Fighting about money is the number one predictor of divorce, so having a game plan going into financial discussions is a crucial part of a healthy marriage.
Fighting about money may be common, but the answer isn’t to have the numbers-oriented spouse simply take over. That’s a recipe for disaster that results in one spouse blindly spending money while the other stresses out about unpaid bills.
Successfully navigating this tricky topic requires you to figure out how to work together and approach financial decisions in a way that benefits your bank account AND your marriage.
I freely admit it’s a process and it’s not easy to get to a place of financial harmony in marriage. Despite being “good with money,” it took me a long time to learn that the way I approach financial discussions with my husband is even more important than the financial decision in question.
Here are 10 tips that can help prevent fighting about money and instead have productive, loving financial discussions with your husband.
10 Ways to Stop Fighting About Money
1. Adjust Your Expectations.
When my now-husband and I were dating, the topic of how we saved and spent our money eventually came up in conversation. I was SHOCKED when he said he wasn’t saving anything for retirement (because I’m a nerd) and I immediately started lecturing him about the importance of prudent investing.
As though a good lecture ever persuaded anyone!
If only I could go back 10 years and tell my younger self to have patience! If your husband isn’t immediately on board with your ideas to improve the family finances, give him time to get used to new ideas, and show respect for his perspective.
Bashing him with Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover isn’t going to solve anything, but inviting him to listen to a personal finance podcast episode and talking about it after can help you find common ground.
2. Pray together about your finances.
Pray together for God’s wisdom, even as you approach a monthly budget. Pray over your giving, saving goals, what you are investing in, and your spending priorities. When you seek God together, you are approaching your finances as a team, and you are able to receive godly wisdom to help you stay on the same page.
3. Write out a family vision and mission statement.
Financial decisions will either propel you closer to your dreams or will sidetrack you from them. That’s why it’s so important to discuss not just where your money is going, but WHY. Successful businesses and non-profits write mission and vision statements, not because it’s cute or catchy, but because these statements are powerful. They use these statements to guide their operations and financial priorities. Writing out a family vision and mission statement allows you to stay focused on your shared “why” and lets you assess whether or not your finances are aligned with the family vision.
4. Submit your agenda to the Lord.
Before initiating a discussion about a financial decision, pray and submit your opinion (even if you know are 100% right!) to the Lord. Ask him to help you have a soft heart and gentle spirit. Ask him to help you understand your husband’s point of view, should his opinion differ, and to help you uphold God’s will for your marriage (mutual love and respect) as more important than getting your way.
5. Choose grace and forgiveness.
Being intentional about money means you’re going to notice your mistakes–and your spouse’s. I can confidently say that as long as I’m managing money, I’ll keep making mistakes. And that’s okay! There’s no such thing as financial perfection. Whether it’s forgetting to log a purchase in the budget app or caving into temptation of a sale on fishing gear (when it wasn’t in the budget), choose to respond with grace and forgiveness, and move forward.
6. Set a time limit on budget meetings.
I could spend three hours examining every minute detail of our monthly budget and still feel as though we have conversation material. My husband, on the other hand, has an internal 30 minute tune-out countdown when it comes to money talk. Thank goodness for his sense of efficiency! Now, our monthly budget meetings typically take 15-20 minutes and we can move on to talking about weekend plans.
7. Schedule a weekly 5 minute financial review.
Set a weekly appointment so that talking about money becomes a routine occurrence. This accomplishes two goals: first, it helps you feel more comfortable having regular financial discussions (avoiding important discussions adds to stress and financial troubles). Plus, you won’t have to muster up the courage to bring up an important issue, because you have a standing meeting. It also prevents potential fighting about money in which one spouse is caught off-guard. Second, it gives you both the opportunity to review and adjust the budget each week, so that you can reach your goals faster.
8. Don’t hide accounts or purchases.
Just as grace and forgiveness are essential, so are transparency and honesty. When you’re married, you’re one, and that includes your money! This doesn’t mean you have to ask permission for every single thing you buy; it simply means honoring the budget that you both agreed on and not having any secret accounts or purchases on the side.
9. Allow Yourself Personal Pocket Money.
While my husband and I don’t have separate bank accounts, we did create separate line items in our budget for spending money. This solved 50% of our financial disagreements instantly! Now, I can get a pedicure without my husband balking at the cost, and he can buy a high tech gadget without wondering if I’ll think it’s cool.
10. Know When to Get Some Help.
Sometimes a marriage counselor needs to be part of your plan. If over time you can’t agree on financial priorities, there is a lack of trust, or it’s impossible to have a civil discussion about money, marriage counseling can help resolve those issues.
When it comes to handling money, it can be challenging enough to manage it well without having to make decisions with another person who brings their own perspective! But when you are committed to seeking godly wisdom, opening lines of communication, and working toward common goals, you can achieve financial harmony in your marriage.
This article by Lauren Rilling originally appeared as a guest post at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum.