Money is a personal — and often sensitive — issue for just about every person on this planet. And since everyone has different financial habits and desires, it’s no surprise that money fights in marriage are such a common problem.
In fact, financial arguments are consistently cited as one of the leading causes of divorce in America.
The good news is, if you and your spouse constantly argue about money, there are a number of steps you can take to get on the same financial page.
Now, I am not a marriage counselor, and I don’t claim to be some marital finance guru. I am just a God-fearing husband with a passion for personal finance, and an ever-growing desire to improve my marriage.
So, the steps I offer in this article are not derived from some giant study with thousands of participants. Rather, they are just financial tips that have worked wonders in my own marriage. And I honestly believe they will do the same for you.
That said, I should warn you, they are not for the faint-hearted. In fact, these steps might seem pretty radical for some of you. And if that’s the case, there’s no one forcing you to take my advice. Seriously, if that doesn’t sound appealing, you don’t even need to keep reading.
But if we’re being honest, marriage is a radical commitment, that isn’t for the faint-hearted, either. And that’s exactly why I think these financial steps are up to the task.
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1. Commit Your Finances To God
I can tell you with certainty, that all the strongest aspects of my marriage have one thing in common: they are centered around God. And, the more we focus on His principles, the stronger those things get.
In the case of money, the more we commit to following biblical financial principles, the better off our finances become.
For instance, I have only ever experienced a positive financial outcome from things like: tithing, praying about finances with my wife, practicing financial patience, and actively committing our financial life to God. My Dad has always said, “when you step toward God, he’ll run toward you,” and I can’t tell you how often my wife and I experience this in our financial life.
So, if money is a source of contention between you and your spouse, my first recommendation is that you give it all to God — your marriage, your money, everything. Just lay it all at His feet. This one action can (and likely will) cause a monumental shift in your marital financial life. I speak from experience.
Side Note: If and when you decide to commit your finances to God, I highly recommend reading The Legacy Journey by Dave Ramsey. This book dives deep into biblical financial principles, and has been a big-time eye opener for our marital financial journey.
2. Get Everything Out In The Open (And Commit To Change)
Once you have committed your financial life to God, it’s important to get everything out in the open between you and your spouse. Please, don’t place this step ahead of step one. If you are going to have a loving, productive conversation about finances with your spouse, God needs to be heavily involved.
This conversation should be anything but an argument. Rather, it should be a cleansing, conversation where you both take responsibility for your actions, and forgive each other. I know, that’s easier said than done, but as humans we get to choose how we react to any situation. So, in this case, make it a point to honor, love and forgive each other.
This is also the step where you should commit to changing your behavior. If you have racked up a ton of credit card debt, commit to never doing it again. If you have a spending problem that your spouse didn’t know about, admit it, and quit it.
This step is critical to moving forward, and improving your situation.
3. Get On A Strict Budget, Together
Learning how to budget properly not only changed my marriage for the better, but it completely changed my life. Now, every penny my wife and I make has a specific purpose. In fact, without budgeting, my wife and I would probably still be in debt, spending beyond our means, and arguing about finances.
Budgeting serves many financial purposes, but in marriage it does more than that. It serves as a way to hold each other accountable, and make stronger financial decisions as a team.
Plus, it can eliminate a lot of the tension that causes money fights in marriage.
Consider this, if you and your spouse take the time to sit down and create a budget together, you are both responsible for upholding the budget. If one of you wants to spend money on something frivolous, you have to consult the budget. And, if it doesn’t fit in the budget, it’s off the table.
Budgeting as a couple removes the fuel that feeds the arguments. Since you both agreed on the budget, you both have to live up to it.
In essence, budgeting as a couple changes the dynamic of marital finance from opposition to teamwork.
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4. Completely Eliminate Your Debt
I am going to ask you the same financial question that changed my life.
If you didn’t have any debt, how much more financial freedom would you have?
When I first heard this question, I sat down and added up the cumulative amount of money my wife and I were spending on debt payments. You know how much it was? Over $900 per month. That’s $10,800 per year. And when Katie heard that number, she was just as disgusted as I was.
So, we vowed to get completely out of debt, and never go back.
The surprise benefit, was that getting out of debt took a ton of strain off our relationship. We also have much more financial ability to do things that benefit our long-term financial goals. Instead of spending our paychecks on debt, we have built up a 6-month emergency fund, and are currently saving for a house and investing for retirement. The best part is, I can’t remember the last time we got into an argument about money.
In my experience, debt puts an enormous amount of strain on a marriage. So, if you want to stop fighting with your spouse about money, eliminate all your debt.
And I am talking scorched earth!
Shred your credit cards, and pay them all off.
If you have a car payment, either pay it off, or sell it for the sake of your marriage. That goes for boats, RVs, and anything else with a motor.
If you’re scratching and clawing to make your mortgage payments, sell your house and rent until you can buy a house you can easily afford.
Debt causes marital tension. So put your marriage first, and eliminate all your debt.
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5. Simplify Your Spending
My final recommendation is often where I lose people. I’m serious, this last step gets more resistance than anything else I discuss in personal finance. But, I can tell you with absolute certainty that this is the best financial decision my wife and I have ever made on behalf of our marriage. Here it is.
Use your debit card for every single purchase.
Yep, that means no credit cards. (Cue the haters.)
The reason this is so critical in marriage is that it drastically simplifies your finances and eliminates nearly every source of contention for you and your spouse.
Think about it, when you only spend money using a credit card, you only need to log into one account to know exactly where you stand financially. Plus, if you are budgeting, you only need to log expenses from one place (i.e. your checking account).
No more credit card juggling. No more remembering which accounts have balances, and which don’t. No more wondering if your spouse has spent money that you are unaware of.
Spending money from your debit card only keeps both you and your spouse up-to-date, and accountable. Plus, it makes managing your personal finances a much more enjoyable process.
Money fights in marriage are extraordinarily uncomfortable, and very common. And, if they have gotten out of control in your marriage, you might need to make some radical changes.
To review, the five steps we recommend are:
- Commit your finances to God
- Get everything out in the open (and commit to change)
- Get on a strict budget, together
- Completely eliminate your debt
- Simplify your spending
These tips have been extremely beneficial in my own marriage, and I hope they will do the same for you.