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Q&A Tuesday: How can we improve communication about finances in our marriage?

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.

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54 Comments

  • I keep track of all our expenses using categories in Quicken. Once a month I reconcile our accounts, and match it up with our budget. I print out our Budget vs. Actual spending, and highlight where we overspent, or stayed under budget and why. I give it to my husband to read, and then we discuss how we can either continue saving, or do better next month.

    I started doing the printout method, because my husband is a thinker. He would rather see information and digest it, then talk about it. My coming at him with “We’re over budget again!” does NOT work. But, when he can SEE where we’re over budget and then have time to think about it, we avoid an argument and both do a better job being objective.

  • Amanda says:

    I agree with all of the above and can relate to almost all of it as well!

    One thing that really helped my husband and I was going through all of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University CD’s before we were married and then going through an actual class early in our marriage. If you can’t afford to go through the class, try to find someone who has gone through it and can lend you the CD’s.

    It’s really important to think about the big picture, which is what FPU helped my husband and I to do. What do you want your financial situation to look like in 5, 10, or 20 years? What is your plan going to be to get there? If you’re both on the same page about where you’re going, there are a lot fewer disagreements along the way.

  • Jenny says:

    If I didn’t know better I would think you stole this question from my thoughts! We are married just over 2 years, living off my income while he finishes school, I’m trying to pay off our debt while he thinks we are fine. He is done with school in May 2012 & will start teaching in Aug 2010. I’m so nervous that we will just increase our lifestyle & before we know it, we’ll start to wonder “when do we get to see all this extra $$ from dual incomes?”
    My hubby likes when I tell him how much I save with using of coupons etc but that’s the extent of it while I almost do a happy dance at the cash register when I look at my receipt for my weekly savings.

    • Jenny says:

      start teaching in Aug 2012**

    • Amanda says:

      Hey Jenny, my husband and I are living off just his income because I plan to stop working when we have a child. One thing we do is have all of my paycheck except the tithe go directly to our savings account. That way we don’t even “see” my additional income. I keep a spreadsheet of the money in our savings account and we allocate each dollar of it for specific savings goals. That way, we can say my paycheck is going towards our next new car or that deck we’re saving for instead of it being expendable cash floating around ready to be saved.

  • sarah says:

    I love this post. I can’t wait to read the rest of the comments. I’ve written a question to Crystal myself along these same lines even.

  • Bethany says:

    Alice, I could have written word-for-word what you did… exactly how me/my husband are.

    I would say to make sure to thank him for any small sacrifices he DOES make $$-wise, & celebrate any small financial goal/decision made. It’s easy to feel there are always more ways to shave off a few dollars, rather than rejoicing in the small things.

    I really feel it’s an unnatural responsibility for women to be the main bread-winners, and it’s an extra emotional responsibility that is tough to handle at times. Pray for God’s strength and grace to take one day at a time… and to ward of feelings of bitterness at your current financial state.

    Best of luck!!

    • Lisa says:

      This is great advice. I too am the main breadwinner and in charge of our finances, and it is a difficult burden. I do struggle with feelings of bitterness. I love what you said about thanking him for small sacrifices and celebrating small victories and decisions. I’ve found that when I do loosen my grip on having it all done “my way” and join my husband in rejoicing at our progress, slow though it may be, my own mental/emotional state improves along with our relationship!

  • amy says:

