It has long been said that the most common cause of divorce is unresolved conflict related to money and fights over finances.1 If you’re a spender and your fiancé is a saver, then you will need to come to terms with the fact that major conflicts are in your future unless you figure out how to work together both to spend and save your money! It’s not easy for many couples, because money represents who we are (our personalities) and what we value. Money habits are also learned from our parents or caregivers, but what is learned can also be unlearned. Most couples these days have each had their own jobs, earnings and bank accounts. Marriage represents giving up some of that control and bringing who we are, what we earn and own, together into a single household, so it takes a lot of adjustment. Yes, even communication and compromise.
Having a lot of money or too little money is not at the center of the conflict. It’s how we manage together the money (and debt) that we do have. Here’s a simple rule to live by: “As much as possible, live within your means.” In other words, if your combined income is $xxx per year, be sure that the total of all that flows in and out of your checking account is no more than $xxx per year. Sounds simple, but it’s not, unless you keep track of your expenses and work together not to overspend.
Some will say, but what about credit cards? Debt isn’t a bad thing, is it? Again, using credit cards freely can end up becoming a trap with enormous interest charges per month! If you use credit cards, be smart and disciplined about it, and stay away from major purchases on credit that you have not discussed with your fiancé, soon-to-be spouse. Also, a good rule of thumb my wife and I follow is don’t use a credit card without first knowing that you can pay off the full balance at the end of the month. Working together to manage your money and credit gives you the opportunity as a couple to become even more emotionally close as you openly discuss a major purchase and the timing of that purchase.
Through the years I have asked each engaged couple I work with to complete a guided conversation called “Issues.” Of all those who choose an issue they need to talk through, many will choose something related to money. Here’s how one of my couples talked through their differences and came to some very good conclusions.
STEP ONE: How do we define our issue?
We need to talk about how we spend our money.
STEP TWO: Why is this important to me/us?
Bride: I understand I can be careless with our money and spend it on materialistic items; however, we need to stop our careless spending and think about our future. We need to save more money so that we will have enough to take care of our children in the future. We need to learn to sacrifice our materialistic needs and think about our future. We have to be able to provide for children and make sure they don’t go through the struggles we went through as kids. I believe we should start a savings account to put our money in, especially for emergencies. We should not be able to use these savings unless it is necessary.
Groom: We are planning to have children in our near future but haven’t started saving money to raise a child. I believe we need to start saving now, so we will be ready when we have a child. We sometimes waste money on unnecessary things that we end up not even using. We could have been saving that money up for our future. We need to create a budget to help manage our money better. Our budget will point out the areas where we can save on.
Bride’s Feelings: hopeful, willing, optimistic, confident, determined, motivated, encouraged
Groom’s Feelings: willing, tired, confident, frustrated, determined, motivated, encouraged, overwhelmed
STEP THREE: What will a better future look like for us?
Bride: I will feel proud when I am able to sacrifice my wants and needs for our future. We need to think about all the sacrifices we will be making for our children. I believe we will be able to do it even though it might be hard in the beginning. I could make a list of things that I can cut back on and checking them off when I have accomplished them. I believe making a list and seeing where I spend my money will help open up my eyes and show me where I can save our money. We could make the list together and compromise on what we need to cut back on. We could check our bank statements to see where we spend the most and see if we can cut back on spending at the store.
Groom: I think we will be happy once we figure out a plan to save money and once it is implemented we can have a feeling of relief that we are on the right path for our future children. I need to reduce my time on Amazon since I keep buying stuff on Amazon and some of it isn’t necessary. I think we need to create a budget and work together to list all the things we can reduce our spending on and instead, focus that money into our saving account. We can begin by looking at our bank statements to see where we spend money already and evaluate each expenditure to see if there are ways to reduce spending in that area.
STEP FOUR: What are our best ideas?
Idea One: Create a budget and also a savings goal and sticking to it.
Idea Two: Set a savings goal for 6 months and make an appointment with a financial advisor.
STEP FIVE: What will I/we actually do?
Bride: I will find alternative ways to cut back on my spending like drinking more water. We can both pack our lunches to work instead of buying expensive lunches all the time.
Groom: I can research some financial advisors and we can go together to see one, and we can talk with him/her about any wise/safe investments we can put our money into.
STEP SIX: How will we know that we’re making progress?
We have met our goal on how much money we saved during the time period that we set, and we can see our savings account growing.
REAL Couples – REAL Issues – REAL solutions
This blog is in a series inspired by real conversations between real couples preparing for marriage. Their words come from a self-guided, self-paced marriage prep eCourse available at www.OnlineMarriagePreparation.com.