Money is definitely the number one topic that couples fight about. Why is this? Money is complicated. It’s necessary to have money in order to live. It’s necessary to make money. And it’s often difficult to be on the same page as your partner when it comes to your views about money.
It’s very typical to have one person in a marriage that is the Saver, and one that is the Spender. This automatically creates conflict. When one person wants to save (for the future, emergencies, rainy days), and the other wants to live and enjoy life by spending money, a conflict will ensue.
So how do you successfully navigate money in your marriage? Today I’m going to discuss some ways you can work together towards proactively addressing money in your marriage. It takes a lot of work, but things can be better, and it’s possible to be on the same page.
It’s important to have boundaries in marriage when it comes to money. Some boundaries include sticking to a budget, communicating about big expenses, or not making secret purchases. Boundaries are meant to protect your marriage, not control. By setting boundaries and sticking to them, you communicate to your spouse that you respect them, and you respect your marriage.
One boundary that we have implemented is a $100 Rule. What this means is that anytime either one of us wants to buy something over $100 (our rule doesn’t apply to groceries), we have to run it by the other person. This allows us to avoid a lot of conflict and stress over money. It allows the other person to put us in check (for example, is this purchase necessary, is the timing right, and is the money in the bank account actually set aside for something else?). It creates financial accountability and keeps us from derailing our goals. Keep in mind that the $100 Rule could be more or less depending on your financial situation.
What money boundaries do you need to set in your marriage? Could a $100 Rule benefit the two of you?
It’s important for a couple to set financial goals together. This allows you both to dream together and talk about your wishes for the future. If you want to plan a trip to Hawaii for your 10-year anniversary, then you both have a common goal to work towards. If the goal is early retirement, then you work together as a team to sacrifice and make it happen. Having financial goals helps you collaborate, communicate, and accomplish things together.
What kind of money goals do you and your spouse have? Do you have dreams that you want to accomplish or places that you want to visit? What do you need to do to make those dreams a reality?
Have Regular Meetings about Money
My husband and I have a monthly meeting every month about money. We take a look at our finances, what we brought in, and what expenses went out. We check to see if we are on-track to achieve the goals we have set together. Sometimes we make a date night out of it, and sometimes it’s just a quick 5-10 minute meeting when there’s not a lot to discuss.
This monthly meeting holds us accountable to one another. If we overspent for the month, we take a look at why and what happened. Maybe we end up putting less in savings, or maybe we decide to forego a big purchase for another month. The most important thing is to COMMUNICATE. We both get a say and we both listen to the other person’s perspective. Sometimes the monthly meeting is even a little fun. We get to plan vacations, set goals for some big purchases, and decide the timeline for when we will pull the trigger on some of the things we want.
How could a monthly meeting benefit you? Could you carve out the time to make it happen?
Be Proactive versus Reactive with Money
One of the most important ways that you can keep yourselves out of financial trouble is to set a budget. Sit down, look at the money coming in, look at your fixed expenses each month, and figure out what money is left over for “extras” each month. Figure out a way to track your monthly spending, whether it’s by using a cash-only system, an app to help account for expenses, or even balancing your checkbook.
The most financially successful people I know get really good at knowing their money situation. They plan for big expenses and can account for every dollar they spend. They work as a team to be proactive with their money, instead of reacting when there is an emergency money situation (like the air conditioning going out or a car not running). They plan for emergencies because they know life happens.
What proactive steps do you need to take in your marriage when it comes to money? Could you benefit from a budget? Do you have an emergency fund in place?
Be Open and Honest
No matter what, be open and honest with your spouse. Don’t keep secrets. Don’t hide money from them or purchases from them. This is called financial infidelity.
Financial infidelity occurs when couples hide money, have secret bank accounts or credit cards, or make big purchases without telling their spouse. This is a very slippery slope in marriage. Think about what will happen when your spouse finds out. Trust gets broken in your marriage and your spouse may feel betrayed or hurt. You may end up putting your family in a financially sticky situation.
Are you committing financial infidelity? Are there some things you need to be more open with your spouse about?
If you are reading any of the above tips and realize your marriage is not in a good place, please reach out for help. Counseling can give you both a safe space to learn to communicate money in a healthy way.
Here are my favorite resources for financial stability:
Written by Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW
*Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Journey to Joy Counseling in Carmel, Indiana. Christy enjoys doing marriage/couples counseling, individual counseling, premarital counseling. She also provides family counseling, teen and adolescent counseling.