    I agree with all of these points. There is so much to be said for valuing each other, while also encouraging each other to grow. When my husband and I got married he lived paycheck to paycheck and I saved as much as possible. In his defense, while he didn’t have any savings, he also only had a car loan. In the beginning, we struggled to compromise over a budget. After reading a few books on finances, we decided to give ourselves monthly spending money, in our budget, as a way to relieve some tension. We compromised on an amount significantly less than my husband would have liked and way more than I ever thought was necessary. It was not easy to get to that number, but it gave us so much peace. When the money was gone, I didn’t have to say no and he didn’t feel constrained by me. 6 years later, our family has grown to 5, we’ve traded apartment living for a house and our spending money is now a quarter of what it once was. My husband still struggles occasionally, but by learning to live with a set amount each month in the beginning, we were able to identify and manage our spending habits. Now, if you only looked at it from my perspective this is all you would see, however, one of the reasons my husband had trouble saving is because he is incredibly generous. (Trust me, he gives great gifts!) When I would be stingy and try to save as much as possible, he would use his gift of giving and challenge me to give our blessings/money away. Every time he sees something/someone he wants to give to, it is a struggle for me, but I have come to the conclusion that I don’t miss it once its gone. My heart for saving gives us more money in the bank, and his heart for giving has helped us to give more than I would have dreamed possible, and we’re still not lacking.

  • Mary Ann says:

    I am a saver and my husband is a spender. This created some interesting moments early on and continues to keep things exciting. One thing that helped was that we were on similar pages in regards to living debt-free and paying cash instead of credit cards starting out. I will admit that I was more gung-ho about this than he, and although he thought the whole Dave Ramsey thing sounded great, he wasn’t sure how we could actually pull it off in real life. But as we paid some debt off in the first couple of years and began to have some money saved for future expenses, he started to become a believer. He had never before in his life planned ahead financially so even when it came to Christmas and we had gift money already saved up, it excited him!

    I did all the finances for the first 6 years although we did discuss the details together. This year, he has taken over the finances and is learning as he goes but doing great as long as I allow him to do it his way without butting in. 🙂

    Crystal’s advice was great. Allow your differences to complement and balance each other out! My husband is very generous and that blesses me! He has learned that living frugally and debt free doesn’t mean that life is void of everything fun! He’s always been my biggest supporter with living frugally and couponing but now he has started helping me with it some. A couple of weeks ago, he made a quick grocery run for me (with coupons and rain checks!) and was extremely pumped over the 6 dozen eggs he got for less than $2 out of pocket. At the same time, I’ve learned to relax a bit more when it comes to money.

    Pray a LOT. Talk honestly with kindness and gratitude. Give it time. Find ways to compromise so it is a win-win for both of you!

  • Crystal had a lot of good advice. I tend to be more frugal than my husband too, I would add a couple of thoughts.

    Depending on how tight your budget is, could you give our husband X amount of money to spend as he sees fit? I do the bills and sometimes I find myself being overly critical as to how money is spent even though we aren’t living paycheck to paycheck. Giving him an amount (that doesn’t hurt the budget) to spend as he sees fit helps us both.

    The second point is, depending on your budget, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to spend frivolously IF you can afford it. There’s a balance between spending freely and not saving for tomorrow and saving for tomorrow and not living for today. I’ve agreed to splurges if he agrees to save X amount.

    Good Luck!

  • I have been married for 7 years, my parents lived well beyond their limits, while my husband’s parents were frugal.
    I am in charge of our budget and I sometimes wish he was more involved, although I do like being in “control.”
    His mind set is that of “If the bills are being paid, no one is hounding us for money, and we can live, then I’m fine.”
    I do not like when he has to call and ask if we have money in our account to cover something he wants to buy if he can’t put his “fun” money in the bank that day.
    We have taken FPU together and are currently working on the baby steps, those are our goals right now. When I get frustrated, I talk to him, but other than that, we decided on an amount that we would not spend more than without consulting the other, and that is about as “on the same page” as we get right now.
    However, since he got a new job, with higher pay, I have a feeling we will be sitting down very soon to discuss our plan after we finish off a few more baby steps!

  • Steph says:

    My husband and I struggled a lot too in our first years. I worked full time and he worked part time and went to school. He did not understand why taking $20 from the ATM whenever he needed cash was such a big deal and why I thought he needed an “allowance” when it was his money too. Finally I let go of the checkbook and let him handle the money. He quickly realized how big a deal it was to take a $20 out whenever for just because and wonders how we ever made it when he was spending for no reason before. He needed to experience the ins and outs of the checkbook and it changed his perspective. He is now a HUGE Dave Ramsey fan too;-) While he still is the manager of our finances we sit down at least once a month to go over the budget for next month so we are on the same page together. It is never a good idea for only one person to handle the money…..ever.

