In my own marriage, money issues started really early on in our relationship. Being very young and without any sort of savings, my new husband surprised me with a brand new mountain bike for my birthday. I mean, it was a super sweet gift but… the money had come out of our joint banking account which barely had enough in it to cover the month’s expenses.
And so our journey began.
With me holding on tight to any cash that came in, terrified to release control and loose the feelings of safety it gave me, and my husband having a more optimistic, easy-going attitude about money, enjoying the sense of freedom it provided.
It’s easy to see where this was headed…
So after years of struggling with this issue, I want to share with you the top 3 mistakes we made and what you can do differently to avoid all the struggle we experienced!
Mistake #1: Not talking about our history with money
This is the biggest and most common mistake that couples make when it comes to finances. It’s really human nature to think that the way we feel about an issue is the way everyone thinks about it! But, the truth is that you come to the table with different experiences and messages about money, mostly from you childhood. And these pre-conceived ideas can dictate your fears and spending behavior, more than you ever thought possible.
Ask yourself a few questions: What did I learn from my parents about money? Did one of my parents control the finances? Was I rewarded or punished with money as a child? How do I feel when there is money in the bank vs just getting by?
By having a curious and non-judgmental approach to this investigation, you are able to take a step back from the heated cycle and understand why you might be reacting a certain way.
Encourage your spouse to do the same and share your insights with each other, continuing with the curious and open-minded approach to promote understanding and avoid criticism.
Mistake #2: Not creating a budget and a system to track expenses
I totally get it. The thought of making a budget isn’t exactly the most exciting idea and often gets shoved into the never-gets-done “to-do” list. When money is tight, you want to avoid looking at your bank account because it’s a scary place and when there is a bit more wiggle room, you don’t think you need a budget! What a predicament.
But let me tell you this: agreeing on a budget and including items that both you and your partner feel are important, is the quickest way to curb fights about money. This set you up as a team, with a common goal in mind.
Make a budget. Doesn’t get easier than this. Look at your last month’s spending to determine some realistic category amounts, tally up your incomes and balance the budget to zero every month (hopefully adding in a bit of savings).
Then take the most critical step to ensuring success and discuss how to keep track of your expenses. There are many options for this including using cash in envelopes, using an App on your phones or updating a spreadsheet every week. This step will require the most patience and persistence because you might need to try many different methods before you find one that really sticks.
And, hey, why not treat yourself after one month of staying on budget?
Mistake #3: Not looking at the facts together when fights began
Often in a marriage, you have one spouse who is a saver and one who is a spender. And as you can imagine, the saver usually is a bit more pessimistic about the bank balance while the spender has a more optimistic outlook.
This also applies to how much is being spent every month. Does one spouse like to grab a coffee and muffin before work and downplay the monthly cost, causing them to ignore their partner’s request to eat breakfast at home?
Without looking at the actual facts, the argument just escalates and any hope of a solution goes out the window.
Whenever you find yourself in a disagreement about money, ask yourself if there are facts you could look at which would help you arrive at an understanding about the reality of the situation.
Fighting about if you can afford an upcoming vacation? Look at the facts: how much you have saved or can in the future and how much the trip will realistically cost. Nothing more to fight about!
Arguing over one partner’s gambling habit? Tally up how much has been spent (and won) in the last three months to discover how hard it’s impacting your bank balance.
Take the personal opinion out of it and then you can more forward together, making sacrifices and choices that are rooted in reality.
To find more tips like these, visit Janna’s blog at www.growingmarriage.com or join the free “Transform your Marriage in 7 Days” Challenge to discover how you can change your marriage without even saying a word to your spouse about it!