Money Magazine polled 1,010 married adults ages 25 and over with household incomes above $50,000 to find out how couples deal with their finances as a married couple. Survey results showed that 70 percent of couples argued about money more than household chores, togetherness, intimacy, snoring and what’s for dinner. In this post, find ways to have the money conversation, avoid financial mistakes and prevent fights.
I know the helpless feeling that comes along with not being on the same page as your spouse when it comes to money and I know the complete togetherness of finally seeing eye to eye and getting debt paid down. I have to say that the latter will bring you closer to your spouse while not having the same financial ideals can be devastating.
I can’t speak for other people and their marriages, but I can speak for ours. When we first got married, we fought about who would take care of paying the bills. I did for a while, but honestly numbers aren’t my thing and I wasn’t very good at saving. When Greg took over, we actually got better at saving our money and we came up with an agreed upon amount of money that would supply as our emergency fund.
I think it was about a year later when we really started using credit cards to pay our bills, pay for expenses, fill gas tanks etc to get the 5% rewards that were offered from the credit card company. We opened the credit card together when we went to the bank one day just stopping by to pay our mortgage or do routine bank things. We thought it would be a good way to pay bills and make money from the credit card companies.
It actually went ok in the beginning believe it or not. We didn’t use the credit card for everything in the beginning. When we did start to use the credit card for EVERY expense, it took a few months but, I started to feel like I was drowning. I felt so incredibly frustrated and disheartened that we got ourselves into this predicament. We were both college educated and my parents always taught me to pay off my credit cards which we did but we had no money left over after paying bills and credit cards. I can still remember this feeling and it is probably something I will never forget.
We both saw the problem and honestly the answer seemed easy right? Stop using your credit card. Well, your right that is an easy fix, but Greg and I didn’t agree on that. I had heard of Dave Ramsey before we took our trip in October and looked up a few things about what he believed about money. I brought it up to Greg but he didn’t really pay attention at the time. So we kept doing what we were doing until October. After our friend’s spoke so openly to us about their budget, that’s when it seemed to semi-click with Greg. We talked about it on the way home from Virginia and he was only modestly interested.
When we got home I raced to the library to get the book The Total Money Makeover and that’s when things started to change. I brought it up to Greg again and after hearing what our friends said he started to warm up to the idea of using cash or our debit card again and getting rid of credit cards. I don’t think he ever expected me to tell him that I wanted to sell some of our belongings to get the debt snowball started.
Greg was silent and he turned white when I brought this up. My husband is never silent. Ever. So this was a change and I knew I hit a nerve. This was followed by “what will people think” and “I love that car.” I quickly dropped the subject feeling defeated.
I could not get it out of my head though. I felt so strongly that we need to do this, as a couple, as a family. I started to look for other cars and when he wasn’t looking I was mentally checking out everything in our house and mentally putting a price tag on everything ( wonder how much his baseball cards would sell for… Just kidding).
I think it was the next day, he looked at the computer and you know how google brings up on the right sidebar things that you recently looked at? Well, there was a picture of our Blue Durango ( I looked at it the evening prior) and Greg brought it up to me. He said we could go look at it. That very same day, we went to the car dealership and traded in our White Acadia for our 11 year old Blue Durango.
From that moment on, our journey towards freedom began. We went home and together we decided to make some changes and decided to start selling stuff we didn’t need.
From there, we started to develop our momentum. We sat down and looked at everything. We decided together which bills needed to be paid off first. We decided together to sell our car. We decided together to create a budget that we could both live with. We decided together that we would still build our business. Honestly, having him in this with me makes life so much better. He is good at things I am not and I am good at things he isn’t. I think we bring out the best in each other.
I can totally see why people fight over money in their marriage. I hope if anything, you can use this post to help you with at least bringing up the subject of money in your marriage to talk about you how want to work on it as a couple. Maybe just a few little tweaks need to be made. Great. Just talk about it and come to an agreement with how to move forward. If you have several tweaks to make great, just talk about it and come to an agreement with how you want to move forward (yes I just repeated myself.) In both situations, you just need to work through it together.
I think there are some really big mistakes that couples make whenever they talk about finances.
5 Biggest Financial Mistakes Couples Make in Marriage
You play the blame game
Hear me out on this. There is usually a natural spender and a natural saver in every relationship. Often, the natural saver will blame the natural spender for spending too much money or not using the money in a way that the saver would. In your marriage, you need to make sure that you are respectful with any touchy subjects that are brought up.
A respectful way to approach this would be “hey honey, could we sit down and talk about our finances over the past month?” Instead of “hey honey, you spent $500 last month on stupid stuff you don’t even need!” While that may be true, I bet you can see how the conversation is going to go if you approach your spouse with the second phrase. They will become defensive and angry very quickly. Don’t do that.
Speak to your spouse respectfully and you will get the same respect in return.
You don’t take ownership for your part in the spending
I think one of the best ways you can handle the difficult conversation about money would be to first fess up to what you are doing wrong. It gives the other person a chance to think about the choices they have made and see how to change their actions with money and it is brought up in a nonjudgmental way. You both can speak kindly to one another and make progress very quickly.
You don’t plan for your future
As a couple, you need to come up with your long term plans early. How much will you contribute to your retirement funds like Roth IRA, 401K, etc.? How much do you need for an emergency fund? How much will you pay each month to debt in order to become debt free by a certain date? You need to have these types of conversations early so you both will be on the same page.
Talking about what you want for the future will also make it more likely that you will stick to a budget when things get hard.
They completely neglect how much they spend each month
Lots of couples don’t even have a budget. They don’t know exactly how much money is coming in or going out. They spend without knowing where their money is going and this can be dangerous. You will get yourself into trouble if you have no idea where your money is going. Create a budget and it will make your life so much easier.
They don’t include fun in the budget
I think this is a big deal because so many people think that if you are on a budget that you cut out the fun. That isn’t true. You instead plan for the fun so you don’t get stressed about how you are going to pay for it. It makes having fun so much more enjoyable.
Here are a few other tips on how to bring up the subject of money to your spouse:
- Ask your spouse to sit down and go over your bills and income
- Ask your spouse to then sit together and go over how you can tackle your debt. List it in order of importance (maybe you both list them separately and then compare notes). Each explain why you chose what you chose.
- Be patient with one another. Sit down a couple times if the argument gets heated. Walk away and let it all digest before making a decision on how to handle your money.
- Both of you write a list of things you can’t see yourself living without- mine was shopping and coffee, Greg was church sports and bowling.
- Listen respectfully to your spouse and really take into account why things are important to them.
As a couple, you have to decide how you want to handle things. What steps do you need to take to have a financially healthy marriage? Taking the time to talk about your finances and create a plan you both can live with will only improve your marriage. It is worth one hard conversation to prevent years of fighting.
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