Whether its buying a new flat or raising a child, there are many major expenses that a married couple will have to contend with once the euphoria of wedded bliss fades away. To help ensure your dreams of setting up a family doesn’t turn into a financial nightmare, we speak to four young couples about their money mistakes and what they learnt from them.
BUSTING THE BUDGET ON THEIR FIRST HOME
Hong Meng and Jill both loved kids and were keen to start their family once they tied the knot several years ago. They planned to have three children, and thought it would be a good idea to buy a large flat as their first home.
“We thought we would plan for the long term and buy an executive maisonette that could accommodate a family of five, as well as a helper. We knew it would be expensive, as there was limited supply and we had to buy from the resale market. But we believed then that it would be worth it in the long term,” said Hong Meng.
The couple ended up spending over $800,000 for a two-storey flat in a neighbourhood in Singapore’s north-east and close to another $40,000 for renovations and furnishings. As they did not have enough savings, the couple had to take up a bank credit line to finance the renovation costs.
While it seemed to make sense to buy a house that could accommodate their plans for a bigger family, Hong Meng and Jill had bitten off more than they could chew. “We had taken on too much debt, so a big chunk of our take-home pay was going towards repaying loans. In the end, this meant that we had to delay starting our family because we had no savings,” said Jill. “Ironically, we had this big house but no one to fill it with!”
Apart from delaying their plans for having kids, they also had to tighten their belts till they cleared their debt. This meant putting off holidays and not being able to support their parents financially.
The couple now wished that they had bought a flat within their budget. This could have meant buying a BTO flat that would have been more affordable, and also cutting down on the amount they spent on renovation and furnishing.
Read more: First-time home owners: 5 expenses you need to be prepared for
BABY BUDGET GONE WRONG
Everybody wants the best for their children, and that was no different for Vijay and May. When May was pregnant with their first child, the couple busted their budget going premium for everything that they bought or planned for their baby – such as a slew of branded items that included a car booster seat, stroller and clothes.
However, these costly purchases put a strain on their finances, especially as the baby would quickly outgrow many of these items. Some of the items ended up being unused, as they were not suitable or unnecessary.
Vijay and May realised later that they should have put in more effort in finding cheaper alternatives that would have gotten the job done just as well, without stretching their budget.
“We didn’t need to buy everything branded and brand new. We had relatives and friends with kids who could have given us pre-loved items. But we always thought that we needed to get the best for our child. We realise now that the best doesn’t have to be the most expensive,” said Vijay.
FAILING TO KEEP DEBT IN CHECK
About three years ago, Jake quit his job to pursue his dream of starting his own digital design agency. With over 10 years of industry experience and an extensive network of contacts, he had little difficulty building up an initial pool of clients.
In the first two years, his company’s revenue grew quickly. It was at this time that Jake and his wife Lisa thought it would be a good time to have a child. However, as a self-employed person, there were months where hardly any cash came in, while other months were bumper ones. To smooth out the inconsistent cashflow and ensure he could meet regular expenses — especially now that a child was coming — he took out a credit line that allowed him to draw cash whenever he needed.
Even though the credit facility charged an effective interest rate that was close to 20% per annum, Jake felt it was important to have this pool of funds available, as his wife did not work and the new addition to the home would mean more bills.
Unfortunately, Jake was not disciplined when it came to repaying outstanding amounts from the credit line. When his cashflow improved, he only repaid the minimum amount. Having cash-in-hand also gave him the false impression that they were “cash-rich”, although in reality this was money that had to be paid back with interest.
Over time, the amounts he was rolling over increased and the interest he was paying ramped up significantly. Soon he was caught in a debt trap and struggling to meet his outstanding payments every month. He soon ended up taking up a term loan to pay off the initial credit line. To make matters worse, business slowed in his third year because of a sluggish economy.
When things got desperate, Jake eventually confessed to his wife how dire their financial situation was. They decided they would ask their parents for help to clear their debt and set a strict budget to keep their regular expenses down from that point on. Over the next two years, they managed to pay their parents back.
Said Jake: “It was a very painful lesson. Thankfully, we could depend on our family for help. Now, I am very wary about using credit and always ensure that I pay back what I owe as soon as I can. We also watch our expenses very carefully.”
Starting a family is a major milestone for any married couple. However, this exciting journey can turn sour when couples get caught up in their purchases and fail to plan their finances properly.
Avoid making such money mistakes by evaluating your financial situation before setting up a family budget with your other half.