As the honeymoon phase comes to an end and the bills pile up, most married couples will naturally have some money issues they need to work through. Money issues can ruin a marriage, but the good news is that many couples find creative ways to figure out their issues, and in the process find ways to strengthen their financial well-being and their relationship.
So how should married couples handle money? Let’s take a look at the top seven tips.
1. Avoid Secrets
First off, a healthy relationship starts with honesty, and that includes honesty about how you earn and spend money. Whether it be child support from an old relationship, credit card debt accumulated during your college years, or an embarrassing spending habit, getting all of this on the table demonstrates to your partner that they can trust you.
Talk with your spouse openly about your spending and obligations. When you and your spouse have the same information, you can both contribute to a financial plan for your future.
2. Consider a Joint Account
While there is no one right way to manage finances in marriage, many couples find that a joint bank account helps them be transparent with their spending and earning and further solidifies their trust.
Joint bank accounts have other practical benefits as well. They can be helpful in emergencies so that one spouse has access to needed funds if the other is incapacitated in some way. They can also simplify your financial life so you have only one place to look to track your income and spending.
What if you still need some private purchasing power to cover gifts and other surprises? Use gift cards or cash to buy gifts, carry a low limit credit card to cover these occasions, or simply agree that you both won’t look at bank statements around birthdays and holidays,
3. Adopt a “One Team” Mentality
When one spouse earns more than the other, or one spouse isn’t earning at all, feelings of resentment or guilt can crop up. Because there’s no magic wand to wave and equalize everyone’s salaries, often the best strategy is for both spouses to accept this asymmetry as a fact of life and agree upfront to adopt a “what’s mine is yours” philosophy.
This can sometimes be harder said than done, and taking time to discuss each others’ non-monetary contributions to the relationship can help. For instance, if the spouse who earns less also handles the bulk of the child care or housework, you might discuss how much their work at home is saving you in child care costs and cleaning services.
4. Understand Your Money Personalities
Getting on the same page with finances can be difficult when both partners have a different relationship with money. You may love to shop and spend, while your spouse scrimps and saves and seems to not know how to enjoy their earnings.
You likely won’t change your spouse’s money personality, but recognizing where each of you is coming from is the first step towards constructive communication. Discuss each of your strengths and weaknesses with money, recognizing what good you each bring to the table. Then, find ways to play to your strengths.
For example, the partner with more of a spending personality might volunteer to be in charge of vacation planning and date night activities, while the partner who’s better at saving can be in charge of budgeting for groceries and other necessities. An approach like this could help you focus your spending on areas that will truly increase happiness while cutting back elsewhere.
5. Budget, But Don’t Micromanage
While many couples shiver at the thought of a dull evening setting up a budget, the truth is that a budget is one of the best ways to iron out financial difficulties and build a healthy relationship with money.
Take the time to create a budget with your partner, and then set aside time every month or so to review it together (perhaps over a scoop of ice cream or a glass of wine to dull the pain). When disagreements arise, remember that compromise is key. Better to have a budget you’ve both bought into than a budget you like that your spouse isn’t committed to following.
One key to budget sanity is to set aside a small amount of “fun money” for each partner. No one likes to feel like every purchase is scrutinized, and having discretionary money you can spend however you like each month can relieve some of the pressure of budgeting.
6. Have a Common Goal
Having a common goal you are both excited about can also help make budgeting and sacrificing easier for both of you. For example, knowing you’ve got a new house in your future if you can just save for the down payment, or a trip to Tahiti planned once your student loans are paid off, will make it much easier for both you and your spouse to make the sacrifices you need to deal with your money issues.
Discuss where you’d like to be in five or even ten years. Discuss how much money you’ll need for your goal, and then work backward from there, determining how much you can save now to make your dream a reality.
7. Bring in the Experts
Dealing with money issues in a marriage is hard. If you’ve tried your best and find that money is still causing stress in your relationship, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. Financial planners are experts in how to manage finances in a marriage and can provide an unbiased expert opinion on how you can deal with your specific problems, whether it be crushing debt or simply setting up your first budget.
Some couples struggling with money may have deeper issues of trust and communication, and may also benefit from traditional couples therapy. As you and your partner work to hone your communication and conflict resolution skills, not only will your relationship with each other improve, but your ability to handle money issues will as well.
If you’re dealing with money issues in marriage, the good news is that you’re not alone. Countless couples have successfully worked through their money issues using the tips above, and you can too. In fact, you may even walk away with a relationship that’s stronger than ever.
And if you and your spouse encounter short-term financial problems, consider an installment loan from Power Finance Texas to help you meet your immediate needs, so you have room to plan for a stronger financial future.