  • Emilie says:

    Don’t keep anything about where the money is spent a secret from each other. Honesty is the best policy.

  • EricaW says:

    My husband and I have 2 budget meetings set on our calendar each week. In the beginning, we put them on our calendar to be sure we made time to discuss our finances. Now we rarely have them (at least not at those specific times) but we do make sure to meet maybe a week before the new month starts. We also will meet when we come across something that needs to go into our budget for the next month… new tires, birthday gift, etc. At least one of us will have our laptop and we open up our Google budget spreadsheet and edit as needed!

  • Christine says:

    When my husband and I first got married we agreed that we wouldn’t spend a single dime without talking to each other first about it; because we were struggling, and I wanted to make sure we had money to pay our bills. Obviously I primarily handle the finances, the actual paying of the bills, but there has never been an expense we both didn’t agree on.

    This has worked throughout our years of marriage, before we buy anything we discuss it. Do we really need it? Is it something we can live without? Is it something we are just being stupid about? How will it benefit us? How will not spending the money benefit us?

    This has worked, and kept us out of the hole. We are still struggling, because we are a low income family. But, talking over every single penny we spend has made us consistently better spenders, and savers.

    AND, we don’t argue about money because we can NEVER claim that we both didn’t agree on a purchase.

    And further more, if one of us doesn’t agree on spending money on an expense/service/item then the money isn’t spent. There is no sulking, no whining, it just is what it is and we both accept it. We both give or views and opinions on the pros and cons, and we rationally look at the situation and handle it like adults. We don’t get passionate about a purchase, because we’re passionate about each other and our well being. And if one of us is uncomfortable, we’re both uncomfortable in making a purchase.

    This talking things out carries out into bigger purchases, paying down debt, etc. And it really saves us from impulse purchases.

    • Melissa Z says:

      I agree! It took a bit for hubby to learn that when I ask questions about a purchase, it’s not because I want to be controlling or think that he’s bad with money. It’s because two people thinking about something is better than one & if we talk about it first, neither one of us is upset about it later.

  • Natalie F says:

    Good advice. The only thing I would add, is don’t make money the most important thing in your life or marriage. We’ve had some lean times and we always end our financial meetings by counting our blessings. “We have each other, our son, and our health. We are BLESSED. We will get through this together, as a team.” Now, we are pretty financially healthy, and I don’t think it could have happened without honest communication and team work. I’m also, quite glad, that we didn’t waste our “broke” years fighting and bickering about money (most of the time) and that we managed to have fun.

    • B says:

      Yes! This is good advice. My husband and are going through hard financial times right now–partly due to circumstances beyond our control and partly due to poor choices in the past on both our parts. Tackling finances with a team spirit is so very important. If one person in the couple is willing to avoid blaming the other, then the other just might be won over. And, it’s good to avoid talking about money all the time–especially if there’s not much money to speak of.

      Keep a scheduled time to discuss the budget, and then DON’T talk about money outside of the scheduled time. (This can be hard for me at times, but it’s important.) We usually have longer monthly meetings but also very short meetings–check-ups 🙂 –around the bi-weekly pay days.

      Stay positive in your attitude toward each other. My husband is so kind to not rate on me for the poor money choices I’ve made in the past. I really admire that in him and his charitable attitude has really softened my response toward his past poor money choices. (BTW, don’t bring up past skeletons of bad money choices–it won’t be profitable.) When he is feeling sad about our finances, I tell him we got into this mess together and we are now learning how to get out of this mess together.

