In this episode, we play the game of: Read the manual or hire the manual labor? New Home Edition.
Many engaged couples are opting to prioritize their savings on a down payment for a new home over an extravagant wedding ceremony. Some couples who move in together may accidentally find themselves in a scenario where they are sharing major costs without having established a spending plan. For many modern couples who say “I do” to a shared home before saying “I do” at the altar, there is a fair way to approach the costs of owning a new home without taking the romance out of the process. If you are one of those couples, then read on!
Deciding to get a prenuptial agreement can be a first step in shared financial decision making. After all, a healthy marriage includes making smart and safe financial decisions together. We recommend a planned, honest discussion where, as a couple, you make a list of anticipated monthly and one-time major expenses for the year ahead. For DIY projects and furniture purchases, it helps to visualize each indoor and outdoor space of your home and consider what tasks are best done in certain seasons of the year. For example, if you plan on investing in solar panels, you will want to get an old roof replaced first.
Once you have an idea of what you will need to purchase for your new shared home and associated expenses, determine what portion of your income you need to cover for the things in life that matter to you personally — i.e., a gym membership, streaming subscription, or mountain biking hobby. Come up with multiple scenarios for how to allocate percentages of your income to joint needs versus individual needs versus savings.
One HelloPrenup couple interviewed shared:
“keeping personal accounts for individual purchases allows us to retain our sense of individual spending power. We have joint checking and a savings account for joint spending on our house. We are also getting a joint rewards credit card so those points can be applied for honeymoon traveling when we have been vaccinated.”
We interviewed several HelloPrenup users about the problems they encountered and projects they took on as a couple in their first year of home ownership, and whether they suggest reading the manual (saving money and spending time) or hiring the manual labor (saving time and spending money). Read the new homeowner tasks below and decide for yourself what is worth your time and money when it comes to improving and maintaining your new home!
#7. Basic landscaping: Read the manual
Recreating a garden scape from an image is not rocket science! Adding edging to create a boundary between areas of your lawn creates contrast and helps highlight natural slopes in the terrain. Discuss with your partner what areas of the yard space you would like to highlight — these low-stakes conversations are a great way to practice compromising now that you have made the significant step of merging your two lives into one shared space.
Look through different edging materials and figure out which garden tools you will need to do the initial landscaping. We recommend investing in durable tools that will last long into your relationship. Cover the cost with your joint checking or savings account and consider using your joint credit card towards purchasing major appliances.
#6. Digging French drains: Hire the manual labor
If you live in low-lying lands, like our HelloPrenup user in this scenario, you may be more likely to encounter flooding issues that cost a pretty penny to repair. Upon moving into their new shared home, our user and their fiancé quickly discovered that the backyard would turn into a pond after any rainstorm. “We moved from the city to the suburbs, so we didn’t have much experience with landscaping. At first we thought it would be a piece of cake, but quickly realized we were in over our heads.”
If the problem involves several complex factors like calculating slope and digging what is essentially an entire moat around your home, put the shovel down and call a team to take care of a task that is labor-intensive, sometimes paused due to setbacks, but easily accomplished within a few days. Hiring someone to take care of this may cost a pretty penny – but you will be pleased with a result that would have taken you and your partner weeks to finish. Opt for the credit card rewards on this one — your payment toward French drains may help steer you toward the French Riviera!
#5. Planting a garden: Read the manual
You don’t have to be able to name every flower to keep one alive. One HelloPrenup user interviewed share how they built their rectangular planting box in a backyard space that gets ample sunlight. They also fashioned a wall-hanging herb garden out of an old pallet. “We didn’t have much experience gardening, and living in Brooklyn didn’t have much space.” Even if neither of you has much of a green thumb, gardening is a great task to learn with a partner. Setting a routine for how often to water and trim your plants is good practice for nurturing your own relationship. Plus, it’s fun to drive to your local greenery with your partner and go through the outdoor aisles figuring out what flower, tree, and bush combinations you like.
If you opt to buy seeds, keep in mind that many of the seeds for flowers, vegetables, and herbs will need to start inside. Indoor planter starter kits can easily be purchased from an online retailer like Amazon. Cover the cost with your joint checking or savings account — this task will not set you back too far, and the return in joy you feel from getting to cook home-grown vegetables in your meals together as a couple will be worth the amount you spend.
#4. Building a shed: Hire the manual labor
One of our HelloPrenup users says that building a shed together in the backyard almost ruined her engagement. “We moved in together, and were talking about whether to buy a self-assembled shed or pay to have a significantly more expensive pre-assembled shed delivered. We wondered how hard could this really be? Now we realize how naïve we were. The shed arrived on time, in over 100 plastic pieces with poor labeling, and a 100+ page manual with almost no labeling. To add to the initial frustration, it was in the middle of the pandemic summer and emotions were already tense.” Conclusion: This is not recommended!
While our user and their partner managed to build a shed that is still standing almost one year later, and just fine to look at (if you aren’t standing too close), they would still recommend ordering a pre-assembled shed: “That way you can spend your time focusing on other goals that don’t involve unscrewing twenty screws that you drilled in the wrong way because you didn’t listen to your partner who thought you might be doing it wrong.”
#3. Hanging pictures: Read the manual
One of our Hello Prenup users said that this new homeowner activity helped bring him closer to his partner. Many couples might get contentious over which paintings and photographs to hang up in which location. With a level, a pencil, and a tape measure, hanging pictures is a simple task that is best done with two people — one to hammer in nails and the other to stand from a distance checking for level lines.
If your combined artwork does not constitute much of a collection, do not feel rushed to fill in all the gaps. Make it an activity to go browsing through art galleries and farmers markets featuring local art. Enjoy discovering what you like together. If you are a well-traveled couple, consider highlighting photographs from some of your favorite destinations. Art and frames can be surprisingly costly — we recommend going slow, so using your joint checking or savings account to cover the costs should keep you at a regular pace.
#2. Installing blinds: Hire the manual labor
Some things we do automatically, like breathing. These unconscious functions allow us to focus our conscious attention on more important matters, like the privacy and ambience of your home.
Misalignments resulting from improperly cut or installed blinds can be glaring. If you purchase a home that has windows with myriad measurements, the task can be even more daunting. Home improvement stores like Lowe’s offer measuring and installation services. Using a home improvement measuring and installation service can be an investment, but one that can increase the enjoyment of your home for the long run. Just like no one wants to need to focus on breathing to survive, we do not want the focus of a beautiful room to be hijacked by a crooked panel. Use the credit card to get rewards for the measuring, cutting, and installation of your blinds, which can exceed $1,000 depending on the number of windows in your home.
#1. Wiring dimmer lights – Hire someone.
The bottom line? Do not do electrical wiring on your own. Although you do not have to be a certified electrician to adjust the lighting of your space, it can prove dangerous to do tasks like this on your own.
One of our HelloPrenup users shared that adding dimmer lights was one of the best changes they made to their living room, kitchen, and bedroom space: “It gave us this pleasant middle space between pitch dark and blaring bright. We read more as a couple now, and it’s easier to fall asleep because our eyes aren’t having to adjust so much.”
What new homeowner goals will you set your sights on with your partner in 2021? In discussing your shared savings and spending plan with your partner, think about what challenges you can anticipate based on the condition and location of your home.
Remember that planning is all about creating flexibility while paving the way for results. Preparing for the future does not mean that you are setting things in stone that cannot be changed later — it means that you can have the luxury of deviating from a plan you can save for another time. When it comes to protecting your assets in a loving relationship, take the time and money to invest in a prenuptial agreement that allows you to essentially “write your own manual.”
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