Are you and your spouse involved in spending disagreements? If you are, you’re in the same boat as multiple millions of couples. Everyone who is married will find areas of their lives where they disagree, and money is a common area. Actually, “money is the number one issue married couples fight about” and it’s “the 2nd leading cause of divorce, behind infidelity!”
But as serious as this is, it doesn’t mean that you can’t work as a marital team to find reasonable ways to marry your different spending “styles” so it works for both of you. It may be difficult but it is doable.
Marital Spending Disagreements
Steve and I have had to work through our differing ways of handling money quite a few times in our marriage. It’s rarely a “once and for all” situation where you resolve your differences and never have to visit the subject again. But that’s all part of the dynamics of being married.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to be “joined at the hip” in every bit of money that you spend. We budget it so we each have a bit of individual spending money. We can spend it any way we want as long as it’s legal and wouldn’t hurt our spouse—that’s important. Whatever you do, spend your individual and household money in such a way that it isn’t done at the sacrifice of your marital relationship.
This goes along with something that Drs Les and Leslie Parrot wrote concerning spending disagreements:
Are You on the Same Page?
“How do we prevent the monthly fights over bills and budgets? If your regular financial check-ins tend to dissolve into ugly fights, take a step back to see how you can work together to prevent those unnecessary conflicts. Do you have different spending or saving styles? Does one or both of you hate dealing with financial matters? Does budgeting stress you out?
“One easy way to prevent the monthly money fight is to make decisions about how your money gets dispersed before you ever sit down with the books. Then, figure out the non-negotiables for each of you. What items do you need every month (or every two months), and what do they cost? You might want to agree on a finite amount of money that each of you gets every month to avoid excessive check-ins surrounding purchases.” (From their blog, “Finances: Get on the Same Page With Spouse”)
Just make sure you talk about your views on these types of matters to better understand each other’s perspectives. And then work to see how you can honor each other’s needs and wants.
Concerning Spending Disagreements
Here are a few additional tips for you to prayerfully consider:
“Think ahead to avoid financial problems. ‘Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?‘ (Luke 14:28) Too often, couples put off planning until they’re so deeply in debt that it seems impossible to get out. That’s not planning; it’s reacting. Couples need to begin planning by writing down their goals and objectives. This should include a balanced budget. These goals and objectives need to be reviewed yearly.” (Chuck Bentley)
“Money was designed to be our servant, never our master. Getting a proper perspective on money is the first step to solving financial conflicts. The second step relates to whether you handle money as partners or competitors. Certainly one partner will need to pay the monthly bills. But this doesn’t mean the bookkeeper controls the money. Together you must develop a plan for processing your finances.” (Gary D. Chapman)
And then to get a better “perspective on money” here are some thoughts written by Joe Gatsulao (sent to us from the Philippines), on the subject of spending disagreements:
“Gather couples from anywhere in the world and ask them what is the most troubled area of their marriage. Alongside ‘communication,’ you will probably find money mentioned with amazing frequency. The problem [usually] isn’t inflation. It isn’t how much or how little you have. It is who does what with what you have. How you spend your money tells a great deal about you and your values—what you consider to be important. Tell me how you spend your money, and I will tell you what you really value in life. Without even thinking about it, you are writing a family history week by week.
“’No, not me!’ you may be thinking, ‘I’m not writing anything.’ But you are, in the stubs of your checkbook.
“Money is amoral—it’s neither good nor evil in itself. When money is a problem in a marriage or a family, I’ve discovered that the financial problems are usually just the tip of the iceberg. Hidden beneath the surface usually lies the iceberg of selfishness. Love is a commitment, a decision to care regardless of the temperature of the heart. And that commitment includes our funds.
“For marriage to work as God designed, there has to be a blending of two lives where each begins to live for the other. You cease thinking of ‘my money’ and ‘her money,’ it’s ‘our money.’ There may be times when separate bank accounts are necessary, but the separation of what you have into two piles is usually a sign of the separation, which already began in your hearts.
“Long ago Amos asked the question, ‘Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?’ (Amos 3:3) The obvious answer is ‘NO!’ In marriage, money usually implies control. It’s the golden rule, ‘He who has the gold, rules.’ But in marriages that really work, there may be a shortage of money but never the conflict of two battling over who is going to spend it for what. The better way is each for the other and both for the Lord.