      We have both made ill-informed financial choices because we didn’t know any better, because we made plain old dumb choices, and because we let some emotionally difficult times in our life cloud our better judgement regarding our spending habits. We’ve reached the conclusion that we should not feel guilty about what we didn’t know about money or couldn’t understand about money in the past. We are trying to turn school-of-hard-knocks experiences into opportunities to grow–individually and as a couple.

  • Rachel says:

    My husband and I faced very similar circumstances not too long ago. We made the bold decision to have my husband take over the finances– even though he is not the money nerd– he is the spiritual leader of our family.

    In a way, I was taking away a huge chunk of his leadership by managing our money and creating the budget. Even though I would show him the budget, he rarely ever understood where we were at financially. He is the spender in our marriage, and once he took over, he became much more aware of the power of saving, the power of cutting back, and is like a stronger penny pincher than me!

    But what I love is how empowered and encouraged my husband is as our leader. He believes this role is a major part of true spiritual leadership as our pocket books reflect how we are doing spiritually! Since he took over, I have much less stress AND we give more than we ever have before. Our financial goals are very clear and we work together toward them.

    Best financial related decision we have made to date. 🙂

    • Marie says:

      I think this is a wonderful suggestion. I would encourage almost anyone to give this a try for a few months. Thanks for sharing!

      • Melissa Z says:

        Hubby doing the finances in our marriage has been incredibly helpful for us too. It lets me relax & not worry so much because I know that he is aware of everything & it just reassures me that I am not the one responsible (I believe it’s the husband’s responsibility to provide for our home- even though I’m currently the only one with a job- he’s in school- it’s still his responsibility to take care of us). I was able to quit being a harpy & shrew about every penny spent & that’s helped our marriage a ton 🙂

    • Lisa says:

      Wow, this really convicted me. I’ve been praying about ways to enable my husband to be the leader in our household, and I’ve also been praying about ways we can be on the same page more when it comes to our finances. Perhaps we will give this a try, though I admit that the thought of it terrifies me! Thank you for sharing.

  • Kaylea says:

    My husband and I use mint.com to track our expenses, debts, budget, goals, and investments. Having a shared login to a single place with all of the information, tracked automatically and easily, has made a big difference to our discussions. It doesn’t hurt that it’s free!

  • theresa says:

    our first year of marriage my husband worked at a ministry job while i taught public school – for me, it was difficult to be the primary breadwinner – we decided to live on his minimum wage (!) and use my salary to pay down student loans and pay medical bills for the honeymoon baby that we welcomed 9 months into our marriage – baby was born 2 weeks after school let out, so i got to stay home and our bills were greatly reduced – for me, i was so much more comfortable with my husband earning the much greater share of the money (even minimum wage) – i think men want to be what God describes in the Scriptures – the primary provider in the home – i see that your husband is in school – hopefully, that will change soon and he will become the primary wage earner – we have had ups and downs in this department over the years and we have found that the dave ramsey approach has been great for us – very proactive and a great way to control your money instead of vice versa – but i think any approach where you can refer to a format instead of to only your own feelings helps make the money situation less tense – not “but this is what i want to do with the money” instead – “this is how the book says we should handle this – is this how we want to handle this?” also, a written budget, addressed monthly, can be a great marriage strengthener – just remember to roll with the punches on the budget and thank the Lord Jesus Christ that you have some income to write down on the page!

  • It’s been two years since my husband and I started using coupons to save money. We’re now living and enjoying life debt free. Just like you I’m the frugal one and my husband just showed me how to enjoy life while saving. He just saved me from being stressed because of working too much just to earn money to pay for our bills. Good thing we love browsing the internet and he discovered these coupons.

  • sarah says:

    Reading this made me realize that I relax too much when it comes to finances, too, and need to step up and be more involved. We don’t have big budget concerns right now, but I am totally checked out of investing, retirement, and saving for college…geesh. I do pay the bills.

  • Kara says:

    My parents always sit down together at the beginning of the month and discuss their budget. That does not work for me and my husband. For us, I write the budget, usually about an hour before I go need to go to the bank, and email it to my husband. Then on an instant messenger he either says it looks good, or suggests changes to make. This has helped to insure that we are both on the same page.

