You and your spouse have a lot going on.
There’s work to do.
There are family and friends to chat with and visit.
There are groceries to purchase, rooms to clean, and bills to pay.
Trust me, I know. My wife and I have triplets, which cranks everything up three notches. Getting them ready for school and bed five days a week is a Herculean challenge (thanks, honey).
In the course of life, here’s one thing I’ve found easy to neglect at home:
Being purposeful with our money.
It’s easy to spend money as it comes in and then wonder at the end of the month where everything went.
Here’s the deal:
You and your spouse need to handle your money or your money will handle you.
Said another way, if you don’t take control of your money, then your money will end up determining many choices for you. For example, if you take on too much debt, then you’ll become enslaved to your debtor (Prov 22:7). It’s not like you can quite paying what you owe until it’s paid off.
Ready for some good news?
It’s never too late for you and your spouse to manage your money together.
Here, I’m going to share with you five ways my wife and I work together to manage our money. These steps have helped us to pay off debt and save for the future, and they’ve also saved us a ton of heartache and headaches.
#1. Commit to communicating
Talking about money can be tough.
My wife and I have had financial ups and downs, and it felt like talking about them was the worst. There were plenty of times I felt like sticking my head in the sand, ignoring the problem, and just praying it went away. Or sometimes I didn’t pray at all! Ugh.
As you can imagine, that wasn’t a productive way to handle the situation.
Before taking any “practical” steps, the first thing you and your spouse need to commit to is open, honest, and transparent communication about your finances.
There are a few ways this can practically work out in your marriage:
- Weekly or monthly conversations
- Discussions about larger expenses
- Working through different financial opinions
Regardless of how you choose to work this out with your spouse, the key is to commit to open communication on a regular basis. When you talk about your finances, it’s a good idea to heed to the words of James, who said, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
Pro tip: Talking about money will not happen by accident. Schedule a time with your spouse, and make it a bit non-formal. For instance, you can talk about it over coffee, dessert, or perhaps with a movie playing the background.
#2. Set financial goals
Are you and your spouse on the same page financially?
If not, these differences of opinions and goals can easily create tension in your marriage.
Think about it.
Let’s say you’re in the market to purchase a new or pre-owned vehicle. You have a $10,000 price range in mind for your vehicle. However, let’s pretend your spouse expects to purchase a vehicle in the $25,000 price range.
Can you feel the tension coming?
Having a disagreement on larger expenses or monthly commitments, such as retirement savings, can cause divisions and walls to pop up in your marriage.
How do you keep this from happening?
Work together to set financial goals.
From large expenses to creating a monthly budget, set agreed upon financial goals to work toward as a couple.
Pro tip: Take time to think about your goals and write them down. Have your spouse do the same. Then come together to share your thoughts with each other. It’s a very simple exercise that can lead to great discussions about your family's financial future.
#3. Share a bank account
Talking about sharing bank accounts with couples is tricky.
I understand there are differing opinions on this point.
But here’s the deal:
For you and your spouse to have open communication and work toward your financial goals, you have to share a bank account. Sharing a bank account lets you look at everything as a whole and easily move toward accomplishing your financial goals.
Can you technically get away with having different accounts?
But it’s really easy to drift apart financially when you have different accounts, and the temptations are too great to hide things when there’s a lack of transparency.
Pro tip: Having one bank account breeds trust and openness in your marriage. Talk about this before you get married and agree to do it. Then do the work of making it happen right after the honeymoon!
#4. Create and use a budget
What’s the best way to achieve your financial goals?
The answer is: use a budget.
Did you notice I didn’t say create a budget?
There’s a big difference between the two, and here’s why.
Anyone can create a budget.
But not everyone follows a budget.
It’s one thing to write down your budget. It’s a totally different thing to actually follow your budget.
When creating your budget, set aside some time for you and your spouse to work together. Think through your expenses. Get an idea of any upcoming purchases, bills, or trips. Set your savings and investing goals. And then assign the money you make to do a job.
Want to save for a down payment on a home?
Set a line item for this goal in your budget.
Do you want to get a new car?
Create a place in your budget for it.
Looking to put 10% of your income into your 401k?
You know the drill—budget for it!
Pro Tip: Our family budget also has a “murphy's law” calculation in it. We’ve set it to 10%. Meaning, we take out final monthly budget total and add 10% more to it. We do this because we’re human and know we’re going to overspend somehow. Having that 10% buffer helps us ensure we’re not overspending and going into debt!
#5. Monitor your budget weekly
Alright, you’re on the same page with your spouse.
You created your budget, and you’re ready for the upcoming month.
Every month, there always seems like unexpected expenses show up or something breaks.
Know what else?
It’s really easy to overspend on one of your budget line items.
In both of these situations, you’ll need to adapt and roll with the punches.
The best way to do this is to keep track of your spending every week. Depending on the rhythm you and your spouse create, you can talk through the details every week or maybe just raise a flag and say, “Hey, we need to move things around this month to cover this unexpected cost.”
Pro tip: This can be hard to do but it’s essential to your success. Once you’ve created your budget with your spouse, be sure to set a weekly time to review your progress. If you don’t do it weekly you’ll quickly let your spending get out of control and have no clue if you’re executing on your plan.
Ready to manage money in your marriage?
Regardless of whether you make a plan with your money, it will come and go.
Remember, it’s never too late for you and your spouse to work together.
Start this week by committing to communicating. If you feel like there will be tension, fight through this fear to start the initial conversation. It can be something as simple as, “Hey, I have some financial goals I’d like to share with you. Can we talk about them for 15 minutes today?”
You may not be able to take on every goal at once or pay off all of your debt by the end of the week. But whatever you do, work together to create financial goals and work toward accomplishing those goals.