A recent survey by Money Magazine confirmed what married couples have known for generations: The leading cause of dissension in marriage is disagreement about financial priorities. So if you want to experience greater harmony and unity in your marriage, you won’t go wrong by finding ways to create greater harmony and unity in your finances.
According to the Money survey, couples argue more about money than just about anything else. 84% of respondents claimed that money causes tension in their marriages, and 13% say they fight about money several times a month.
While money disagreements can cause stress and strain in marriage, I believe the opposite is also true: Agreement and harmony about money can cause a greater sense of oneness in marriage.
7 Important Financial Practices in Marriage
Here are some financial practices that can go a long way to help you increase harmony in your finances and oneness in your marriage:
1. Be generous givers.
I think the most important thing a couple can do to impact their finances is to commit to regular giving back to the Lord. My wife and I agreed to tithe early in our marriage, and back then, giving 10% seemed like a big hardship. I know others must feel that way too, since the average Christian gives just 3% of their income to the church or other causes.
Tithing worked to bring us closer together because we needed to pray that God would take what’s left, after tithe and taxes, and stretch it and make it grow to meet our needs. Somehow, God always did, and our needs were met.
As we’ve grown in the grace of giving throughout our 20 years of marriage so far, we’ve experienced God’s provision, blessing, generosity, and faithfulness in amazing ways. And we’ve found that the 10% giving benchmark established in the Old Testament was a great place for us to start, but a sad place for us to stay. We’ve decided to increase our giving percentage each year as the Lord provides.
2. Set financial goals.
Setting financial goals together – and creating a plan or framework for achieving them – is a vital key to your financial success. Take the time to dream about or brainstorm what you want your finances to look like over the next one, three, and five years, then identify the steps you can take to achieve those goals.
Some couples I know go away for a weekend each year just to work on their family’s goals for the coming year. My wife and I recently set aside about half the day on New Year’s Day to work through our financial goals and priorities for the coming year.
Here are just a few budget areas you might set goals for:
3. Create a monthly spending plan and review regularly.
Once you’ve identified your financial goals, the next step is to create a spending plan or budget that reflects those goals. Some people think of spending plans or budgets as restrictive or negative. I’ve certainly thought that way before, but gratefully, I’ve learned that spending plans actually give you more freedom by helping you achieve your predetermined goals.
You’re more likely to be financially organized, current on your bills, and saving money for the future if you have a plan. Without one, you’ll tend to spend without thinking and will often end up with more month than money.
But don’t just create a spending plan without also setting aside time to review it. My wife and I review ours every two weeks, on my paydays. Others might decide to do it monthly.
4. Keep joint accounts and no secrets.
Make a commitment to keep no secrets between each other, and to open joint accounts, not individual ones. Many couples who keep separate accounts get into trouble down the line when one spouse buys more things than the other spouse knew about.
Someone I know recently shared how heartbroken their daughter was to discover that her husband had been racking up thousands of dollars in charges on a secret credit card. As you can imagine, this has caused an enormous amount of financial and emotional strain on the family – and will take years to pay off.
5. Learn to live on one income early.
This is my best advice for young couples: Learn to live on only one income. That way, if you decide that one spouse should stay home with the kids at some point, it’s no hardship because you can live on the other person’s income. And the best part is that you should have a really nice savings fund built up!
We’ve known couples who have struggled financially and emotionally when mom wanted to stay home with the kids, because her heart was calling her to stay home, but the lifestyle they were trying to maintain required her to work.
It was a bit of a challenge for us at first when our first child was born and we decided to have my wife stay home. The Lord provided in some pretty neat ways, and we’ve never regretted the decision. But we’ve always wished we had learned to live on one income during our first four years of marriage before our first child, so we would have had a nice nest egg saved up. A few of our friends did that, and they’re reaping the financial benefits today.
6. Give each person their own spending money or allowance.
While I believe it is important to share joint ownership of all your financial accounts, I think it is equally important that husbands and wives each have their own budget line item for “pocket money” or “allowance” to cover things like lunches, haircuts, coffee, clothes, hobbies, etc. That way, each person has some flexibility and freedom to make their own choices.
7. Keep it simple and organized.
Keep your finances as simple as possible, and do your best to stay organized. Bad things happen when one spouse understands what’s going on and the other doesn’t, or when your financial papers are scattered about and no one can find the bills or information they need when they need them.
While you’re getting organized, create a special file or envelope to store important financial information that will be needed in case one of you dies, or in case of an emergency. In it, include info on the location of your wills, safety deposit box keys, keys to your home safe, life insurance policies, bank and retirement account info, etc.
And as a rule of thumb, if you’re considering a financial investment or maneuver that your spouse does not understand, it is probably best to leave it alone instead of leaving them in the dark.
Following any or all of these important financial practices in marriage will help you and your spouse grow in greater financial and relational intimacy and oneness. What else would you add to this list? Leave a comment!