Marriage and Money: Setting up a System That Works
Money, money, money. Finances are a normal part of marriage. You and your spouse may decide to keep separate accounts, but if you are like most, there will be at least one joint account from which all of the household expenses are drawn. Managing money alone can be a daunting task, and it becomes even more overwhelming when you add a second income and a number of bills! Starting out on the right foot (or beginning the process of financial recovery) is essential for your relationship.
One or both of you may be well versed in a reasonable and simple money management system. And while two heads are better than one when it comes to managing a household, it is best to designate who is responsible for what. This does not mean you are only responsible for your role or set of tasks; rather, you are there to complete your tasks and be available to assist your partner if needed. Sometimes finances can send a person into overload! Know what you can do to contribute to the management of your mutual finances.
Maintain open communication
Being open and honest is, itself, an important part of a successful marriage. Communicating effectively becomes even more vital when deciding how to handle what money is available for use. Without clear communication, it can cause division and discontent in the relationship. You can avoid this, though, by establishing guidelines right away about how to talk to one another about money. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility of paying the bills, do not assume your partner knows. Use words to tell your spouse you are stressed! Be willing to talk about it first when making large purchases to ensure both partners are on the same page and in agreement. There will be times when you want to splurge on a personal item or a gift for the person you love – there’s nothing wrong with that! Simply talk it out with your partner first. Again, establishing expectations up front about communicating will make a world of difference.
Work as a team
As mentioned above, it is important to remember that you are there to support one another. You are a team, not opponents! Stick together and work cohesively to get the job done. It will not always be a perfect system. Unexpected expenses will surface every once in a while. But do not let those surprises, big or small, change the ways in which you work as a team to accomplish a goal. Your teammate might struggle at times, but he or she is still your teammate. Take time to listen to your spouse’s needs; even if it is outside of your typical responsibilities, you can ease the burden by doing a little extra.
Stick to a budget
Work together to create a budget. Then stick to it! It is easy to feel constrained by a budget, and it can become frustrating at times to stick with it. But if it is built with the goal of financial freedom or paying off debt, it will be well worth it! It is okay to make the budget flexible to make room for planned or unexpected expenses, so do not feel guilty if the plan is derailed for a week or two. Work together with your partner and openly communicate needs to be sure you are both on the same page. A helpful hint: set aside money that each of you may spend or save for whatever you desire, no questions asked. This small amount during each pay period can purchase a new pair of running shoes or a round of golf, but it will be part of the planned budget and not put a strain on finances!
Follow through with savings
Plan to save a portion of each paycheck to set aside for the future. You can often set up automatic transfers with your bank or credit union to take the pressure off of remembering to actually transfer the funds. Be sure to work together on a strategy that fits your finances as well as the kind of lifestyle you are planning to have in the future. You can never save too much!
Have a little fun!
In the midst of all this planning and budgeting and saving, be sure to also include time for fun. A short road trip or a night out at the movies should not put a dent in your finances nor should it prevent you from paying bills – but you should feel free to spend a little money on having fun! Money should not keep you from experiencing life together, rather it should enhance it by providing you with access to new adventures. Never forget what you are working toward when you walk into your job each day, and look forward to the snapshot moments you can have with your spouse because of your mutual hard work and effort!
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.