“’What is your source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is it not the source of your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures’ (James 4:1-3)”
Oppositional Spending Disagreements
Those are tough thoughts, and tough words, but they are true. To get to a healthier financial place in your marriage, you need to work on embracing each other as “more important than yourself” as we’re told in the Bible. It’s important to be intentional in working together to “get on the same page” in your marriage partnership—including financially.
Often times you need to fix your marital partnership issues before you can “fix” your financial problems. Do you treat each other with value, love, and respect in other areas of your marriage? If you do, then you are on your way to working through your spending disagreements. Apply the same principles to talking together about your finances. This includes listening to each other, and making sure each other feels heard and valued. (We have a lot of articles posted on this web site that can help you in this mission.)
Relatedly, here are some additional thoughts on money management that may help you as you are working on your relationship:
“In many cases, heavy debt causes a marriage to fall apart. Years ago, I mentored a married man who was carrying a HUGE credit-card debt. He asked what to do about it. I responded, “The same way you’d eat an elephant—one bite at a time. But to keep the elephant from growing, set all your cards on a cookie sheet in an oven and melt them down.” Easy credit is not just a mammoth monster. It’s a marriage eater.” (From the book, “Moments With You” by Dennis and Barbara Rainey)
Debt Causing Division
No matter what you do though, don’t allow your money problems to split you up. Here are a few thoughts on this matter:
“Before I lost my first job, I never understood why a married couple would get divorced over money. It really seemed rather petty to me, but that was before I was constantly bickering with my husband Scott over every little dime. Money is stressful when you don’t know how to manage it. The best advice I can give you is to make sure you stick together along the rocky road. No one enjoys being financially stretched. Remember that you’re in this together, and if you’re feeling stress, chances are your spouse is too.” (Julie Anne Fidler)
On this matter, financial expert, Dave Ramsey gives this additional insight:
“There’s a joke that says, ‘Marriage is grand, but divorce is 50 grand.’ (This means that divorce is multiple times more expensive than people realize in many, many ways.) If you can’t make it financially together, you’re going to have a real hard time making it apart. What I tell couples is that the enemy is out there. Hang onto each other and work through these problems together, rather than separately.”
And then, below Karen M. Pina gives some great advice. It’s very similar to something a pastor told us years ago. We have to say that it has helped us in our marriage immensely:
“Move Forward Now. I shoulda did ‘x’ or I woulda did ‘y’ isn’t gonna get you free in your finances. It’s done now. Don’t pout about it, blame your partner, or let it paralyze you into inactivity. Think of it like this, the longer you do nothing, the longer you stay in bondage. Commit to moving forward now.”
Work to “think together.” You may not always think alike, but you can work to think together as partners in your finances and your marriage.
“The very process of establishing a workable budget can help a hurting marriage simply because of the level of communication and cooperation it takes.” (Dave Ramsey)
Unhealthy Spending Disagreements
Concerning this issue, we love what Dave Ramsey advised a wife. She said that she felt sick over the spending disagreements she and her husband were having. He told her to talk with her husband and state:
“We’re going to sit down, and we’re going to lay everything out on the table. Everybody’s going to know everything. You smelled sickness because there’s sickness. This is not devastating to your young marriage. It’s not the end of the world in your young marriage, but if it goes untreated, it is the DNA of serious problems later. You’ve got the germ in there in your relationship. It’s got to be stamped out.”
That’s a great start. But to go even deeper, here’s a link to a Dave Ramsey You Tube video that we HIGHLY recommend you watch. It’s insightful and powerful:
Additionally, below is a link to an article, posted on Dave Ramsey’s web site, that we also recommend you read. Plus, you’ll find, within the article, another video you can choose to watch. It’s from The Rachel Cruz show. And it’s titled, “Money and Relationships: It’s NOT Complicated.” It seems like money and relationships is complicated to us. But read the article, watch the video, and see what you think:
There’s no doubt that finances can cause marital division—when you’re spending money you don’t have. Make sure whenever you use a credit card, that: 1. You have enough money in the bank to afford your purchases. And then: 2. Make sure you pay off that credit card before the end of the month. Paying high credit card interest will only multiply the problems that you’re having concerning your financial situation.
To give you even more money tips, here is a link to a past Marriage Insight to help you with additional specifics:
Above all, we hope you will look into your heart and motives to work for the financial and spiritual betterment of your marriage. Don’t allow money to possess your heart and eyesight. It makes a lousy god and it dishonors our Lord when you allow it to separate you as a couple.
No matter what, in all you do, keep in mind the following words found in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.“
He has for us, and we know He can for you as you follow HIS ways of approaching financial matters.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
We give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below to do so:
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