Disputes and tension about money is one of the biggest marriage-killers of all time. Money represents much more than just dollars and cents; it can be used and abused, to express or withhold love, to respect and honor, or to punish and control. No wonder money and marriage can be a dreaded combination which often results in many painful money marriage problems. However, with some astute forethought and planning, wise choices can be made, and mistakes avoided, so that in fact money can be the blessing in marriage that it is supposed to be.
Here are nine money and marriage mistakes to avoid:
1. Avoid disastrous debt
Debt can slowly strangle and drain the strength out of any marriage. To start your marriage off with a huge debt is a big mistake which could cripple you financially and hold you back for several years. Many couples find themselves going into serious debt due to the expenses of their wedding, honeymoon, and setting up a new home. Although everyone wants a fairy-tale wedding-day-to-remember, it bears weighing up your options very carefully. Consider rather settling for a less expensive wedding within your means, in order to save yourself the prolonged future agony of paying off your heavy debts.
2. Avoid arguing
Another mistake which wears a couple down is constant bickering and arguing about finances. Arguing seldom accomplishes anything constructive. It better to stop yourselves in your tracks, nip arguing in the bud, and find some positive solutions to your money problems. Agree on a strategy that you will implement together, and agree to talk about things sensibly, without arguing, blaming or complaining.
3. Avoid keeping secrets about expenses
Playing open cards is always the best policy in marriage when it comes to expenses. If this is not your first marriage and you have alimony and child support to pay, your new future wife deserves to know that up front. And if you have any outstanding loans or credit accounts, these should also be put on the table. Nothing breaks trust in a marriage as quickly as finding out that your partner lied to you, or deliberately hid something important from you. So remember, one of the best money and marriage tips is to avoid keeping secrets about expenses.
4. Avoid power plays
Avoid using money to manipulate, punish or control your spouse in any way. This is called financial abuse. It is particularly applicable if one spouse is the breadwinner whilst the other stays home taking care of the kids. The malignant misconception often occurs where the one earning the salary feels that he is the only one ‘working’. Even if both are working, in a healthy marriage there should not be the concept of ‘my money’, but rather ‘ours’.
5. Avoid personality misunderstandings
Different personality types have different ways of handling money. Some are savers and some are spenders, with many variations and combinations along that continuum. When two people get married, it can be a shock and surprise to discover how your spouse views and handles money, especially if it is quite different from the way you do. One automatically tends to assume that ‘my way is the right way’ and this can cause a lot of misunderstandings and conflicts. Being aware of, and talking through, your differences can go a long way to avoiding this mistake.
6. Avoid not making a budget
Although the experts agree that making a budget is the best way to handle your finances efficiently, it is surprising how few couples actually do this. Do yourselves a favour and take the time and effort to sit down and put together a budget. Once you see exactly what income you have, and what your expenses are, then you can decide how to allocate your available funds. When you avoid the mistake of not making a budget, you will find you discover a certain freedom from constant concern and uncertainty which will be well worth the effort.
7. Avoid having different goals
As a married couple you probably have several goals together, as well as some individual goals. When it comes to your financial goals, it is best if you are pulling together in the same direction. Sit down, discuss and come to an agreement on what you are saving up towards, whether it is buying a new car, building your own home one day, or sending your children to the best schools. This way you can keep each other motivated and accountable, and you are much more likely to accomplish your goals together.
8. Avoid keeping an eagle eye on each other
Accountability is good, but you need to avoid the mistake of checking up on every little thing your spouse buys, or every cent he or she spends. This engenders feelings of mistrust and resentment which will be counterproductive to your relationship. Some couples decide on a certain amount per month which they are individually allowed to spend in any way they choose without needing to tell their spouse what they used it for, unless they choose to. This brings a sense of freedom and choice, rather than the feeling of being trapped.
9. Avoid going it alone
Don’t think you have to go it all alone and figure everything out for yourselves, especially if you are facing some financial challenges. It is always good to ask for help and find a good financial adviser or counselor who can give you wise and helpful money and marriage advice. Rather than struggling on alone and floundering, it is much better to get help in good time and set out confidently on a firm financial path.