Money and marriage. Why are they so hard to mix?? Did you know money is the second leading cause why once happily married couples wind up sitting across from each other in divorce court? Whether you feel like you’re on your way or you are just trying to be preventative (high hive!) here are eight tips about marriage and money that will definitely help… But you’ve got to put your ego on the shelf.
1. You're the problem
I bet you have your reasons why your spouse is causing all the financial trouble. They eat out for lunch all the time, they keep buying new clothes, they don’t pay the bills on time, they spend too much on Christmas… yadda yadda.
Sounds convincing. But here’s the naked (eek) truth my friend. You’re the problem. I’ll say it again. You’re the problem.
How are you the problem?
Because you’re married. There are two of you now. When you got married you promised to be selfless… yet here we are.
Either you’ve lost your spine and are letting your spouse run wild or YOU are running wild and ignoring the begging of your spouse to pump. the. brakes. Or possibly you both have put blinders on and are just flying by the seat of your pants, delightfully putting off the day that you check your credit card statement.
Perhaps there isn’t really any detrimental spending going on. Perhaps you just have no direction and aren’t working as a team. No matter how you dice it, you are (at the very least), part of the problem.
So how do we fix it?
Do the exact thing you don’t want to do.
Maybe you don’t want to set a budget, or you don’t want to confront your spouse. Or just maybe you don’t want to listen to your spouse (and heaven forbid show a little humility).
Perhaps it’s goal setting. Maybe your goals don’t align so it’s just easier not to talk about it (been there).
It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable, but whatever it is, buckle up and do what you don’t want to. That is where money maturity begins within your marriage.
2. You need joint bank accounts
I swear people want to fight me to the death on this one.
Here’s my argument:
You can’t hide.
You can’t hide your transactions from your spouse. Your spending habits are as naked (that’s twice I’ve said naked… oh dear) as a jay-bird when you share an account. They can even see when you pull cash out from an ATM or get cash back from the grocery store. And my darlin’, transparency is always better in marriage.
It keeps both spouses involved in the finances.
I’ve heard people say “Oh, I’m horrible with numbers so my spouse handles the finances.” And I always think… “That’s not fair… you are using that excuse to skirt around your marriage-given responsibility.”
Here’s the thing. I don’t care if one spouse is in charge of making sure the bills get paid, but if the other spouse doesn’t even have ACCESS to the accounts, THEY HAVE ZERO ACCOUNTABILITY!!!
And beyond that, one spouse dominating and controlling the finances creates a parent-child relationship instead of a marital relationship. It does NOT enable responsibility, self-accountability or teamwork! And you’re a team duh. Include your spouse or include yourself in the finances. Ignorance is not (long-term) bliss here.
3. Your voice is offensive to Your marriage + your money
Money makes people go batty. I’ve witnessed some seriously crazy disputes over money between friends and family. Take away the money and people behave. But add those greenbacks in there and it can quickly resemble a WWE Smackdown.
How you talk or react to your spouse regarding finances can literally make or break your marriage.
Let’s have a gut check:
~Are you letting your voice cause more damage than the money being discussed?
~Are you ignoring your spouse’s attempts to work something out?
~Do you scream and yell at your spouse when you talk about money (or any other topic)?
~Do you call your spouse derogatory names during money talks?
It doesn’t matter how frustrating things are, you can’t fight fire with fire.
Tips from a marriage counselor:
Here are a few tips my husband and I learned from a marriage counselor a few years ago that have helped us improve from loud, frustrating money arguments to simple check-ups and chats about expenses and goals.
Sit next to each other, not across from each other. Seriously, this seems like it wouldn’t even matter, but sitting across from each other tells your subconscious that you are on opposing teams and to defend yourself. You’re married, so you’re on the same team yo! Cuddle up next to each other.
Use the phrase “I have a request.” There is absolute magic in this phrase. It opens up a person instead of automatically putting them on the defense. We use this phrase on many other subjects (Chik Fil-A being one), but I’m telling you, it’s absolute magic when used respectfully regarding marriage and money.
