Do you and your spouse struggle with making a budget you can keep? These budget tips for married couples help you understand why you tend to spend the way you do and how to work together to make a family budget that works for you!
Budget Tips For Married Couples – How To Work Together With Your Spouse About Money
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 quieter 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. The lack of money in her home really wasn’t the problem. It was a 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 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 of 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 for 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 budget tips 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 of 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 a 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 your 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 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 vice 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 whereas 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 spouse’s 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 our Dig out Of Debt e-Book and learn more about how to keep more of your money.
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Love this! Unfortunately, I fall into the category of “more serious problems.” I am seeking counseling from a Christian woman and it has helped me to be a better wife, mother and Christian. If any of your other readers are feeling like they’re “the only one” (the only one whose husband is not willing to be frugal, who won’t sacrifice for the sake of debt, who is married to an addict who won’t admit he’s an addict, etc.) they can rest assured that they, indeed, are NOT! I’m there too. IMO: The best thing those of us on this ride can do is pray like crazy and seek counsling from a reliable, trusted (licensed) Christian.
This is true Kristi. I always tell people who are desperate for their spouse to change that first you need to pray and leave it all in God’s hands. We can’t always understand why it is so hard for our spouse to just change but at the same time we sometimes ourselves have just as hard of a time of praying and leaving it in God’s hands. Both things require a changing our ways of dealing with and doing things whether it is something like spending habits or praying habits. When you look at it this way you will see how hard it is for your spouse.
The other thing I always tell people when they hare really tried everything and are doing what they should be doing but there is still no change in the spouse or the spouse won’t go in for counseling is you need to then to go into counseling yourself to learn how to deal with and to react in the right way to your spouse and your situation.
I have written before too that don’t get discouraged when looking for counselor. It may take trying 5 or so counselors before you find one which will work for you. You know you have found the right one when after a time or two you walk away feeling at least a little encouraged and not with the feeling of “why in the world did I waste my time going there.” Also, except in real serious conditions, a good counselor will have you headed down the right path and almost “weaned from them” in 3-6 months. If you find yourself going and going and not getting any relief you need to try someone else.
What a wise post (as usual!) We don’t have financial problems at this time, but I worry about how we could afford health insurance if my husband was physically unable to continue at his job. Not a matter of disability, just getting older and too many hours. Anyway, I tend to fret about it, but when I talk to him I feel so much better. We haven’t really come up with a solution, but the “We’re in this together” feeling is priceless.
Another interesting and useful post, as always. If I may, I would suggest you add “family interference” to it. You see, it is not only the husband and wife dealing with the money issues. It is they dealing with in-laws (especially father- and mother-in-law) pressure, which normally comes in the form of criticism and makes it all complicated. I am 62 now and I went into this in the past.
My husband and I have had hobbies that consumed a lot of money. We have been very careful with all of our other expenditures in order to have money for the things that we enjoy–fortunately each one enjoys the other’s hobby– it’s just not our favorite. As a result of being careful on what doesn’t mean as much, we can enjoy the fun things without running into debt or cutting back on savings. A lot of our social life came about by meeting those with similar interests. Most of the rest came through church.
This post came at just the right time. A coule of days ago a letter came to my husband from one of his retirement accounts. I noticed he was in the kitchen last night looking it over. A little later he came into the living room where I was reading and asked me how much money was in our checking account. I told hime-it’s just a few dollars. He wanted to know where I had spent the money. I told him, an oil change for the car, a trip to the grocery store, and the health food store for a vitamin supplement my doctor put me on. I could tell he was bothered, but he didn’t say anything else.
This morning when I got my coffee I saw the letter on the kitchen counter, so I started reading it. A lot of legal talk, but basically the letter was saying that the retirement fund is running out of money. The future is unclear. Imagine how he felt, all the money he has worked so hard for, it may not be there when we need it. Sometimes husbands won’t say what is really on their minds. I thought he was truly bothered about what I had spent on necessities, but it was some thing else entirely. Always ask what is really going on, espeially if you feel you are being attacked.
So true Rachel. Sometimes husbands want to protect their families which is sweet but at the same time there really is a reason why God established marriage and among other things He knew that 2 people dealing with things are much stronger and better to cope then 1 person alone. You are right too when sometimes we feel like we are being attacked when the reality is it has nothing to do with you but some totally different and we need to be so careful about taking offense especially if it is out of character for the person.
My husband seemed very grumpy and cranky for the last few years until last summer. His mom died then and since that time, he has been happier and more relaxed than I have seen him in a long time. He was the sole care-giver (being an only child)and responsible for everything from bank accts, retirement accts, medical expenses and taking her everywhere. For reasons beyond my comprehension, she never cared for me and I could not even spell him in these endeavors. I just did not realize the stress and strain he was under. She was quite ill the last year of her life and was unwilling to have any tests to find out what was going on so he just had to muddle through with untold numbers of doctor appts. We wanted her to get better and improve her quality of life (and thus his, too) but that was not to be. She is in a better place and my husband can now be the person I married. Happy and able to spend time at home working around the house and in his garden.
