Get on the Same Page with Your Spouse about Money
One of the most important things you can do as a married couple is to see eye to eye financially. If you currently are engaged or talking about marriage, you need to have open and honest conversations—lots of them—about your beliefs about money. And seek good pre-marriage counseling to talk about your views on money, in-laws, kids, religion, and more.
If you are already married, then it’s time to combine your finances and be one. If you still have separate checking accounts and savings accounts and things like that, as long as you intend the marriage to last, then you should combine them. The reason is simple: if you are sharing a life together, you need to share your money. Because money affects virtually everything that we do. When you agree on how you spend and save and invest your money, you agree on your personal and family priorities and goals and values. So here are 7 steps you can take to get on the same page with your spouse about money.
1. Plan a time to sit down and talk about your finances.
If you are having challenges in your relationship because of money differences, plan a time when you can sit down together without distractions to talk about your financial situation. As you talk with your spouse or sweetheart, listen more than you talk. Ask questions to find out where your spouse is coming from and why he or she feels that way. Work to really understand his or her perspective.
As you talk, don’t beat each other up for past money mistakes. Focus instead on the present and the future and on what you can do together to overcome both any differences that you might have and any financial struggles you are facing.
Continue to sit down together and talk about your money as often as you need to. As you do, remember to attack issues, not each other. Commit to being kind and respectful, and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Keep in mind each other’s best traits, and remember why you decided to get married in the first place. Give your very best to each other.
2. Focus on writing out and accomplishing shared short- and long-term goals and dreams.
Start to talk about what you hope to be able to accomplish in your life as you save, spend, and invest wisely. What similar and shared goals and dreams do you have? What do you want your finances to look like in 5, 10, 20, and 40 years? Would you love to be completely out of debt? What can you do to get there? Do you want to own a vacation home on the beach someday? What will it take to get there? Would you like to help pay for or completely pay for your children’s college educations? How can you make that happen? Are you planning to retire in comfort? How much do you need to save and how long do you plan to work to reach that goal? Do you have a goal to give very generously to the causes you support? What steps can you take now to put you on the path to make that dream a reality? Pick at least one goal that is a top priority, and write out a plan to accomplish it. Remember to make your plan specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely (SMART).
For an excellent resource to help you reach your money goals and dreams (and solve your money problems), I highly recommend Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey. It’s an awesome course that my husband and I went through and that I have also facilitated as an FPU coordinator. It’s effective in helping you change your money habits because it gives simple, actionable steps you can take to reach your financial goals. Dave is a fun and charismatic teacher! But more important, this course has helped hundreds of thousands of families to get their finances in order, and it has strengthened countless couples as they have been able to work together to improve their financial situations. You can find out more about the course here.
And if you want help to manage your money and keep up with your finances, I also recommend the free app Personal Capital. With Personal Capital, you can see not only all of your bank checking and savings accounts and even your credit cards and other finance accounts, but you can also link your retirement and other brokerage accounts. This allows you to have a complete, overall picture of your current financial situation. And you can also view your account history to see how your accounts and overall portfolio have done over time. I love this very helpful tool and use it often! Sign up for your free Personal Capital account here.
Check out these articles for more information on money and marriage.
3. Compromise on and prioritize your individual goals and dreams as needed.
Where you have individual (but ideally complementary!) goals, figure out how you can work together to make those happen, as well. For example, if one of you wants to go back to school to earn a higher income, that should probably be a shared priority. (Just make sure that you’re going to school to learn a marketable skill that will lead to a great income!) List the goals that you both have, and then determine which goals to work on first and how best to accomplish them. Then revisit your list from time to time and as you accomplish each goal so that you can set new priorities and figure out how to best work on the next goals you want to achieve.
4. Create your family budget together, and make sure you both take an active part in creating the budget.
If you haven’t been following a spending plan, sit down together and create a budget. This is one of the most important things that you can do to ensure that you are working together in the best way possible to reach your financial goals. Fill out the information below to have a simple budget sent to you today so you can start really making progress!
5. If your finances are tight, work on ways to reduce spending and increase income.
There really are only two sides to the financial equation: earning more and spending less. And they are equally important. But increasing your income can have the overall biggest impact on your finances. That is because there is a limit to how much you can reduce your expenses (although there are a ton of ways that you can reduce your expenses!), but there is no limit to how much you can potentially earn. That being said, learning to reduce your spending so that you do not spend more than you earn is the more important of the two factors, because no matter how much you earn, you can always outspend it. There is no end—fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it—to the amount of stuff we can buy! You can find ways to reduce your spending here and ways to increase your income here.
6. Have weekly family finance (budget) meetings to make sure you stay on the same page.
As you work to get on the same page with your spouse about your finances, commit to sitting down together each week (or eventually every two weeks or month, if that is really often enough) to talk about your finances and go over your budget and expenses. Talk about what you have accomplished (your successes) and what you hope to accomplish, and review and reevaluate your financial priorities and goals and your progress toward them. Make sure to plan for upcoming purchases and expenses so that you can save up for them.
7. Seek marriage counseling if you aren’t able to get on the same page without help.
If you can’t seem to get on the same page about your finances and your marriage is in severe trouble, seek counseling. Don’t be ashamed—if you had a physical heart problem, you wouldn’t hesitate to seek medical help. And you should feel just as able to get help with an emotional heart problem. If your spouse won’t go with you, go yourself, and ask for advice on how to talk to your spouse and advice on things you can do to work on the problem from your end. In time, hopefully your spouse will come with you, or you will learn the communication or other skills you need to start resolving issues even if your spouse won’t attend counseling.
Don’t give up. Realize that bringing about real change might not be easy. Especially if you’ve been having money problems or fights for months (or even years), it’s going to take some time to reverse that. Be patient with yourself and with your spouse. Take baby steps. Keep moving forward, even when you backslide. Remember that your (intact) family is the most important thing you have on this earth—and your marriage is the core of that family. So treat it that way. Don’t give up!
I know that life is really difficult when you’re not on the same page with your spouse—about whatever it is you’re disagreeing about. Maybe you’ve been feeling helpless—or even hopeless. I’m not going to sugarcoat things and say that it will be easy to turn things around. It probably won’t be. But it is possible, if you’re willing to consistently work at it. Keep in mind your spouse’s best traits. Remember why you got married in the first place. Focus on his or her strengths rather than weaknesses. Ask for God’s help, and then live so that you can receive His guidance. Seek counseling if you need it, and again, don’t give up. If you’ll hold on and keep trying and give the best that you can, things will undoubtedly be very different five years from now. They will be much better. Hold on to each other and to your faith, and you can make it through.
Invitation to Share
Was there something in this article that inspired you to change something about your money? Are there ideas or tips that you feel could help others? Would you please take a minute to share this article via email or social media? I would love your help to share these principles of financial well-being. Thank you!
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