Use the word “we” instead of “you.” Nobody likes to be blamed or criticized, By using the word “we” you are saying that you are shouldering some of the burden as well, which is how it should be. You’re married and you are a team. If the ship sinks, you both go down together… so…
Watch your tone and don’t yell. I’ve had so many people tell me that they don’t talk money at all with their spouse because they just get yelled at. For them, it’s easier to keep the peace and deal with the financial trauma than to stomach the verbal abuse. But that won’t last long…
(Two words for the yeller: Stop it. You’re digging the trench between you two deeper each time and the effects are going way beyond money (your kids are watching). Communication needs to happen respectfully and successfully. If you can’t handle yourself, go to a public place where you have to behave, like a restaurant or the library.)
4. You're not hiding anything
You might think that you look like you’re holding it all together on the outside, but the truth is, the only person you’re fooling is yourself.
You can’t stretch out your credit card debt forever. You can’t job hop ten times each year and stay afloat. You can’t get a new toy every three months and live to tell the tale. Sooner or later you’re going to get burned and you’re the only one that can’t see it coming.
People who are smart with their money and their marriage are playing the long game. They aren’t looking to impress people for no good reason. They aren’t looking for short gains, and they definitely aren’t fiddle-farting around with consumer debt… like you are.
So break down your facade and get a budget for heaven sake. And get the heck out of debt! You’re damaging your reputation by pretending to be something you’re not.
5. You'RE THE WORST at creating boundaries
It was in the shower the other day that this thought struck me as I was contemplating my own finances, “My surroundings aren’t going to change. There is always going to be something I want, something I need, or something new to buy. I have to improve. I have got to get even better at saying no to myself.”
And it’s so true! The commercial world is never going to change. In fact, it’s only going to get worse. You have to learn (and practice!!!) saying “no” to yourself. There is always going to be never-ending options for you to spend your money. That will never change. YOU have to be the one to change… and it starts with “no.”
So sit down with your spouse and set some boundaries with each other. Discuss your values and set some goals. Then practice each day saying “no”.
Your financial happiness literally depends on your ability to do so.
6. You can't afford your car (You already knew that though... didn't you)
Did you know the average payment on a car in the US is just under $500??? Did you know that American’s owe over $1.1 Trillion dollars in auto debt? Let me put that into perspective for you. If we divided that much debt among the entire US population, every. single. person. would owe $3,056 dollars. EVERY PERSON!!! Houston, we have a problem here!
Why are we being hoodwinked into signing away our lives on a CAR?? There are too many cars out there that you could purchase with cash and then upgrade in two or three years! Why spend so much money (that you don’t have, let me remind you…) on something that literally just gets you from point A to point B like all the rest?
Seriously ask yourself that question. Why do you own a car you can’t afford (and remember you can’t afford it if you’ve taken out a loan… it’s not a matter of whether or not you can afford the payments)? Is it to impress someone? Is it to make yourself feel better? Is it because everyone else is doing it and you need to fit in?
Get rid of your loan or get rid of your car. Don’t reserve your future money for something you have now. That’s not financial growth, that’s financial prison.
7. You're setting your children up for failure
Your children are watching you. They may not listen to you, but they are most definitely, without a doubt, watching you. They watch how you treat other people, they watch how you handle confrontation, they watch how you eat, and they definitely watch how you spend your money.
If you don’t know how to put a lid on your spending, your children won’t either. If it’s totally the norm at your house to whip out the credit card at a moments notice, your children will too.
Fast forward a few years and you’ll be wondering why you have a lazy bum for a young adult child on your couch who can’t keep a dime to their name (although perhaps that sounds too familiar). Fast forward to your child’s first years of marriage and tears being shed for the consumer debt now consuming a young family. Fast forward a few years, and you’ll wish you handled your money instead of letting it handle you.
8. You're more wasteful than the garbage man on a windy day
This perhaps isn’t totally your fault (nor is it the garbage man’s), but you still need to be aware. We live in a time now where it is easier to buy something new than it is to fix something of old. The thought crosses my mind all the time. “Oh, I could just buy a new one quicker than it’ll take me to find the old one!”
Start paying attention to your spending habits. It is so much easier to spend money instead of solving a problem, but that does two things:
1. It creates clutter and overwhelm within your marriage. More stuff does not create any type of peace.
2. It ruins your budget. Here or there, small replacement purchases are not going to make a big difference, but if replacement purchases become the norm, then you’ll quickly realize how fast you are capable of draining your bank account.
Do the hard thing. Try to fix what is broken, find what is lost and save what is left over. You’ll safeguard your marriage and money without even realizing what you’re doing.