Expert Interview with Jacob and Vanessa of Cash Cow Couple on Couple's Finances for Mint

Jacob and Vanessa of Cash Cow Couple know their way around money; their advice is tried and tested by the couple themselves. They spoke with us about personal finance and working on your finances as a team.

How did you start your conversation about finances as a couple?

Jacob has been obsessed with personal finance since college, which is when we met. We knew each other for a few years before we were married, so we knew we were compatible when it came to our financial goals and desired lifestyle. However, when we got married we had about $20,000 worth of student loan debt combined. When we realized this, we knew that all the ideals we espoused about a frugal and debt-free marriage would have to become a reality. Coincidentally, that was when we started Cash Cow Couple and began our journey into debt freedom, which was accomplished, and continues on into financial independence.

Were there any challenges in merging your finances?

Technically, no, we had no problems. However, relationally it was a challenge, as is expected with most new couples. Vanessa was used to shopping, going out to eat and buying gifts for her family, even if they weren't on sale. Once we were married, we decided to almost completely cease going out to eat, shop only at clearance racks and cut the amount spent on gifts by over 65%. It was difficult at first to cut back, but now that she has developed new habits, it's easy to spend less.

What would you say to couples who feel they argue too much about money?

You have to be on the same page financially. Couples who fight about money often have differing opinions, money habits and financial goals, and this will never work. As long as you are holding hands and walking in different directions, neither of you will get where you want to go, and the fighting will continue. Sit down as often as needed to get on the same path financially. This will require you to make some sacrifices and compromises, but having joint goals and a plan to obtain those goals, along with being resolved to work together, is the only way to eliminate arguing about money and to progress your marriage instead of self destruct.

How do you balance having fun with fiscal responsibility?

This is easy. Being financially responsible has never meant that you can't do anything fun. We are not financially responsible because we hate fun, but because we hate waste. If there is something we'd really like to do, that's great. We do it. But before we do, we research and make sure we are getting the best deal available. We'd hate to run to the first available option only to realize that we could have gotten the exact same thing for half price.

For instance, we are going on a vacation in August. Unlike normal travelers who buy their plane tickets, hotels, meals and entertainment at full price, we are using travel rewards for transportation and lodging, Groupons for food and entertainment, and taking advantage of fun and free things to do in the area. It's all the same fun at less than half the price. We'd feel foolish if we didn't take advantage of these deals because we think doing a little research and keeping an eye out for frugal fun is easy and at the same time fiscally responsible.

What advice do you have for couples planning a wedding on a budget?

There are hundreds of tips and tricks for planning a wedding on a budget. However, my three favorite pieces of advice are:

Keep it small: It's easy to get carried away with the invite list. I know you don't want to exclude anyone, but you've got to draw the line somewhere. By keeping the guest list small, you eliminate excess from every part of your budget and can instead focus on the things that really matter to you on your special day.

Don't even peek at things outside your budget: That's right. Don't go visit that swanky reception hall, don't try on that gorgeous dress that's $500 over budget and don't even consider that honeymoon that you'll still be paying for on your one-year anniversary. Comparison to something better than what you have is a one-way ticket to unhappiness, so just don't do it. Not only will you be less satisfied with your budgeted wedding, but you'll be more likely to overspend.

Shop around and don't be afraid to negotiate prices: Don't be afraid to talk to several vendors in each category of your budget. The wedding industry is highly competitive, so, for instance, if your top three florists know that you have been talking to the other ones, they will be more likely to offer discounts or add-ons because they want to keep your business. They would rather cut their profit margin than lose the sale to a competitor.

What do you see as the future of personal finance?

It's our goal that more people would embrace frugality and get back to the habit of spending less than is earned. That's the only way to build wealth and find freedom from the heavy burden of debt. So many lives could be transformed by the simple act of eliminating consumer debt and then building a year's worth of living expenses. Individuals would worry less about work, and they would fight less with their spouse at home. These ideas sound radical at the moment, but I'm hoping for a more frugal future.

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