My husband and I are newlyweds and are living off of my income while he is in school. We are trying to find a budget that works for us but I find that since I am in charge of the finances primarily I worry about money while he relaxes. Part of this is poor communication but part of it is that I am really focused on tightening up our budget to pay off debts and he thinks we are fine as we are.
So what is the best way to work with your spouse to plan a financial strategy for your family, especially when you may have different ideas or approaches to it? Money is the number one fight in marriages and I want to find a better way to communicate about it so we can work together rather than against each other. -Alice
Disclaimer: I’m not a marriage counselor, nor do I have years of marriage experience under my belt, so I can only speak from my own personal experience as to what has worked for us in our eight and a half years of marriage. This may or may not work in your situation and it may be wise for you to seek out marriage counseling or to find a wise older couple who lives locally who can counsel you as you’re beginning your marriage.
1. Accept That You Are Different
First off, I’m pretty sure all husbands and wives have different ideas about money when they first come into marriage–I know we certainly did. Even though we were both raised by financially conservative parents who taught us the value of hard work and stewardship and even though we spent a lot of time before marriage discussing finances, we definitely still came into marriage with different views and ideas about money.
You didn’t marry your clone–and it’s probably a good thing! You need someone who is different from you to help balance you out. Instead of being discouraged or disheartened that your husband has different views, accept him as he is. Don’t try to change him and make him just like you; it won’t work. Believe me, I’ve tried.
2. Learn to Appreciate the Differences
I tend to be ultra frugal, while my husband tends to be more extravagant (at least according my standards!). This can be a source of frustration for both of us, but we’ve also learned to appreciate and learn from each other.
My husband will readily admit that we’ve saved quite a bit of money over the years thanks to my thriftiness and he’s learned that being frugal doesn’t have to mean you are a miser or miserable. He’s also gotten quite good at saving money himself; in fact, he can sometimes outdo me when it comes to using coupons or getting a great deal!
On the other hand, my husband has taught me much about relaxing a little more when it comes to finances. He’s helped me to think in terms of return on investment and constantly motivates me to make the most of my time when it comes to money-saving ventures. If it weren’t for him, I’d most assuredly be wasting hours on supposed “money-saving projects” that, in reality, would result in little money actually saved.
Together, we make a much more balanced and stronger team than either of us would be on our own. That’s the beauty of learning to appreciate and build on differences instead of letting them just become big battles.
3. Be Willing to Compromise
Since both of us don’t naturally see eye-to-eye when it comes to finances, we’ve had to learn to communicate and compromise. While my husband does all of the bill-paying and budget-tallying at our house because he enjoys that sort of thing (while I find it incredibly tedious!), we both work together on creating and maintaining our budget. This has been key in us getting on same page with our finances.
I’d heartily encourage all couples to have regularly-scheduled monthly Budget Accountability Meetings to discuss your financial situation, to create and revise your written budget, to talk about financial issues that have arisen in the last month, and to review your financial goals and objectives. If you’ve never done this sort of thing before, it may be very difficult going at first, but I promise it will be worth it.
There is one rule that must be followed at these meetings: it must be a mutual discussion. Neither of you should be trying to force anything on the other person. There should be give and take and open discussion. You must both be willing to compromise and talk things through to come to a point of agreement.
Dragging your spouse to the meeting and berating them for their handling of money probably won’t get you anywhere–except in the wrong direction. However, graciously explaining to your spouse how you’ve been struggling with the financial situation and feeling like there is constant tension and frustration in your life as a result of not being on the same page will probably get you somewhere. And showing that you are very open to compromise and reaching agreement that is mutually beneficial will go a long way, too.