Money, bills, and finances. GULP!
The #1 reason why couples argue and the #2 reason many get divorced—finances.
My husband took the kids to Target and came back with a new Lego set, a new t-shirt to add to his collection, some candy, all the junky cereal, and the wrong type of vegetable that I needed for dinner. Ummmm….? 😣 I’ve learned a lot of things about this amazing man of mine over the past nine years, but if there’s something I’ve learned when it comes to finances, it’s that he buys what he wants when he wants. The total opposite of me!
For one, he’s impulsive, whereas I obsess over something for months before buying it (and only, then, when I have a coupon code!). He doesn’t ask permission, yet I tell him every purchase I make. Are you starting to see a trend here… opposites really do attract. 😉
Through all of this, we’ve overcome our fair share of hurdles, had many setbacks, fought about bills, but over the years we’ve learned a lot about how to compromise and work together as a team. With a little help from our favorite book, The 5 Love Languages, we’ve developed many ways to help us stay on track and live happily ever after.
1. Keep a good line of communication.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to communicate with your spouse. Good communication will create balance and result in a successful financial situation.
“When my husband and I first got married, we never discussed money. We over-spent on things we didn’t need, and we never took into account what we were bringing in versus what was flying out the window every month. Before we knew it, we managed to get ourselves into a big hole of debt that caused a lot of tension and arguments. We realized we needed to communicate, stay on top of bills, and set goals for where we wanted to actually be. The day we finally came out on top was the day I actually felt like we were living.” – Bonnie
So, how do you communicate well, you ask? Here are some tips:
- Discuss money without yelling. Pick a good day to talk money when neither one of you is stressed. Maybe even go to a cafe or a public space that’s comfortable for financial discussions, but is also a place you’d feel embarrassed to raise your voices in.
- Don’t keep financial secrets. If you and your spouse are going to cover all grounds and have a positive outlook on your finances, you both need to know where the pennies are falling. This means no hiding secret credit cards from the other half and making sure everyone’s on the same page regarding any and all owed debts.
- Write it all out. Writing out all of your bills, debts, and monthly dues together can be eye-opening for both parties, especially if opposites attract. There may be a variation – and one of you may spend more than the other – but seeing what’s typically left over at the end of each month will force you to reevaluate your spending and bill paying.
- Don’t place blame on one another. Chances are, if one of you feels like you’re getting constantly blamed for how you spend or budget, talking about finances may not result in a positive conversation. Try your best to be patient and understanding with your spouse so that you can get through this together.
2. Marry your incomes.
You’re married. Now, marry your money! I’m not talking every single dollar here, but enough that your monthly bills are covered. After all, you don’t need to share everything, but the bills always need to be paid. Whether you want to combine every dollar or just a set amount to cover shared expenses, setting up a joint account can help with paying monthly mandatories such as your mortgage or rent, car payments, cable, phones, utilities, and any other bills you have together.
“My husband and I have had a joint account since way before we were married because he used to forget to pay bills (for months at a time). So I handle all of the finances, but we also have play accounts, which are our own PayPal accounts that we can do anything we want with. He has a video game obsession, and I spend too much on my daughter, so it works out well for us. We earn money in various ways to add to those accounts: he buys and sells video games, and I’m a consultant on the side. Then we sell stuff around the house that we don’t need. If anything, having to ‘earn extra’ has made us more frugal because we tend not to buy things we won’t actually use/need, and we’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff around the house just to pay for fun extras.” – Chelsey
Even if you’re not yet married, you can still manage some of your combined expenses like Emily does with her boyfriend. We even love her technique for dining out, too! LOL! And if you don’t eat out often, we love how Amber organizes her meal planning and saves hundreds when she shops!
“My boyfriend and I have an unspoken approach to how we split paying for food. Anything consumed inside of the house (groceries, wine, etc.) is paid by me. Anything consumed outside of the house (dinners out, coffees, happy hour, etc.) is paid for by him. It works out really great for us since it has forced me to be smarter about my grocery shopping. Plus, we eat at Chipotle at least 3 times a week, so I think I’m the one getting the better end of the deal! 😉” – Emily
Are wedding bells in the air? Make sure to check out our money saving tips for your big day!