  • Audrey says:

    Deciding on financial goals, and then implementing a plan to achieve them, has been the biggest help to get us on the same page.

    Your husband may not be excited about budgeting, but what does he want to do that involves money? Buy a house? Travel? How can you work toward reaching those goals?

    We came into our marriage with really different financial perspectives also. Five years of working on this has made it easier, and I’m sure time and practice will help you, too. Good luck!

  • chelsea says:

    My parents made very poor financial decisions when I was growing up, and because of this my husband and I have always made sure to consult each other before we make any big or unusual purchase. Even if its only a $30 purchase, it is discussed ahead of time.

    We share all our bank accounts as well- I know this isn’t something everyone agrees with, but it has made the communication lines flow so much freer for us, and its easy to access the joint account online and see where money is being spent. The only thing we don’t monitor is each other’s blow money!

  • Jessica says:

    My husband and I very recently sat down and had the budget talk- I do all of the money stuff and he really had no clue where the money went, or how we would get paid and the money would be gone (bills!) for the most part.

    Now I am still in charge of the money but we are on the same page and working very hard to pay off the little debt we have, and also saving at the same time to pay for a quarter of beef in cash come October. I suppose it is cliche but it is very rewarding to save for something and know you are being responsible about it.

    We also struggle because we both work, have a decent income, yet feel like there is never any extra. It is hard not to want to blow the budget at times.

    • Heather says:

      Great advice! My husband and I were not on the same page with money early in our marriage until I realized that he didn’t know how much he was spending…because I didn’t tell him! I managed all the finances and juggled the bills by myself because I didn’t want him to worry. In reality, I was just adding to my stress and taking away his ability to help. Now we have frequent “update” discussions on the budget so he knows where we stand and can stay motivated to keep saving.

  • Lea Stormhammer says:

    I grew up with parents who were very frugal and careful about their money. My husband didn’t. We struggled for a long time about getting on the same page with money. We just didn’t have a common reference point. My parent’s controlled their money and where it went, rather than the other way around (we always had money for the things we felt were necessary and important but not always the extras). And my husband’s family always had huge amounts of credit card debt, all the ‘extras’ and had to stuggle to have the necessitites and the important.

    We both read “Your Money or Your Life” and 2 of Dave Ramsey’s books (I’ve since read more and can’t remember which two we started with!). While we don’t practice either method specifically, it gave us a common background to start from. My husband freely admitted that he had never thought of money as a tool and had never thought of putting of budgeting as something that could help you reach your goals. To him a budget had always been something that told you everything you couldn’t do/buy rather than something helped you get what you wanted/needed and where you wanted to go. Having that common starting point greatly improved communication!

    We still have struggles sometimes with keeping our finances in order. At least we’re now on the same page and working toward the same goal!

    Hope that’s helpful!
    Lea

    • Lisa says:

      It certainly helped me! I grew up similarly to the way you did, and my husband’s background mirrors that of your husband’s. It’s hard. It’s good to know that it is possible to reach consensus if you keep working at it!

  • Meredith says:

    Without a doubt, following the Dave Ramsey plan changed us for the better. We’re now debt free and saving our EF, even though my husband is currently unemployed. I suggest communication, goals, CASH, and making sure you each have some money to spend as you want. Good for you for wanting to get on the same page now! Good luck!

  • Gloria Brown says:

    It may sound silly, but my husband and I had tried to do the budget talk together and it always ended up with me crying etc. I have been the bread winner since before our girls were born (just the way it worked out income wise). It finally took us sitting in front of a stranger who looked over our bills, debts, etc and saying I’ve seen lots worse for us to get a grip on it together. He put us on the debt snowball (or as my husband calls it gang warfare) Now we have paid off all our credit cards and only have our house to go which should be in the next two years.

