Money and marriage go hand in hand. According to a recent study, arguing about money is a top predictor of divorce among married couples. Yes, you read that right, the top predictor.
The study looked at 4,500 couples and analyzed how they viewed money. It determined we all have different purposes for money, some status, some security, but rarely we come to a marriage with the same viewpoint.
That’s because we get our money views from our family systems that we grew up knowing.
Money is a critical cornerstone of marriage, and the study reveals that.
People give us general advice like “take care of your finances” and “don’t get a credit card” but nobody is telling us how critically important finances are in a happy marriage. With divorce rates at nearly 50%, we need to be paying attention.
Marriage can be a tough transition but aligning your financial perspectives with your spouse can save your marriage.
How can you do this?
Here are a few simple steps to get you started.
Get on the same page. It’s critical to sit down and have a conversation about money. List how much debt you have. Who you owe. Then begin listing the exact steps to get out of debt, and set your financial goals for fun. This doesn’t need to be a depressing exercise. Make it fun.
Leave the complicated spreadsheets alone. Straightforward and easy makes this process sustainable. Virtual tools are helpful, but the act of handwriting your budget makes it stick. Make it a priority to do your budgeting together a couple of days before you get paid. Sit down with no distractions and write out all of the outgoing expenses. Plan on doing this together for at least 3-6 months so that it becomes your routine.
Designate a specific amount of money to do at least 1 activity a week that both you and your spouse enjoy. Plan this together and discuss what it may be. It could be ice cream on the weekend or a date night at your favorite restaurant.
When you do your budget, decide how much each of you will get in spending money until the next pay period. We often do $200-$300 per two weeks and it works well for things here or there expenses like unexpected work lunches or coffee in the afternoon. This will help decrease typical fights like, “you went to Starbucks two days in a row!” The money that you allow for your personal spending money will be used how you would like. The kicker is that once you spend it; you don’t get any more for that pay period, so use it wisely.
Remember the financial goals you set earlier? Now is the time to make them come true. Setting aside money to pay yourself each month is critical. Always try and put savings away in your retirement or savings account first each month, so you don’t have any excuses not to later. You have no idea what the future will entail so make sure that you are saving up as much as possible.
So, your spouse decided to buy a TV with the emergency fund money. Yes, that’s a terrible financial decision. If you think you have the right to be upset, you do, but don’t let this be the cause of all your marital fights. Make sure that you are holding each other accountable with the budget but, also realize that changing financial behaviors is hard. It’s not going to happen overnight.
Learn to let the small stuff pass but always try to review your progress weekly when you sit down to communicate how your money will be spent.
Don’t shy away from these sit-down conversations until both you and your spouse can follow the guidelines you’ve set. It may be painful at the time, but in the end, it will all be worth it.
Remember it’s your money, which means it’s your freedom. The choice is yours. Your future self will thank you.
Jenna writes about personal finance and unconventional living. She teaches young people to manage their finances better so they can travel more, worry less, and retire early. She and her husband discuss how they paid off $50,000 of student loans in under one year by living in a camper!