3. Track your money making and spending.
Each week, have a day when you can touch base with each other to discuss bills that need to be paid and the current status of all your spending accounts. Knowing what you both have left will give you a better visual for what you should be buying or not buying and will give you confidence that you’re both staying on track.
“My husband and I have always had our money together since we got married in 2005. I have always been the bill organizer, payer, and budgeter; we have one bill slot of paid bills and another slot for bills that are in the queue. However, we check in with each other a lot. After each payday, I let him know how much spending money is left over after bills are paid, and he keeps track of our online accounts. We also do our banking online so that’s fairly quick and easy. We make sure to touch base with each other for any purchases over $50, and every six months we go back over our bills to see where we are spending and how we can improve on saving. Tax time is also a great starting point for us to reevaluate our income and savings.” – Amber S.
“My husband and I don’t fight about money often, and I truly think it’s because early on in our marriage we decided that one of us was going to be the CEO and one of us was going to be the Secretary of our finances. The CEO focuses on all the long-term money related things (retirements, investments, etc.) and the secretary focuses on all the day-to-day items (bills, budgeting, etc). Now don’t get me wrong; we for sure cross into each other’s ‘lanes’ at times and make sure we’re both not spending too much, but this has worked so well for us, and then nothing gets missed or forgotten about!” – Amber R.
4. Build defined goals together.
Hopefully, this is something you discussed before you got married, because if you don’t have the same goals, you may not see eye-to-eye on your financial future. Maybe you want your dream house by the time you’re 30 or to put all your kids into private school one day. Regardless of your dreams, create a plan together that lists your short-term and long-term goals so they can become a reality. Also, discuss retirement so that you both end up with the lifestyle you want to achieve.
Not all goals happen overnight, and sometimes our greatest goals end up coming from our biggest failures – which we learn from tenfold. Like Lina says, there’s no shame in failing.
“We have been through it ALL! We lost everything in the housing bubble after remodeling a home that was worth less than half of what we paid. We went through personal bankruptcy, and I thought it was the biggest failure EVER at the time… I have always been really open about our struggles because my husband and I matured a lot during it all. We became closer, and in the end, it was a lesson in humility and gratitude. Ten years later, we’ve made it out alive and on top, and I will never take anything for granted. We appreciate our home and life even more. I’ve learned that it’s okay to make mistakes because that is how you learn!” – Lina
5. Make a budget and stick to it.
Budgeting is going to be your number one way of staying on track and making sure you both meet your overall financial goals. Figure out how much you owe in monthly bills, decide what you want to save each month, and think about what you should set aside for shopping, eating out, and entertainment.
Do you find it hard to budget and stick to it? Check out these free budgeting apps or keep our 5 practical budgeting tips in mind when creating a budget.
“Hi! I’m Alana, and I’m a shopaholic. To save our bank account and our relationship, we agreed on a budget that I can spend with no questions asked. Normally my spending consists of Target clearance, dollar spot items, and other nonsense! At first, I was annoyed, and I’m pretty sure I yelled, “You’re not my Dad!” (LOL!!!), but now it totally makes sense for us and I love it.” – Alana
6. Make room for freedom and fun money.
Speaking of a budget, some of you may need to budget for a little extra spending money. Are you married to a constant spender or someone who can’t miss that next sale at Target? We totally get it, sometimes those deals are too good to pass up…every single time! This is when “fun money” comes into play. Whether you’re spoiling yourself with new clothes, have a hobby that needs to be fulfilled on the daily, or you just like shopping, we think it’s best to allow your other half to have that freedom, but with limits in mind so both of you – the non spender and the spender – are happy.
“For me, I know that my husband is less stressed when he knows I’m going to be spending money on something, rather than going out, spending the money, and then letting him find out the next time he checks our accounts. We’re both happier people when bills are paid, groceries are in the fridge, and gas is in the cars, and we know just how much money each of us has at the end for ‘fun stuff’. It also makes these purchases more enjoyable when we know the other person won’t be worried about the next time we (mainly me 😏) go shopping since we have a budget for it.” – Lisa
“My husband used to forget to give me receipts for unsolicited purchases. At the end of the week, when I balanced our account, I found tons of small transactions. He basically ‘nickel & dimes’ our account. It started getting ridiculous where I would be hundreds of dollars off each month. Finally, we set up his own account, and now we have automatic direct deposit with a set amount from his paycheck going into it. He uses this as his ‘fun money’ to nickel & dime himself. 😅 He likes to use it to take care of all his pit stops for soda, snacks, gas, etc. and any other fun activities his heart desires. Overall, this has really helped our finances stay on track!” – Jennifer
