Financial management is one of the areas that married couples fight about the most. The conflict involving finances may be exacerbated if the husband and wife have different and even incompatible views of managing money or if one or both are financially irresponsible.
In this post, I will present some tips that you can use to not only minimize or eliminate fights over money but also to manage your money in such a way that you would be able to accomplish your goals involving finances. There isn’t a single one-size-fits-all financial management strategy that all married couples should follow because all are different. However, the tips provided herein will help couples to develop their own financial management strategy that works for them.
Talk About Money Before You Are Married
The time to discover your spouse’s disposition about money management is not after the wedding ceremony. The time to discover your spouse’s thoughts about managing money is before engagement. By the time you are engaged, you should already know that the person is compatible with you, and one of those areas of compatibility should be finances.
It is important that you know before marriage and perhaps even before engagement that your mate is financially responsible. Entering into a marriage with a financially irresponsible person could be devastating to the marriage whether you manage the family finances jointly or separately.
Always Work on Your Marriage Relationship
The first thing that I suggest a married couple should do is to consistently work on their marriage. Like anything else, if you want something to prosper and produce fruit, then you must nurture it and work at it. So, if the husband and wife want to handle finances responsibly and effectively, then it is imperative that they build a good relationship and happy marriage so that they will have a good foundation to endure the challenges that will happen in their relationship.
Communicate About Money
One of the most important things you can do in marriage is to communicate and yet this seems to be one of the most neglected. Talk to your spouse about how the money will be used, how much you want to save, how much you will give to charity, etc. Talk about your general philosophy about money. The more you talk about money management, then the more you can develop a money management strategy that you both can support and that will help you accomplish your family goals.
Pray To God About Your Finances
The Bible tells us that if we lack wisdom, then we should ask God for wisdom in faith knowing that He has given it to us (James 1:5-8). Use the wisdom mixed with togetherness to agree upon and implement a financial plan for the household. With the wisdom of God, you can have the confidence that you will be able to construct a financial management plan that will benefit you and your wife, in addition to helping you to fulfill your God-given goals as a couple.
Develop a Budget Together
Each of you should have a say so in how the money is spent in the household. Though you both may have separate incomes, you must think of that money as belonging to the whole, i.e., the union of husband and wife. This doesn’t mean that you must forfeit your own desires. You should always use some of your money for yourself. The Bible declares that we should eat, drink, and enjoy the fruits of our labor for that is a gift from God (See Proverbs 5:18-19). However, the money that you and your spouse make from your job or business should be put together (at least partially) to meet the needs of the family, and you both should develop the budget to manage how that money is divided among the expenses, savings, etc.
The goal here is to promote financial responsibility between the husband and wife. The budget doesn’t have to be complicated, but rather a plan for how the money coming into the household is allocated for expenses (e.g., bills, savings, personal, etc.). Keep it simple.
Use a Joint Bank Account?
Should you and your spouse have separate bank accounts? Ideally, a joint account is preferred, but it does depend on the couple. If there is a high degree of trust and financial responsibility between both, then a joint account is probably the preferred option. Trust and responsibility are key here. If there isn’t a degree of trust, financial responsibility, and even commitment to the marriage, then a joint account may not be a good idea, and that indicates that perhaps you should work on your relationship first.
The important thing is that the two of you agree on the bank account arrangement and that the bills are paid, money is saved, you’re working towards a common objective, etc. If that means that you have separate bank accounts and hubby is responsible for the gas bill and wifey is responsible for the electric bill, then so be it. As long as it works.
I do believe that things that are purchased jointly should have a joint bank account behind it. For example, if the mortgage is in both of your names, then it seems reasonable that there is a joint bank account where the money to pay the mortgage, and other joint expenses, is kept. That way, either of you can write a check to pay the mortgage if necessary, for example.
