Expert Interview with Jessica Kempf on Couples and Finance for Mint

Jessica Kempf has an interesting approach to money: She's a dietician who saves her family money with techniques such as meal planning, which she shares on her blog, Budget for Health. She spoke with us about managing money as a family and saving it for when you need it.

What tips do you have for newly married couples around money? What should they be discussing?

My best tip for newlyweds is to maintain open communication when it comes to finances. The following questions are great starting points for financial discussion. I'd actually recommend working through them BEFORE marriage, if possible:

  1. 1. How are you similar and how are you different regarding spending and saving money? How will your similarities/differences affect your way of dealing with financial matters?
  2. 2. What concerns do you have about unpaid bills and/or debts?
  3. 3. What is your viewpoint on the use of credit cards?
  4. 4. How do you decide how to spend your money?
  5. 5. What are your thoughts about having a specific plan for spending and saving?
  6. 6. Who manages the money?
  7. 7. If the two of you have differences of opinion about financial matters, how will you resolve those differences?
  8. 8. How much money do you think you should be able to spend without consulting your partner? How will you deal with it if one of you goes "over the limit"?
  9. 9. What kinds of purchases must you jointly decide upon?
  10. 10. What are your short- (1-5 year) and long-term (10+ year) financial goals?

What are some simple ways for families to save money?

Meal planning. It initially takes some effort, but once you get into a routine, it's a pretty easy task to accomplish. Meal planning helps me to avoid unnecessary, spontaneous purchases that aren't on my grocery list, and we save more money by not eating out so often.

What inspired your Quarterly Budget Review feature? What has it taught you about money?

I was curious to see how well we stuck with our budget and where our money was going. I also enjoy being transparent with our finances so my readers can see how we're actively pursuing financial freedom. It was eye-opening and encouraging when I first started doing the quarterly reviews to see what percent of our income was going toward extra payments on our mortgage. It takes up a big piece of the pie now, but we're already 10 years ahead of schedule, and soon enough, that big slice of pie can go toward other great investments since we'll be done with mortgage payments!

How does having a child change your outlook on finance? Were there any ways that changed that you didn't expect?

Having a child changed a lot for our financial situation since we went from two incomes to one now that I'm mainly a stay-at-home mom. However, I found that having a child is not as expensive as people told me it would be, at least for that first year. We've borrowed baby equipment, only put "needs" instead of "wants" on the baby registry; I took advantage of a free breast pump that our insurance covered; I haven't bought a single article of clothing since we got plenty as gifts; I exclusively breastfed, which means I didn't have to buy formula; and now I just blend what we're having for dinner in our magic bullet rather than buying jars of baby food. One thing I did not expect to happen was switching to cloth diapers. I honestly thought it was a bit hippie-ish! I intended to use disposables but a friend showed me how easy cloth diapers were to use and now I can't believe how much money we've saved so far.

What misconceptions about personal finance do you see online?

Maybe not misconceptions, but rather lack of knowledge is what I run into. Grown-up stuff like life insurance or Roth IRAs aren't exactly fun topics, but the sooner you get them set up, the better. I wish that a basic finance course would be required in high school and/or college to better prepare young generations for adulthood.

For more of Jessica's insights, follow her on Facebook and Twitter.