By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott
Money is one of the toughest subjects to tackle in marriage. It’s one of the top reasons married couples fight, and it’s a source of constant stress and strain for many couples around the world. But the good news is, you and your spouse can create a healthy attitude around money in your marriage if you know where to start.
It’s important to establish healthy financial practices as early in marriage as possible. Today, we’re sharing three financial habits you can establish to start out on the right foot.
BE RESPECTFUL OF EACH OTHER’S MONEY STYLE
Are you a saver, while your spouse is more of a spender? Savers and spenders have the uncanny ability of finding each other and getting married; it’s rare for both spouses to have the same financial style. And when it comes to spending versus saving, it’s important to have empathy for one another.
First, acknowledge that each of you might be a little more extreme in your stance than you need to be. When you acknowledge your spouse’s voice, it helps to prevent them from becoming more extreme in their money behaviors to protect themselves and their preferences around spending and saving.
The most important thing here is to create a sense of balance and shared ownership in your finances so neither of you acts out the most extreme version of your money tendencies. If you both decide to split bill-paying duties, that will serve as its own form of accountability.
An effective way to generate empathy for one another’s money personality is to go shopping together and reverse roles. If you’re the saver, act like the spender and have your spouse urge you to save. This could completely transform the way you each approach money because it gives you a chance to understand what kind of anxiety you create for each other when you’re digging in your financial heels by either pushing hard to spend or save.
If you’re the spender, maybe you could take over financial responsibilities for a month to see the reality of your expenses. Money will become more tangible when you’re making bank deposits and withdrawals, paying bills, and monitoring the budget. It will also give you empathy for your saver-spouse’s stance.
START A BUDGET TOGETHER
Once you’ve become more familiar with each other’s money style, start a budget. Budgets don’t work unless they’re a shared dream, so carve out some time to put your heads together and create a great starting point for your monthly finances. You’re going to want to do this together; this isn’t a solo act where one person runs the numbers and lays down the law. Look at the numbers together, talk through each issue, and chart a budget you agree on using our handy budgeting sheet (you can download a copy here).
The most important thing to realize when you’re creating a budget is that this is a work in progress; it’s not something you have to set in stone from day one. It’s not finalized; rather, it gives you a healthy starting place to operate from when it comes to spending and saving money.
Once a month, quarterly, or bi-annually, sit down together to take a look at your spending and saving patterns against the budget you established. As you review the numbers, ask yourselves what life has demanded from you in comparison to the budget you created. Talk through what’s negotiable versus what’s not, then adjust your budget to something that’s more realistic for you as a couple. (You can find a deeper dive into getting on the same page financially in this post.)
AUTOMATE YOUR SAVINGS
One of the best ways to save money every month is to put a system in place that will save for you. Set up automatic withdrawals that funnel a certain amount of money into your savings account as soon as your paychecks hit the bank; this creates a disciplined savings routine so you don’t have the option of changing your mind.
The most important thing is to build savings systems that provide automatic discipline so the hard decisions are already done for you. It’s like anything that requires willpower or sacrifice; you have to remove the temptation to spend the money by moving the money out of reach.
If you have a hard time saving toward a specific goal, set goal markers for yourself and build in gratification along the way as you reach each milestone. Maybe you allow yourselves to purchase something you’d like, or maybe you take a nice vacation. Or perhaps you can plan for small, realistic daily rewards. But be realistic; you can’t deny yourselves everything.
YOU CAN DO THIS!
It can feel a little tricky to navigate financial issues together, but you can absolutely find common ground and a way to deal with money in your marriage that works for both of you. Stay patient, empathic, and kind as you create your unique financial style as a couple. The payoff will be worth the preparation!
If you would like help with your relationship or marriage, give CornerStone Family Services a call at 614-459-3003 to talk with one of our counselors or coaches.