With that said, couples should not keep secrets from each other, especially financial ones. If you do have a separate stash, then your spouse should at least know about it. Keeping secrets about money from your spouse is a bad seed for the marriage because one day he or she may find out about it and trust will be severely challenged at that point, e.g., “What else are you not telling me?”
Discuss Your Financial Goals
You may notice a theme here. A married couple should communicate about everything. This especially applies to the discussion of money and things pertaining to it. Therefore, the husband and wife should spend the time to discuss their financial dreams or dreams that will require a financial plan. Perhaps you want to have a vacation home in Florida, as my wife and I want, or to take some time off to travel someplace for an extended vacation. Perhaps you want to start a business together or whatever. The important thing is that you spend time together communicating these dreams and goals and then work together to make them happen.
Money Management Responsibilities
Someone should take the responsibility of managing the money with respect to maintaining the budget and keeping track of expenses. This could be done jointly, or one of you will take responsibility. The important thing is that the responsibility for managing the finances is established. Agree on who will pay the bills, keep track of the bank accounts, gather records for taxes, etc. However, always work on the overall goals and methodologies for managing the household finances jointly. Do not put that burden on one person alone.
Commit to the Plan
All the planning and communicating in the world will be useless if you and your spouse do not stick to the plan. If you have created a budget and have decided who will be responsible for managing the money, then you both must commit to the plan. Don’t decide one day that you are going to purchase a brand new vehicle without discussing it with your spouse. Do not spend money outside of your own personal discretionary money as indicated in the budget without talking it over with your spouse. This is especially true if money is already tight. Stick to the budget and consistently work towards your financial goals.
It is very important that you save some money for that rainy day. You never know when an emergency will occur or perhaps something that you want to get just for your enjoyment will come up. Save money for those unexpected expenses that will happen—good or bad.
You can save money for general things that may happen in the future or for specific goals that you may have. For example, you may put a percentage of your money away for your children’s college education or you may save money to purchase your dream home five years from now. Whatever the reason, be sure to save money in case you need it later.
Don’t Blame Your Spouse for Hardships
Life happens and humans will make mistakes. This is true with the finances of a married couple. Do not point fingers at your spouse to blame him or her for your misfortune, even if it is mostly their fault. For one thing, blaming your spouse will not solve the problem, and you could just as well make a similar mistake. Don’t judge so that you won’t be judged (Matthew 7:1).
If your spouse is laid off from work or the like, then encourage him or her and work together to make things work. Trust God to be with you and go through it. You may have some hard times to go through but be assured that blaming and criticizing each other will not help, but rather make things worse.
Avoid Fighting About Money
Let’s face it. Regardless of how much a couple loves each other, sooner or later, they are going to make each other angry. The wife is going to do something that sets the husband off and vice versa. The ideal thing to do is work it out without fighting. Fighting is counterproductive and a waste of time and energy. After the fight is over, you are no closer to the resolution of the problem.
So be angry and don’t fight. Communicate your feelings to your spouse or perhaps decide that the situation isn’t worth an emotional response in the first place. Just learn to take control of your emotions and not fight about money.
What do I mean by fighting? I am not suggesting that you won’t get angry and not have words for your spouse. What I am suggesting is that you do not allow your emotions to run away, resulting in you attacking your spouse with angry outbursts, harmful words, accusations, etc. Conflict is inevitable in any relationship and on the other side of that conflict is a resolution. However, that conflict doesn’t have to be malicious or disrespectful.
Finance is a critical area in the marriage relationship. It demands a level of trust and commitment to each other and to the plans that you discuss with each other. It also requires financial responsibility. A married couple should ideally be together as one, and that includes finances.
A couple should work at their marriage, communicate frequently about finances and everything else, develop a household budget, discuss goals and dreams, and more. The financial management strategy used by a couple reflects the scope and condition of their relationship, e.g., the level of trust, the level of commitment, etc. As long as the financial management strategy that a couple agrees upon and implements works for them, then well. It could always change as the trust and commitment increase or are restored.