It is absolutely key to be on the same page as your spouse when it comes to finances. This topic is often the primary cause of marital stress, but it doesn’t have to be! Get on the same page as your significant other from the get-go, and money will no longer be a sore spot in your relationship.
Now, it may not be possible to always agree 100% on all items money related, but it is vital to come to compromises that both parties are comfortable with. Every person comes to the table with a different view of how finances should work. Obviously similar backgrounds on money will lead to a smoother budgeting process. But, even couples with entirely different views of financials can find common ground and comfortable compromises that make both parties satisfied.
For instance, a husband might think that his wife is wasting money by buying ‘another dress’ for $50 that she doesn’t need, but $400 on a TV is justified because it’s a necessary expense. Or, a wife might feel that eating out every night is a good way to spend the couple’s money because of the time and stress it saves them from grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning the kitchen, while the husband may feel that their time is worth the money saved by cooking at home each night.
In both of the above scenarios, each spouse is approaching finances with a different view. To prevent the clash that seems inevitable, it is important for them to agree on some baseline assumptions that will be the foundation for their purchasing decisions.
Jake and I are fortunate that we came to the marriage table with very similar views on money. But, it was still important for us to have a discussion and set the fundamentals for how we would manage our income and expenses. Each couple needs to come up with their own agreed assumptions. Here are ours, I hope they will help you guide your financial discussions:
We will not spend more than we make
Jake and I both grew up knowing this to be a fundamental financial truth that we would live by. Some people leverage debt as a tool, and we get that, but we decided that with the exception of a mortgage and possibly a car (but ideally not), we would not go into debt to purchase things. If this means we have to wait to buy something we will! We both understand this as a rule to abide by and budget with this principal in mind.
We will give
Jake and I both believe that the money we have was a gift. It doesn’t really belong to us, but we are entrusted to it for the time being. That said, we feel that it is important to give the first fruit of our labor back to God in the form of a tithe. The first step to being freed from greed and worry in finances is to tangibly admit that it’s not in your hands and give freely. This not only is an act of worship, but it also serves as a reminder that this money we manage is a gift to be grateful for, not to covet more of.
We will save for retirement
This one is pretty simple. We both understand that it’s important to plan for the future, and we don’t expect any one else to provide for us after we retire (namely the government). So, we set aside a percentage of each paycheck as savings towards our eventual retirement.
We will have an emergency fund
Here is an example of where Jake and I might have differed a little in our baseline assumptions. While I agreed with Jake that an emergency fund is a smart thing to do, I don’t like having money ‘sitting around.’ But, we calculated how much we would need to pay our bills for a certain period of time in the case that one of us lost of jobs and put away that amount into a liquid savings account. While I am a dying optimist (I would love to never lock our doors, be free with all my passwords, and generally believe that nothing bad is ever going to happen), Jake is a realist which is why he expressed the importance of saving enough money for rainy days. And we both have agreed to do so.
We will be honest and forth-coming about our spending
The money we make is no longer his or mine, it’s ours. So it’s important to us that we are open about our spending. I won’t lie and say that every time we tell each other an unexpected purchase one of us made the other is always completely understanding and accepting of it. But, we practice grace with each other and keep the communication open so we can realistic about our finances.
We will keep a budget
Jake and I are numbers people through and through, so this is not a hard one for us. I understand that tracking money doesn’t come as easily or enjoyably to everyone. Each time our financial situation changes (our salary fluctuates, we buy a house or a car, for instance) we sit down and re-evaluate all the money coming in and how we will apportion that out to our expenses. I find excel the simplest way to do this kind of birds eye view analysis. Starting with income, and then parsing out the most important expenses first helps us determine how much we have to spend on more ‘optional’ items like eating out, clothing, entertainment, etc.
We aren’t very strict with each individual budget, rather they serve as an indicator of our financial situation and a guideline of how we spend our money. Mint.com is a fantastic budgeting tool we use to keep track of every piece of our finances. It gives us a great view of how we are doing throughout the month on staying within our set budgets and what we can do to improve in the months to come. I know some people need a tighter system and use separate checking accounts (or money envelopes) for each expense. Every month the income goes into the accounts as budgeted, and once the accounts are depleted no more spending for the month.
We will be set free by a budget
Like I said before, each of us comes to the table with different financial ‘baggage’. We are both on the conservative side of the money spectrum and sometimes struggle with feeling some guilt with each purchase. But, together we have found freedom to enjoy the money we have been blessed with through our budget.
A budget takes account for your entire financial situation, ensures enough is being saved and allows a prescribed amount for each expense (necessary and frivolous). When we have allowed ourselves however much per month to spend on ‘extras’ like a nice dinner out, we can experience peace and enjoy the meal thoroughly knowing that we set this money aside specifically for this and no guilt is needed.
We will do our best to optimize our money
Ok, who doesn’t want to optimize their money? But, for us this means several things. If we can do something for ourselves, we will not hire out (generally). If there is a purchase to be made, we wait for a sale. If we can buy secondhand (and not compromise too much quality), we will. Outside of home renovation items, we don’t spend large amounts of money in general. We decided that we enjoy the home reno process and are investing equity in our home. For right now, that is where we want to be spending our ‘extra’ money. Other people may choose concerts, vacations, continued education. But for us, that’s how we choose to optimize our money for maximum use and enjoyment.
Do we make mistakes in our purchase? All the time. When shopping for a bathroom vanity, we got caught up in finding one we could mutually like and bought the first one we agreed on. Later that vanity went on sale for $100 less. Did it hurt? Yeah. But, we are still learning and growing and give each other grace for the mistakes and room to try again.
I hope these help you in starting the discussion with your spouse on some fundamentals of your financial philosophy. Does anyone else have some We Wills grounding their budgeting strategy? I’d love to hear them and other tips you use to compromise well with your spending!