    • B says:

      Yes, it took another person sitting across the table from us to help us too! Good advice. It was best for us to go to someone we were not related to. She leads Financial Peace University (Dave Ramsey) classes, and she helped us tremendously.

  • guest says:

    I agree with all these points but would suggest starting by not talking about financial management at all but rather shared goals. We are similar to you all (though we’ve been married 10 yrs) in our roles and it used to drive me bananas that he was so relaxed about what I viewed as a not-great situation. I finally asked him one night what goals he had – he wants us to travel more, he wants us to eventually have a vacation home. We brainstormed ideas, wrote them down, and agreed to which were actual goals. Having those shared goals has really lit a fire under both of us. Maybe give it a try and see if that helps. Not buying that new lawnmower when the other one still works is more palatable when you can say, well, we’re two months away from saving X dollars!

  • Crystal J says:

    We actually keep separate spending accounts. We contribute to the household expenses and savings, which was decided on together. What remains after our contributions is ours to keep (which isn’t much for either of us). I don’t worry about his spending and he doesn’t question mine. And since the spending money is what remains (and not a set amount) it doesn’t feel like an allowance. I know it’s not for everyone but it works well for us.

  • Merrilee says:

    I didn’t read through all the comments, but I have a question for Crystal (and for others) about the BAM (Budget Accountability Meetings): Do you have a list you go down or a set of questions that you ask one another? It sounds almost like a business meeting/financial updated kind of thing, so I’m just curious, since you both seem so business-minded and savvy in that department and it’s so regular, what are the regular things discussed?

    That’s one area we still need to improve upon. Our serious financial meetings tend to be more annually rather than quarterly or monthly.

    I will say that going through the Dave Ramsey book, Total Money Makeover, was transforming for us. The first time we sat down together to formulate a budget, I thought it would take 3 hours, and it really only took about 1. I also began to appreciate the fact that my husband could add numbers and follow along in his head, while I needed to see everything on paper and add everything by hand. At first I thought he was just being careless and sloppy, but he wasn’t. (Mutual respect and understanding is important in this sensitive area of communication.) And as we began to work together as a team in the finance department and make changes, I was finally free to start dreaming about life after debt. I also started noticing other areas of my life that needed to be wrangled under control, such as my attitude toward housework and time management. I’m still a work in progress, but finally feel like it’s three steps forward and only sometimes two steps back.

    I still love your blog, Crystal! It continues to be the best! Thanks for all your help and resources.

  • How funny the similarities for so many of the women on here! In my marriage, I’m definitely the saver and my husband is the one who’s a bit more loose about finances, as well. I agree with everything you recommended, Crystal, and have learned to see the benefits that this “balance” brings to our marriage and lifestyle. Another component that has really helped me in our situation is to learn to trust my husband. Just because I have it in my head that my financial prowess is better does not mean it actually is! Learning to let go of the reins a bit and watch him step up to the plate has been such a learning experience in growing my trust and respect in him. While I’m still the penny-pincher, now when he has to buy something, he’s looking for online coupons or buying the generic brand. And the funny thing is that while I still flip out when he spends more money than I would have at Whole Foods or something, at the end of the month, we have always been OK. It’s a definite check to my ego.

  • Amanda says:

    One thing that has worked in our first year of marriage is that I do the budgeting and keeping track of little things, and he does the bills. That way we both see what’s in the checking account and the credit card. We always sit down at the end of the month to revisit and talk over any larger purchases before making them. So far, it’s worked for us. Thanks to everyone for their great comments. This is a great post!

  • Jennifer says:

    While we had similar ideas about finances (though I am the spender and he is the saver), early in our marriage it was difficult to talk about our finances largely because we used different terminology! Ok, I’m sure that was not the only problem with our financial conversations! Taking the Financial Peace University class at our church helped so much because it created a common language and common way to approach looking at it and that in itself did wonders, not to mention everything else we learned (though in some cases were slow to apply and learned the hard way). Now, 6 years later, we’ve had some setbacks in our financial standing – I quit my job to have our first child and my husband went out on his own as a contractor just before the real estate business and construction industry here tanked. And we were building a house to sell….. Now we are climbing out of debt at a snail’s pace, but we are in it together and the stress over the past couple of years has not destroyed our marriage because we can talk about things in a constructive way.