7. Save money when you can.
Men and women tend to have very different perspectives on saving money. Some may think just saving part of their paycheck is all that’s necessary, whereas others may tend to clip coupons or find deals before purchasing something at the store—similar to that time Collin’s husband bought that costly printer with no sale or coupons!
I love that my husband and I are so very different – he’s definitely the spender while I’m the saver. We are constantly learning so much from one another due to being complete opposites. I sure envy his laid-back attitude and spur of the moment, let’s go on an adventure outlook. He definitely brings lots of fun and laughter to our family life! ❤️ – Collin
“I about fell over the time my husband and his friend were putting together some new gym equipment in our basement. In the midst of the assembly, they realized they needed a specific tool that we, of course, didn’t have, so off to the store they went! Fast forward a few hours later, and my husband is bribing me with a dozen donuts, because who could possibly be in a bad mood when looking at freshly baked donuts?! Afterward, he told me he brought home the most expensive treadmill the store had, a TV (for the treadmill 😏), and an entire rubber mat flooring for the gym. WITH NO COUPONS OR SALES! If there’s one thing my husband isn’t, it’s frugal. LOL! If there’s one thing to be said about all of this, it’s that we were able to cancel our monthly gym membership to save money, so there’s that.” – Sara
“Play to each other’s strengths. I am the worst about paying bills on time, but I can find a deal on just about anything. My husband and I know these things about each other, so he pays all of our bills (and has for over 10 years). Most purchases fall in my lap though, so even when my husband went to buy a new car, we did it together since I’m able to negotiate a better deal and more easily resist all of the unnecessary add-ons than he is.” – Stacy
Is saving money a weakness that both of you tend to struggle with? Check out 13 ridiculously easy ways to save money this year and download our favorite budgeting app that’s Hip2Save tested!
8. Live a debt free life.
We’ve all heard it before: “If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it!”. And as Dave Ramsey says, you only really need credit cards to get yourself into more debt, therefore you should be asking yourself why you actually need them at all.
“It’s very scary how fast 90K or more can add up when you have cars, student loans, etc. My husband and I did Dave Ramsey’s program in 2008 and paid off over $90,000 in debt, including our second mortgage, car payments, credit cards, and student loans. We cut up all of our credit cards and never looked back. To this day, we do not own a credit card, and everything we purchase is paid via debit or cash. Additionally, we’ve never had any issues renting cars, paying for hotels, and traveling outside the country among many other things. Becoming debt free has been life-changing for our marriage and lifestyle!” – Michelle
Often times after marriage, you move into a new home together, see the neighbor’s spendy cars, endless amount of sports that their kids are participating in, and you suddenly feel the need to keep up with it all! Be cautious of these lifestyle inflations and spend money within your means. Besides, you don’t want to end up a divorce statistic like this staggering debt and marriage stats that we found.
9. Plan for the unexpected.
While we can plan all we want, sometimes life and unexpected happenings get in our way. Unforeseen circumstances like unemployment, family illness, and a home or auto disaster are just a few examples of how your finances can take a turn for the worst if you’re unprepared. Building an emergency fund for these un-predicted times will set you up for peace of mind in the worst of situations.
“Plan for the unexpected. My husband was laid off a few months ago, and it was tough! Thankfully, we were able to rely on our emergency savings funds. We basically split our income into 3 groups: Necessity, Savings, Entertainment. The entertainment wasn’t too difficult for us since we live an hour away from L.A., and we always take advantage of the free events in our area like kids workshops, summer park concerts, movie screenings, etc. (My husband HATES to use coupons, so I’m the Cheap-o who will put in the extra work to find these cool frugal events for us to enjoy.). Funny story… word spread around with my husband’s military buddies that I was one of those coupon ladies, so they made me a shirt that says, “I have a coupon for that”. – Alyssa
How do you and your spouse tackle finances?
Share in the comments below!