Money Magazine reports that 70% of couple fight about money. This means that money is the number one source of tension in a marriage ahead of fighting over how to raise children and how often to have sex. Of course, money is not the real issue. Often these fights are more about who makes the decision to spend money, who feels shortchanged when money is spent and feelings surrounding financial security. If you have ever heard Patty and I’s story concerning finances, you know that how we spent, saved, and managed money was a significant issue in our early and middle years.
Take it from us, getting a little perspective surrounding money can have huge dividends when it comes to creating a peaceful home where both of your needs are being met. Here are a few things to think about:
Stay Out of Debt
In our culture this is a challenge, especially for a young couple. We want comfortable homes now without necessarily having the income necessary to afford one. Most couples will go into debt to purchase a home. Before you do, have a long discussion on the home you need versus the home you want and how much debt is “allowable” for a home. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your home is an “investment.” The money you spend on a larger home than you need will be better invested in a long-term investment and will almost always pay larger dividends over time.
Additionally, keep away from insecure debt like credit cards. Have discussions over “ground rules” for debt. One young couple I know have committed to no more than one purchase on credit at a time. When they make a credit purchase, they refuse to use their credit card again until the debt is paid off. Also consider creating a ground rule that credit can only be used in the event there is a critical need. A Play-Station 12 is not a need.
Create an Emergency Fund
Put aside $500 to $1000 for emergencies. This helps calm the financial worrier as they know there is an emergency net to land in if necessary.
Discuss Large Purchases
Another rule that may be helpful is to set a limit on how much either of you can spend during the week. Depending on your income, either of you may be able to spend up to $100 a week without checking with the other. However, if you need to spend over $100 on an item, then a discussion is necessary before hand. Any time a large purchase is needed there should be a discussion and some sort of agreement on how to move forward. Remember to consider the other person’s concerns and desires and respond in love and with grace. This is especially important when the money is being spent on something one person wants that the other is rather indifferent to. I like technology and my wife is fine posting to Facebook with smoke signals and is fiscally conservative. Sometimes she won, sometimes I won, but the important thing was that neither of us felt the other was being insensitive to the other person’s desires.
Think About Retirement
I know it feels like it is a lifetime away but start planning now. What are your dreams for retirement? Where do you want to live? What do you want to do? Start dreaming and planning now as the dreams you have for tomorrow will be funded by the investments you make today. Even if it is just a few dollars a month, start investing in your future now.
You Are in This Together
Remember that your finances are a team effort. I am always concerned when couples keep their money separate, have hidden accounts or hide purchases from one another. Any lack of transparency in how we spend, use and save our money should be openly shared and often discussed. American Express found that 33% of men and 40% of women have hidden purchases from their spouse. This lack of transparency can be a killer to intimacy and can have far reaching effects. Instead, have periodic “State of the Union” discussions and make your finances a topic of conversation. Be willing to discuss:
• How much are we saving?
• How are our investment’s doing?
• How much are we investing in kingdom work?
• How much do we have to spend on something fun?
• Is there something we need to save for specifically? (washer, TV, computer, vacation)
Having discussions and making plans together can strengthen a relationship, even when finances are tight. Keep in mind that things may not always be tough in the finance department. Wages increase and kids grow up and leave home. Wisdom in the early years lays the groundwork for less stress over the marathon of a marriage but it is remembering that you are in this together that keeps a marriage strong.