For a long time, I tried everything I could to improve his attitude but in retrospect, I can see that it was not my fault (we women tend to believe that if our spouse is unhappy, we can fix it) and this was something he needed to work through himself.
My point after this whole story is that the friction between a husband and wife is not always within the immediate family but can be brought on by outside events. I really wanted to ease my husband’s stress but it was beyond my ability to do so. Now, we are working to rebuild our closeness which was eroded by his mom’s needs.
Hello! I have a very different situation in that my husband doesn’t want to hear about finances at all. We both work. I work full time teaching, he works part time and is responsible for taking our daughter to kindergarten and picking her up daily. We try to budget carefully and and not spend outside our means…. well I do, and I simply tell him how much $ we can spend. About 15 years ago my husband’s first wife left him because she expected a fancy, shopping, country club lifestyle. When he couldn’t provide that lifestyle the ex-wife walked out the door leaving my husband completely devastated, financially and emotionally. So, I wish I could discuss finances in more depth with DH but quite frankly he doesn’t give a fig about money.
I would say that as long as he isn’t getting you into debt and he does trust your judgment on finances then leave it like it is.
We celebrate 25 years of marriage in June! yeah! My husband and I have found that I work well in tracking finances and setting goals. Once I have a “plan” I print a sheet on the computer showing him “where we are”, “where we want to go”, “steps it will take to get from start to finish”, and”how long it will take”. As a visual person, my husband LOVED this method of identifying and presenting goals to him. Consider your husband’s favorite learning style. And don’t forget his love language! If “gifts” are his love language then he’ll have a hard time not purchasing those “extra little things” for you. But, if he knows that in “12 months we will be 1/2 way to our savings goal” and then you are planning a night out at your favorite restaurant, then it will be easier for him to “stay on board” with you.
Grizzly Bear Mom
For the lady whose husband is an addict, I recommend Al Anon. It helps you to get your head straight even if they never bother getting theirs fixed. Even though my sister, cousin, and hero died, I have pneuomenia and six brochial infections and my eye bleed from stress, attending Al Anon made this the happiest year of my life. I wish that I had gone sooner. I might have had an easier career and might have remarried and had children. Best to you.
Annie I can relate my husband doesn’t like to hear about finances either and I think it’s because it makes him anxious. I am the type who wants to know what the financial situation is and he would rather not know because it worries him. I have not been working for several years now and he thinks that me going to work will solve everything but when I was working he paid the bills and we got into more debt during that time than all the years I wasn’t working. He just assumed I would have my job forever and he ran up a lot of debt that I didn’t know about. I almost wish I had never gone to work because I think it made things worse for us instead of better. I’m
That happens all the time Marcia. People think getting paid more, getting another job (when they have a good paying one already) or the wife going to work is going to solve the problem. A huge percentage of debt problem is not going to be solved by bringing in more money but by learning to control the money you do bring in and control your spending. What I see happen time and time again is people just start spending more when they see more money coming in.
Right now we are in a good place but for many years forced to live on credit cards. My husband was disabled for many years and getting money out of the insurance company was like trying to get money out of a stone. Then he got another job which only lasted a year but we got out of the property and with inheritances from his parents now are completely debt free and have a comfortable income.
But it is fixed and we worry about inflation and the powers that be borrowing our money from the banks.
We are in our 70s and I manage the money and pay the bills, otherwise they just get added to the ‘to do” pile. I also manage the taxes as that has become too stressful for DH sad but true
Love the article. My husband told me the one thing that really helped him with the management of money was an old saying his grandpa used to say “a dollar earned when used wisely will someday earn a lot of return” He said what he meant was to save some eveytime you get paid.
We definitely grew up differently! He came from a two income family. If they wanted something, they got it. Both parents had government jobs. I grew up in a one income home. Daddy got a government check too, but he was enlisted Navy. We qualified for all the government programs, but never used them, not even reduced price school lunches. I never felt deprived! I always felt we had what we needed and wanted.
I was working when we got married. When our firsts were born, I quit work. We started our family with twins. It didn’t seem right that I should be working just to pay for infant care! And I would be missing the best parts of their day. Since I grew up thrifty, saving money was not hard for me. But after 30 plus years, he’s still learning. But he has also been out of work for most of the past two years and been through five jobs in the last four years. In his profession, they tend to underpay and chew up and spit out their employees. His last job, he was laid off for lack of work and replaced with someone else for less pay. It’s crazy out there!
Thank you for sharing!
I love this and it is so true. I am married to someone younger than me and I grew up not having money but now I save and I volunteer on days off to make sure I have a little extra. My husband grew up and did not have money and he does not care because I am the one who stresses about the bills. I sit down alone and do them because he is just not smart about money. We were on the brink of divorce and are trying to work on it but I think it is inevitable because I am too strong willed about my ideas with money. I want to pay off our house and he wants nice speakers for his car. I have drive to do better and want my child to have some of the things I did not have growing up. Not spoiled but I did not have a yard of my own and a house. I want my child to have security.
