Budget Advice For Married Couples
One question that our readers ask most frequently is, “How do I get my husband/wife to spend less?” Money is often one of the main causes of fights between spouses, especially when one spends too much or when one refuses to spend anything. Money isn’t really the problem. It’s a symptom of a deeper problem. The problem can be rooted in a variety of issues including being raised differently, being taught differently about money, issues of control or lack of control, varying amounts of self confidence, anger and so on.
Here are some examples of just one of these issues – being raised differently and taught differently about money.
One new wife thought she was being so frugal and careful when buying her family’s groceries. Even though they weren’t in financial trouble she was naturally very careful. After a few weeks, her husband started getting more quiet with each meal and she didn’t know what was upsetting him.
One night her husband got angry and said, “Are we in serious trouble with our finances?” Not knowing what was wrong, his wife said, “No, we are doing fine. Why?” Then her husband said, “Well we haven’t had steak for weeks!” After much talking, she discovered that in his home growing up if they had steak once in a while it meant all was well and if not then things were really bad. He assumed they were having a rough time financially but she thought she was doing so well by saving money. The solution? She just started serving steak once in a while and the problem was solved.
One family member of mine who had very little money growing up swore when she left home she was going to have lots of money and buy whatever she wanted. She did, too. She became a shopaholic. I had no more money growing up than she did but I turned out completely different from her. She came from a very bad home life so her outlook was completely different. Lack of money in her home really wasn’t the problem. It was lack of love. When she got older she tried to fill her void with the wrong things, which constantly failed to satisfy her. In my family we had plenty of love and, even though we had little money, we had enough of what we really needed.
When a person spends recklessly or becomes obsessive about money, it is a symptom of deeper problems that go beyond the money. It takes a lot of thought and talking things through in a loving manner to identify the real problem.
Usually one spouse or the other is better at handling money and the bills but a couple should sit down together and go through bills and finances so they both understand their financial condition. Then they both can see, in writing, what money is coming in and where it is going out. This way no one feels like one spouse or the other has more control and it eliminates many unpleasant emotions.
The question people ask is really not so much, “How can I get my husband or wife not to spend?” but, “How do I change them?” You don’t. Part of the wedding vows is “for better or worse” and that doesn’t just mean better or worse circumstances. It also includes disagreements between spouses. I remember one night my husband and I had a really bad fight about money. He was out of work, we had no food left and I wanted him to sell some of our antique furniture to get some money. He said no, we couldn’t just start selling the furniture. It was one of the rare times we went to bed mad. I lay for hours fuming, clinging to my side of the bed (you how we do, ladies) and praying God would show my husband that we needed to sell our stuff.
After several hours dwelling on my anger, I heard a soft voice say, “Instead of praying for me to make your husband do it your way, how about praying that your husband will have the wisdom to see what I want him to do to solve the problem.” Whoa. Did I deserve that! I asked forgiveness and changed my prayers really fast. The next morning my husband woke up, turned to me and said, “You know, I thought of a couple of ideas in the night that I think might help us get some money.” He had three ideas that we had not even thought about before and they were really good ideas.
This may not be the way God intends to solve everyone’s problem but it is a solution that we often forget to consider– Men praying for God’s help and wisdom or women praying that their husbands will see God’s wisdom in tough situations.
No one can really change another person. You can only change yourself so your battle is learning to relax and understand that fact and learning to work with your spouse.
It never ceases to amaze me how often serious problems and fights occur because spouses just don’t understand each other. Here are some things to talk about and to ask each other. Before I share them, you need to know that if your spouse is the kind of person that refuses to talk, listen or be willing to work with you to improve your relationship, you have more serious problems than how to spend your money. If that is the case, you really need to get help for your marriage in general.
If your marriage is generally healthy (not perfect), here are a few ideas to help you get started:
Work on the finances and bills together. You can agree that one of you will pay bills or balance the checkbook but regardless who handles the details, both of you need to look at what is going on together. It’s part of a healthy relationship, but also if something should ever happen to either one of you – death, divorce, or serious illness – you won’t have the added burden of trying to figure out what’s going on with the bills or how to handle them.
Take time to do this. Sitting together and paying bills is one of those things that’s easy to put off but don’t. You’ll find that after a while it will take less time to deal with things and, if you prefer, you can take turns at it. The important thing is that you are both in the loop.
Before you do anything, sit down and air out feelings and issues. Choose a time when stomachs are full. (Men seem so much more mellow when they have just eaten a good home cooked meal and have full tummies. I don’t know why but that’s one thing that hasn’t changed in centuries.) Choose a time when everyone is relaxed and rested and you will not have many interruptions.
Questions to ask. Here are some things to ask each other and to consider together. Get some paper and pencils. It may be easier for some people to write down the answers. Couples who are planning to get married need to to ask each other these questions before they get married to reduce friction in the marriage.
No matter what they say, don’t ever laugh or make fun of your spouse or dismiss your spouse’s answers or what they or their parents believed. There are no right or wrong answers. These are just questions to help you learn to understand and to get an idea why the other person does things and acts the way they do.
What is your family history? What are some things you remember your family taught and believed about money growing up that has stuck in your mind and that you remember?
Did your family have savings?
Was mom or dad a spender? Did mom shop and hide things from your dad or visa versa?
Was money used in place of love and being there for the family?
Was money not considered that important compared to relationships?
What are your money fears?
Did dad have a hard time keeping a job and your parents were always afraid they wouldn’t have enough?
Did mom worry because you couldn’t keep up with the Joneses?
Did your parents not ever allow you to have anything because they were afraid of spoiling you, not having enough or were just plain tight and selfish with their money and you are afraid you might be like them, so you spend?
Are you always afraid you won’t have enough money because of illness, death or natural causes?
What did your family spend their money on?
Big houses, education, “things”, savings, eating out, fun stuff
What did your parents fight about?
Did you feel rich or poor when you were growing up?
What fun things did you spend money on?
Did your family buy a boat so they could spend time on the lake camping or did they like nice hotels in a city where they could go sightseeing? Did they like eating out all the time or did they spend their money on a new kitchen so they could all cook together? Maybe you weren’t allowed to spend any money on fun things.
What do you personally like to spend money on?
If you had $10,000 to spend any way you wanted, what would you spend it on?
Define Your Values
What things are important to you? Insurance, new car, nice house, tithing, charity, paying off debt.
Set Goals and Budgets
Does one of you think it is important to have a high paying job, working long hours and making good money where the other thinks living in the country with a little money and spending time together is most important?
Now you need to take all your information and do a lot of compromising. Maybe a new car is very important to one of you and children’s education is important to the other. Try to come up with a plan that will work for both of you. Maybe the husband would be willing to get a car that is only 1-2 years old instead of brand new and take the money you saved and put it towards the children’s education. Look at your options and be willing to give and take.
The main thing is to be loving and to open mindedly talk and talk some more with each other. Instead of demanding your rights and wants, put the other person first. It is amazing what can happen in all areas of marriage if both parties are always trying to fulfill their spouses needs and wants. Remember, it’s not about what you think they want or need but what they really want or need. You are a team and you should always work together going in the same direction, trying to do what is best and what helps the whole team the most rather than each person focusing only on his own wants. If you can get to that point, it will really strengthen your marriage.
If you often wonder where all of your money goes or if you need a more frugal mindset, check out Dig out Of Debt and learn more about how to keep more of your money.
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