Money is one of the leading causes of divorce and for some couples, it is at the center of almost every fight. Money is no small part of our lives, and therefore no small part of our marriages. So how can we handle money better with our spouses?
Whether you fight about money, try your best to ignore it, or manage it well, here are 4 key ideas to help improve both your marriage and your finances.
1. Money is just a tool
One of the reasons we tend to get emotional about money is that many of us equate money with success or otherwise draw a connection between our wealth and our worth as an individual. It becomes very easy to start feeling inadequate if our house, career, or cars aren’t on the same level as those of our friends and acquaintances.
In these moments of comparison, instead of becoming critical, allow yourself to take a step back and realize that money does not define your identity. Money does not make you a better parent or spouse, nor does getting more of it mean you will be happier. When emotions rise, remind yourself that money is just a tool, nothing more.
2. Opposites attract
Most marriages are comprised of two spouses who approach money in completely different ways. Often, one spouse is the math nerd/saver who loves playing with numbers, getting great deals, and is a natural saver. The other spouse is more of a free spirit who takes things as they come, prefers not to talk about money, and spends freely always assuming the money will be there when they need it.
In your discussions and decision making, express your ideal situation to each other and then work at creating a compromise that makes each spouse feel comfortable. Consider cutting an extra expense in order to both increase your savings and and have a weekly spending allowance for each of you. This example is an easy solution that meets the needs of both spouses.
3. Work backwards
After you’ve figured out who the spender is and who the saver is, it can still be difficult to talk about day to day money decisions. Maybe your spouse received a Christmas bonus and wants to take the family on a ski vacation while you would like to put the money toward savings for a kitchen renovation. How do you decide what to do with the money?
While making these decisions, it is often easier to start by dreaming about your long-term goals together. What excites you as a couple? Do you dream of owning a lake house one day, paying for your kids’ college, or traveling after retirement? Have some fun dreaming together and then work backwards from your dreams to help inform your current day decisions. You may find that while you both love skiing you know that in order to sell your house and travel after you retire, the kitchen really needs to be updated. So, you decide to use a small portion of the bonus for a weekend away at a local ski lodge, and put the rest towards the kitchen renovation.
4. You need a budget
For most people, the word budget makes their skin crawl. They quickly conjure up images in their mind of a financial prison cell keeping them from their favorite stores and locking their wallet in shackles. And for some couples, the word budget immediately sparks a heated fight filled with blame shifting and anger.
But, there’s good news. It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, a budget is nothing more than a plan. A plan that you create. A budget helps you figure out exactly where and on what you will spend it so you know ahead of time what you can (and cannot) afford.
Every couple should have a written and agreed upon budget. And I promise, it can be fun! Set aside some time each day one of you gets paid to go through the budget and decide how to allocate the new income. Buy a bottle of wine or some of your favorite snacks and make it an enjoyable experience.
The goal here is to create a budget that you are both comfortable with. If you both have a knack for spending, make sure there’s some money set aside for miscellaneous spending. If one of you needs new clothes for an interview, make sure it’s in the budget. If you disagree on a category, spend some time talking about what each of you would like to see happen and then work at creating a compromise that makes you both comfortable. At the end of the meeting, congratulate yourselves on taking control of your money rather than letting it control you.
Question: Have you and your spouse tried budgeting before? Tell us your experience below! You can leave a comment by clicking here.
This week’s blog is by a special guest, my newly hired assistant, Danielle Darnell. She and her husband Jake have rapidly become great friends and partners with us in ministry for which we are very thankful! Danielle is passionate about teaching people simple principles to quickly and easily understand and gain control of their personal finances. She loves helping people move past intimidation and instead become inspired to manage their money in a way that will leave a legacy for others. Check out her blog at www.simple-cents.com for more on how to start a budget, get out of debt, and take control of your finances.