach of saving bit by bit to cover a major expense, rather than being plunged into debt. Can you say for certainty that you will have the financial means to pay a loan years into the future? And of course, always avoid interest (riba).
5. Try And Invest
Parking your savings into a vault is ok, but it may be more prudent once you have saved enough to try and look at worthy (halal) investments to see your savings grow. Putting all your resources into investing may be risky though. Naturally, you should avoid pyramid schemes, but be prepared to venture into stakes that you foresee a steady return. By investment, it doesn’t necessarily mean financial investment; it can mean business opportunities or partnerships that require some start-up capital. Everyone has the potential to ply their wares in the market at some moment.
These are only a few examples. There is no replacement for experience when it comes to a couple being financially prudent. The one underlying principles, which is rooted in Islam, is that of moderation. The goal should be to find that sweet spot between excessive greed and reckless spendthrift. Finding that balance in today’s hyper-consumerist world takes a degree of maturity, something that marriage should ideally provide.