Most everyone hates the word “budget.” In our minds it means that someone is going to tell us what we can spend and worse, not spend. If it’s true that money tends to be one of the leading issues in American marriages, then it only makes sense to address those issues early.
Couples fight about money twice as much as they fight about sex (according to a Money Magazine). And the challenges can actually start even before you say “I do.”
After 22 years of marriage and working with hundreds of pre-marriage couples and married couples, allow me to offer these suggestions from our friends over @ www.YNAB.com:
ONE – Root Cause of the Marriage and Money Problem: Communication.
Spouses need to communicate a few things about money. And when you talk about this you need to be open and honest:
1. Goals: What do you want to do with your money?
2. Limits: What is a reasonable amount to spend without needing to discuss it previously with your spouse?
3. Budget: How much will you spend on various expenses?
TWO – Goals with Your Marriage and Money.
Problems ensue when both spouses (whether they’re both income earners) are not on the same page regarding goals. When you set and strive for goals together it will bring you closer as a couple. It is important that the goals are mutually agreed to. If the husband’s goal is to build a shop out in the backyard before he is 50, and the wife’s goal is to redecorate the house, perhaps both goals should be worked toward. Either way, the goals need to be agreed to, written down, and reviewed on a regular basis.
It can be frustrating for the income earner to feel the money is just slipping through their fingers – or feel they are working “just to get by.” It can also be frustrating for the non-income earner to feel they won’t ever have a chance at their goal because they didn’t “earn” the money. (This line of thought is prevalent and completely wrong. Where there is a stay-at-home Mom – or Dad – there is a definite and very real economic value that is being provided by the spouse. That needs to be recognized and appreciated.)
Marriage and money problems abound when one spouse feels they “do all the work” because they’ll also feel that their goals then supercede the other spouse’s. Both spouses need to appreciate the work of the other, and give room for each other’s desires in the financial picture.
Spending limits stop marriage and money problems before they start. You might be required to negotiate reasonable limits and/or goals. If the husband wants the spending limit at $10 (control freak) and the wife wants it at $100 (spend-a-holic), you’re going to need to reach a compromise. The husband cannot simply impose his will on the wife to have it at $10, and the wife can’t expect the husband to be comfortable with her proposed spending limits.
The couple needs to talk through what they want, why they want it, and then listen and compromise to reach an agreement that both are comfortable with.
Remember, the spending limit is the limit above which point a discussion must occur if a purchase is to take place. The limit tends to rise as the couple’s income rises.
THREE – The Great Peacebringer: Budgets solve money problems in marriage.
A budget is really the culmination of all three points of discussion with a couple’s money. The budget is a mini set of goals for the month. Each month the couple should sit down and assess what they have available to budget for the month (if they’re following Rule #1 they’ll be doing just that).
As the couple moves down the categories, they need to assess and realistically project what they will be needing for the month. You’ll have problems with the money side of your marriage if just one spouse budgets. Why? Because they’ll expect the other spouse to go along with it – and the other spouse certainly won’t.
There is usually one spouse in the family that is a bit more detail-oriented. They might spend more time working with the budget, and that’s okay. The important part is that both spouses sit down and hold a conference of sorts – a board meeting – and discuss where the money will be going for that month. It is critical that each spouse is completely on board with the entire budget. You can’t cut corners and you can’t be domineering. You need to give a little, negotiate, listen, compromise, and express your true concerns and wishes about your money. You’ll find these monthly sessions to be therapeutic to your marriage and money problems.
FOUR – Root Cause of Marriage and Money Problems: Selfishness.
If you are selfish with money when it comes to communicating and sharing with your spouse then you have major, major issues. I might as well paint with a broad brush: If you are selfish in any aspect of your marriage, you have major, major issues. Consider the golden rule: Treat Your Spouse as You Would Like to be Treated. Concede where necessary, and pick your battles. Remember, you are not a joint venture – you are ONE.
Your marriage and money problems will melt away if you implement these few basic principles:
(1) Set and strive for common financial goals,
(2) Set a spending limit that necessitates a discussion prior to purchase, and
(3) Budget together on a monthly basis.
And one final thing: make sure each spouse has a bit of spending money for which they do not have to be accountable to the other spouse. It does wonders for money stress and strains.