Margaret Mary Myers
I loved the story about arguing about selling the antique furniture and then praying, and in the night your husband had three ideas for getting some money. We usually know the problem, but we don’t always know the solution.
I also like that you point out that we can’t change another person, but that we can and need to communicate. It took us many years for me to learn those two things regarding finances. I would like to add that I am better able to draw my husband into some of those open-ended discussions now, but I have to remember, when he answers, to keep it safe for him to continue to share. Sometimes I forget & then I say, oops, I didn’t mean to make this into a disagreement, and say something positive or validating.
Thank you for sharing this invaluable information and encouragement. You ladies do the world a world of good. :)
Thank you Margaret. That is so sweet of you to say. I get frustrated sometimes because if only couples would at least try (even if they don’t always succeed) to put the other one first, their needs above their own and instead of using their mind to think of ways to get their own point across, use it instead to really listen and not just hear what their spouse is saying, we would have such a better world. I shake my head at people who march for or talk about world peace and then go home and fight with their spouse and kids. It’s like has no one figured out yet that if we can’t have peace in our homes with those we love how in the world will we have world peace. Oops! Sorry didn’t mean to get on my soap box.
Anyway it sounds like you are on the right track and doing a great job so thanks for the good advice.
I am dealing with my husband’s problem with obsessive spending. This has been a problem since we have been married 24 years. He also has OCD. God has shown me his mercy time and time again in spite of what my husband has done or not done . For that I am always grateful. I am however exhausted, have health issues (autoimmune) which only worsens with all this stress. I have sought christian council before. My husband had counciling and is taking a medication. We both are connected to The Lord. I have prayed and prayed. I don’t expect any answers from anyone. Just wanted to share. God is handling it. Prayers would be appreciated . Thank you.
It is hard what you are going through. I don’t think many people who don’t have that situation understand that that type of thing is almost as hard on a marriage as unfaithfulness is. Yes it does say adultery is a sin but it also says coveting and greed is too. Whether it is anger, forgiveness, lying any of those things that have taken over a person’s life can destroy a marriage and a family but you are so right prayer and letting God deal with it is the main thing to do above all else.
Satan gets frustrated with people who really love the Lord and I don’t mean those that just go through the motions. If he can’t get them to loose their faith through the temptations he brings their way he will attack in 3 main ways financially – so they will get discouraged, extreme illness – so they will get discouraged and sexually sins – which discourages and destroys a Christians testimony and if he can’t cause them to loss faith through any single one of those he will attack with all three.
I don’t think we realize how serious Jesus was when he said we should prayer for each other. If a section of an army is getting severely attacked how horrified we would be if we saw another section of strong so called brave men just stand by and watch them get destroyed without coming to their rescue yet we do this everyday day as we watch other Christians being beaten up and destroyed by the enemy. We think it is horrible when non Christians say and do things against Christians but yet we on a daily basis judge, criticize and gossip about other Christians instead of stepping up to help fight with them and for them through our prayers and practical things.
I say all of this so that our readers will take seriously any time one of you asks for prayer that you will step on to the battle field, take time to get into the fray and pray or help where you can.
Thank you Jill so much for your heartfelt words of Godly advice. I have been praying for patience, wisdom(understanding) and peace today. You are piece of that! Thank you for being willing to step out into battlefield and help! God bless you, your family and this ministry. You are making a difference and The Lord is smiling down on you:)
Hang in there Teresa and if you have a bad day just holler and let us know.
So what were the three great ideas your husband came up with to put bread on the table! THAT would have been very enlightning if you would have told us. Maybe you can respond to me in an email? Thank you!
They weren’t that big of a deal. One was that someone owed us money for some parts we had done for them so he was going to get the money from them, the other was he had some sort of easy job someone had asked him to do that would only take a couple of hours and he would get paid. I can’t remember exactly what the third was but I think he remembered an ugly antique we had that he could sell. We didn’t need much because in just a week or so he was finishing up a huge job that would really give us a boost. That is why I tell people to pay their bills as soon as you get them. You may think it doesn’t matter even to large companies but for us the fact we had a few customers who didn’t pay us on time which then hurt us so bad.
One thing I don’t think many people do as much now and that is use all their abilities for earning an income especially a temporary income. Often I talk to people who have lost their job and there they sit waiting for something to happen like get another 9-5 job and they don’t do much in the mean time to help themselves. My husband taught piano, did handy man things and bought and sold antiques at times. I did things like take in ironing, sewing, cleaned houses,organized homes, sold cosmetics and cookies. At times Tawra and I would sell excess things she had grown in her very small garden to the restaurant in town and we had a table with produce where people could take what they wanted and pay on the honor system.Think of odd needs that need to be meant like if you are a good decorator check into staging homes for realtors or if you don’t know how to do that see if they need someone to be at their open houses. Sometimes caters need temporary servers, clean gutters, flower beds, teach knitting or sewing classes in your home or do yard work and on and on.
I could write all day on different things like that that a person can do. You just need to be willing to step out of the box and start asking.