When many people think of marriage, they think of expenses: an expensive wedding, a honeymoon, a mortgage, and maybe even kids. In 2022, with inflation hovering above 9%, the average cost of a wedding has risen to a staggering $27,000. Engagement parties and honeymoons can potentially bring this total up another $10,000. For perspective, the median income in the US in 2022 is around $53,000—not far above the cost of a wedding and all its extras!
But today, marriage can come without the hefty price tag or the costly milestones that have traditionally accompanied it. In fact, marriage can actually save you money. At the end of the day, marriage means splitting many of your costs—including your housing, streaming subscriptions, phone bill, and meals. It also means sharing the burden of household tasks and chores, freeing up more time for paid work.
Marriage now also means a higher household income. More couples are forgoing the traditional single-income household for dual-income households, in which both spouses are wage earners. As of 2021, more than 53% of households are dual-income households.
This is in part out of necessity, and in part due to cultural changes. Since the 1970s, wages in the US have stagnated, while the cost of living and inflation rates are on the rise. Prices today are on average more than seven times higher than prices of 50 years ago. At the same time, real wages have hardly budged, meaning Americans today have the same purchasing power they did in 1978. Women also have more earning power than ever before. They’re less likely to stay home to take on the domestic work of the generations of women before them.
Despite stagnating wages, the number of high-income households in the US today has risen dramatically over the past several decades. High-income households made up just over 10% of households in 1967, whereas today, they make up over 33% of total households. This is in large part due to a rise in dual-income households, which earn more on average than single-income households.
Marriage in many cases today means sharing costs, not increasing costs. Here are three ways that marriage can fill not just your heart but your wallet:
One of the most important places marriage saves you money is on housing, and this is true whether you’re renting or buying your dream home.
Over 79 million adults currently live with roommates. That means they share a house or apartment with other adults for a portion of the total rent, either taking a bedroom for themselves and splitting common spaces—or even splitting a bedroom. Again, the decision to live with roommates often comes down to financial need. When you’re cohabiting with a partner or spouse, likely you’re sleeping in the same bed, so it’s easy to reduce the cost for your space without sacrificing privacy. Rather than sharing a space with a friend or stranger, you get to share a space with someone you know intimately. You can have both the bedroom and common spaces to yourselves. In times of dire financial need, you can even share a studio or bedroom in a group house.
Additionally, it’s much more cost effective to share a space than to live on your own. Apartment List claims that studio apartments are on average 5% cheaper than one-bedroom apartments. Splitting a one-bedroom with a spouse means you would be paying far less than you would be for a studio apartment.
If you’re a buyer, splitting a mortgage might mean that buying a house becomes a feasible reality, rather than a distant dream. The average cost of a home in the US is around $350,000. This average, however, doesn’t reflect the exorbitant home prices in high-cost-of-living areas—incidentally, the areas where more jobs can be found, as can more young adults on the brink of marriage. Average home prices in California have exploded in the last few years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the last year alone, the median home price in California has risen over 9%—from almost $800,000 to closer to $900,000. A single-earner household would need to earn upwards of $134,000 to make buying a home of this price feasible, whereas dual-earner households could split the costs, bringing the necessary annual wage down to $67,000—much closer to the US median salary!
You’ll can also be saving on utilities. The average monthly electric bill in the US is over $100—and that’s not including gas, water, trash, internet, or other household utilities you might be responsible for. If you’re a homeowner, you might be responsible for additional household costs, like repairs and maintenance. Renting, owning, and maintaining a home are all cheaper when a couple can contribute to the costs!
2. Other Cost-of-Living Expenses
In addition to home prices, the cost of living has gone up in general. Inflation has been increasing steadily for the past couple years, hitting a high of over 9% most recently. Our daily expenses have swelled—from the necessities like groceries, to the luxuries like restaurants and bars.
Sharing expenses with a spouse means sharing the burden of some of these rising costs. For example, it is notoriously difficult to cook for one person alone. It’s easier—and cheaper—to buy in bulk and cook large meals that can be shared or stored away. And harder to get sick of them! Groceries often come in quantities that make it difficult for one person to use them up without waste. Buying in bulk, and knowing that it will be used, allows married couples to save on deals and discounts, and cook nutritious meals together that can save them a few bucks.
It is also cheaper to get a shared cell phone plan and split it than to pay for a single line. In an article for Vox, Rebecca Jennings explains how she struck a deal to stay on her parents cell phone plan: “Because my older sister had stayed on my parents’ plan until she got married, I decided that the same should be true for me.” Even if that date was in no way in the near future for Jennings, she makes a valid point—that many Millennials wait for the day when they’ll share a cell phone plan with a spouse to get off their parents plan.
And as Jennings explains, this is because—if you’re using one of the major phone carriers—Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile—sticking with a shared plan is cheaper than breaking off for an individual plan. For carriers, it’s beneficial to lock-in multiple people into a package deal, and to entice them to stay with cheaper prices.
You can also save money on other essentials, like health insurance. If you don’t have health insurance but your spouse does, it’s far cheaper to join your spouse’s health insurance plan than to have an individual plan. The average monthly cost of health insurance for an individual today is over $400, whereas joining your spouse’s health insurance may mean a monthly “surcharge” of $100—or as low as $20 more per month, depending on the plan. Compared to obtaining health insurance through your partner in a domestic partnership, doing the same through your spouse is much more cost effective. If you’re married, adding your spouse to your insurance plan won’t bump up your “income”—which places you into a higher tax bracket, eating into your monthly take-home.
As a married couple, you can also share subscriptions. These days, 78% of households have streaming subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Max, Peacock, and more. As a couple, you can share passwords or even create separate profiles for family members. If you have other subscriptions—for example, a meal-prep box subscription like Blue Apron or a cleaning service subscription like Handy—you can also split those costs with your spouse.
Lastly, you may receive a larger tax return when you’re married and file jointly. According to TurboTax, “Joint filers receive one of the largest standard deductions each year, allowing them to deduct a significant amount of income when calculating taxable income.” If you earn a higher salary than your spouse, you may be pulled into a lower tax bracket and thus may pay less taxes. Spouses filing jointly also qualify for several different tax credits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.
If you’re a married couple with dependents, the tax benefits are even greater. The Child Tax Credit means, in 2022, up to $3,000 per qualifying child over the age of six and up to $3,600 for each qualifying child under six. This credit applies for families earning under $150,000 together filing jointly, meaning it will apply for most families with two wage-earners earning the median US income.
So, Can Marriage Save You Money?
The answer is: yes, marriage can save you money! Splitting costs has become essential in our current economic climate, in which the cost of living is rising and wages are stagnating. Marriage can actually save you money by allowing you to share your expenses with a partner, and in turn support each other both emotionally and financially. Though it may not seem traditionally “romantic,” sharing expenses is increasingly considered an act of love—a way to help the people you love the most thrive, as you thrive in turn.
If you want to be best prepared going into your marriage, consider getting a prenup with the help of HelloPrenup, the premier platform for creating prenuptial agreements online! By getting a prenup, you and your partner can have ultimate control over how assets are split if things ever go south. (not saying it will, but who doesn’t want that extra piece of marriage insurance?)
Julia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected].