Let’s look at some rules for honor on the battlefield, or “How to Fight Fair About Finances.” We’ll start with a “never”:
• Never try to work through money problems while angry. Calm down, and then make an appointment with each other to try again. When you meet for that appointment, try incorporating some of the suggestions in this list.
• Listen carefully to the other’s suggestions without putdowns.
• Read what other people have tried, such as the one-income family who sets aside two budget categories under the wife’s management —one for all household needs and the other for herself to spend as she sees fit. This helps her avoid the guilt involved when she’s forced to choose continually between groceries and her own clothing items. Another one-income couple avoids conflict by having all the income under the wife’s management. She pays all the bills and divides any remaining funds. This couple feels that this arrangement gives the woman more freedom to fulfill her role as manager in the family while maintaining her personal dignity.
And now some “always” ground rules:
• Always take time to discuss and thoroughly understand your income, insurance plans, investments, and assets as a couple. Put this on your “every six months” agenda.
• Always try to understand your spouse’s hidden agenda in money fights. Don’t worry if you must agree to disagree. Studies show that unless one partner feels a need to totally dominate, agreeing to disagree doesn’t mean you can’t work together.
• Whether you have a joint account or a separate account always set aside a monthly amount of personal spending money for each of you. Even a dollar will help!
A joint account has always worked best for us. From the beginning of our marriage, we prayed for the attitude of “What’s mine is ours” and God has enabled us to feel that way. Even though there have been times when one of us has written a check and forgotten to record it, times of seeing that check returned with a NSF written in red ink across it, and times of despairing that we’d ever learn, we still feel that this arrangement reduces the potential for conflict.
But the important is not whether you have one account or two. It is, rather, the love that is shared in mutual trust of each other —and in trust of God.
• To help foster and maintain that unity in financial matters, let the books be open. One of the easiest ways to create problems for each other is withholding information. When partners refuse to confide matters that are important to both, then all sorts of misunderstandings spring up.
• Another essential guideline is, make mutual decisions. We have a rule at our house that any purchase over fifty dollars (Christmas can be an exception) has to be agreed upon. It used to be much less! But a working plan, a system of priorities, and an outline for the future —which is crucially important—probably even more important than a budget, because it discusses the values you want in life, not just “what” and “how” you go about buying. Call it a working attitude toward life, a common understanding on values and priorities, is a plan for Christian stewardship. But whatever you call it, work at setting long-term financial goals in choosing a lifestyle that is really worthy of the kind of life you want to live, and God wants you to live together.
Often the question comes, which spouse should handle the money? Well, the one who has that gift, of course! And husbands: remember that handling the money has nothing to do with God’s declaring you to be the head of the home.
I love this statement on money matters in marriage (by David Augsburger):
It’s high time for Christians to choose to travel light. It’s time to sort out our values and to pare those we keep down to the core, and to put the long-term eternal values in the first place.
And so as a husband and wife, choose values that are worthy of people who want to live the Jesus way in life —simply, openly, honestly, and putting persons first. That might help money mean some things to you both in your marriage.
Money can be the major problem in marriage —because of all its many mingled and mixed meanings. That is, unless. Unless communication worms its way through the emotional thicket of financial dreams, of wild expectations, of spending habits, and our values, and our wants and needs. And it can be a major problem until. Until understanding tears out some of the underbrush of tantalizing attractions, of seductive appeals to consume, of compulsive needs to compete with other couples.
Money: the responsibility of handling it is awesome. The call to use it wisely is great. The service it renders is incredible. And let me tell you, if you’ll let God into that area in your life, you may never again have to say with Eeyore [the sad donkey in the Winnie-the-Pooh books], “Pathetic! That’s what I am.” Your profits will be in Heaven, and so will be your heart.
The above article is edited from the terrific book OPPOSITES ATTACK, by Jack and Carole Mayhall, published by NavPress. This book (which is no longer being printed) is aimed at turning your differences into opportunities and helping polar opposites turn into the best of friends. As they often say, “different doesn’t mean wrong —it just means different in the way you approach life.”
Filed under: Finances in Marriage