  • Heather says:

    One thing that worked for us was separate “allowances” for things like eating out during the day, soda, Starbucks, etc. My husband didn’t know how much he was spending on that kind of thing until his allowance ran out week after week.

  • Marlana says:

    Has anyone here used You Need a Budget? http://www.youneedabudget.com/

    I am a bit skeptical because of the price. However, they have a free seven day trial, and so far its easy to use. I am wondering if I could add investments to my cashflow. Because I am selfemployed and have investment, my income is not set by any means.

    Any thoughts?

  • S says:

    Before my husband and I married, we kept our finances separate. When we married, we realized this worked so well for us and years later, we still keep our money separate. No one has to tell the other about what they’re spending and each person is responsible for their own budget, spending, etc. I know a lot of couples like to pool their money together but with our situation, it comes down to personal responsibility and works out better for us. My husband likes keeping up with paying our joint bills so at the end of the month, I give him money for half the rent, utilities, etc. My car insurance is cheaper than his because I do not have speeding tickets on my record and I feel that if I had to be responsible for the increase in our rate, that’s not fair to me. Sometimes it works out better to keep some bills separate. I still cringe when I see him eat out for lunch every day when I know he could simply take a sandwich to work but again, that’s his money and not mine. I’ve always been frugal and since he met me years ago, he’s learned how to be more responsible. I cut out fast food coupons for him and he keeps them in his wallet. It saves a little bit at least 🙂

  • Melissa says:

    I am a marriage and family counselor and advise that “money talks” should come BEFORE marriage….among several other discussions. Since we are discussing money, lets stick to that! It’s has been my experience that controlling money translates to controlling the relationship. Let go!! My recommendation is that each makes a list of their financial “needs”, “wants” and “wishes”…. The “Needs” should be, of course, paying rent/mtg, utilities, basic needds. “Wants” are short-term financial goals—like saving for a new tv or computer; small ticket items. Finally, the “Wish” are Long-term saving goals—Savings for Retirement, Savings for Emergencies, Vacations, Cars, Home purchase—Big ticket items. Compare the list to see just how “in-tune” you are with each others financial goals. No one’s list is right or wrong…remember it is just a starting point. At this point, create the “Family Goals”. The idea is to open dialouge between yourselves regarding the three aspects and coming to a compromise that resembles “one unit” that both can live by. Agree to it and both should sign it—make it official. When making it “official” then it becomes a “real” budget and effort from both parties.
    Nothing in Life is worth arguing about or creating dissention in the family. Remember, you LOVE this person and agreed to spend the rest of your life with them!
    Above ALL, Pray before and after this dialouge! God is GREAT and HE is ultimately in CHARGE!

  • Lisa says:

    Thank you to Alice for writing, to Crystal for posting, and to all those who left helpful, hopeful comments! I have been struggling with a similar issue myself and in fact was planning to write in with this question. I am the main breadwinner in our house. My job provides the bulk of our income and our health, dental, and vision insurance. My husband is a hard worker, but makes less money and has a job with unstable hours. I am in charge of our finances. I am the saver; he is the spender. I grew up in a household that emphasized financial responsibility; he did not. This definitely creates tension between us. I struggle quite a bit with bitterness and frustration, not to mention feeling like the only Christian woman in this position (so thanks to all those who shared their similar stories – it’s so good to know I’m not alone!). I’ve been praying about this issue quite a bit lately and the Lord is convicting me of my sinful attitude and the need to talk with my husband about this. It’s never easy or fun to humble yourself, but I’d rather have a godly and blessed marriage than have everything go “my way” with our finances.

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