Survive a Financial Crisis: 12 Tips For Married Couples

married couple

Job loss.  A lay off.  Fraud. Getting fired. Robbery.  Legal Issues. Credit card debt.  In a moment, any of these instantaneous events can shatter your financial plan.  At times these events do not come alone, but they come in groups – event after event.  Unfortunately, life is filled with disappointment, frustration, and surprise.  So what do you do when you get the pink slip?  How do you wade through a series of financial failures?

“10% is what happens and 90% is how you react.”

married coupleRemember this quote during a family financial melt down.  Nerves wear thin and perspective is tainted. If couples do not proceed with caution, there might be even more losses (in addition to financial losses) on the way.

12 Action Items For Couples During A Financial Crisis

  1. Talk openly, communicate, and set goals

    Financial difficulty brings a slew of questions: What are we going to do now?  How will we pay the bills?  Should we consider bankruptcy? What if “x” happens? While all these questions are buzzing around, talk with your spouse and communicate.  Decide on a direction you both support and start looking forward.  Commit to moving through the process together, not alone.

  2. Prioritize together by asking “What is most important to you?”

    What things do you value the most?  What people do you need around you?  If I lost “x”, things would be even worse.  Write the items in a list. For example, food, household, transport …  Take your very first dollar and apply it to #1 on your list.  Go in order no matter how loudly someone else says they need to get paid.  If you are not budgeting you need to start.  Here are some free budget worksheets to help.  In case you find it helpful, here is a sneak peak into how my family budgets.

  3. Switch to survival mode

    Bring in the spending tsar who reduces spending to absolute necessities.  I suggest you write your needs list and then cut out half the stuff.  This is the time to get the most mileage out of every single dollar. While your life might feel completely out of control this is still one area you can control.  Spend carefully and intentionally. This might be a good time to sell your stuff on ebay.

  4. Acknowledge emotions

    You will experience a bunch of emotions from bitterness to guilt to frustration.  The emotions will impact your relationship with your spouse, your children, your extended family, your friends, and your faith.  Did I miss anything?  You may be tempted to lash out to find a place to release your frustration.  When you talk about your emotions, use phrases like, “I feel …” This makes others less defensive.

  5. Avoid blame

    At this point, once things are damaged, it is not the time to figure out who is to blame.  This will only serve to push your spouse away. Your frayed nerves will do more damage than good if you let them run rampant. There will be a time for reflection and debriefing, but in the midst of the chaos you will do more harm than good if you start to play the blame game.

  6. Accept help

    Accepting help is difficult because of one reason – pride.  Perhaps you will have a new favorite Bible verse “It is better to give than receive.”  God may once again put you in the position of the giver, but for now this might just be your time to receive.  Standing together is a function of community, and in this case standing alone is a sign of selfishness.

  7. Minimize pressure

    If you allow it financial concern can completely consume you.  Schedule time in your day to focus your energy on other chores or tasks. Removing yourself from the worry and strain will help remove the burden.

  8. Turn to your faith

    When the world seems to be falling apart you will need a Rock upon which to stand.  Continue or begin a habit of daily devotionals and seek the will and presence of God. (Check out these encouraging bible verses)

  9. Count your blessings

    Yes, count your blessings.  Things may be bad, or awful, or even horrible.  But are there probably still many blessings in your life?  Focusing solely on the problems and your lack of stuff will only cause depression.  Remember that around every corner there is a blessing, if you are looking for it.

  10. Don’t be afraid to dream

    If you have just lost a job, this is a great chance to dream. What am I passionate about doing? What have I always wanted to try?  This crisis might simply be a hidden opportunity.  Look ahead and have some direction.  The time may be right for turning a hobby into a business or even trying a new way to make money.  Just be sure to ask the right questions to reduce risk.

  11. Journal

    These circumstances might just be the greatest blessing in your life (in a few years).  Journaling helps learn all the important lessons that the school of life is trying to teach.  If hindsight is 20/20, don’t you want to have a chronicle that details exactly what was going on and exactly how the problem was resolved?

  12. Stay in control

    You may be tempted to throw up your hands and say “I don’t care anymore.”  Creditors want to drive you to this state where you just give them what they want to get you off their back.  Remember, you don’t need to answer the phone. Whatever you do make sure you break the debt cycle by refusing to take on more debt.  Digging deeper is not your solution.  Don’t be a good person who make bad money choices.

While a series of financial tragedies can be extremely difficult, your responses during this time will determine a large portion of the situation’s solution.

Photo by Valeriana Solaris.

What would/have you done in the midst of financial devastation?
















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20 Comments
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  1. Good post! I would add that creating a “safe” environment to talk openly and honestly is so important too. You don’t want one spouse to feel like they can’t share their true feelings.

  2. A crisis of any kind will most likely do one of two things to the relationship: Damage or Strengthen. It is your choice which one will happen to you and your spouse. In a financial crisis, having to do with less is often a blessing because we are able to reassess what is really important.

    I like your point about asking for help. The thing that I would add to this is not to only ask for help, but find support. Disclose your troubles with a church community group, bible study, or friends. Sharing what you are going through together will make the rough road ahead a little bit smoother.

  3. Count your blessings and talk openly are the 2 I like the most. All of these are great for a couple trying to naviagte through the maze of finances. Great stuff!

  4. Excellent guidelines for dealing with a tricky situation. Hopefully there are some couples who will read this who haven’t gone through a major crisis yet, because a lot of these are things that you can put into place in sort of a “preventative” mode. I also think that they can apply to most big issues that happen to married couples.

  5. Great post, Craig. I wrote today at One Money Design about being laid off from my job a a few years ago. Money worries certainly can surface in these types of situations. I chose to turn to my faith because I wanted to look back on the experience and be pleased with my behavior, but also for the opportunity to grow my faith. You’ve provided some great tips, but I think number 8 is the most important!

  6. Nice post Craig! I like the tip about “going into survival mode”. I love doing that often, even if it’s a raging bull market like we have right now! :)

  7. @ Jason@ Redeeming Riches – I like the idea of a ‘safe’ environment. How you feel about your situation does need to be shared openly.
    @jennifer – thanks for mentioning the importance of support. Being part of a community is essential because one spouse may just need some extra support.
    @ Ken – right. If we could all learn to count our blessing we would realize how blessed we really are.
    @ Andrew – Today is the best time to start to practice some of these skills. If you come together when things are going great it will be difficult to pull it off in such a high stress situation. Each of us should do one thing today to honor our spouse.
    @ Jason @ One Money Design – I appreciate your experience. I’m glad to hear that your faith was a valuable part of the process for you.

  8. I agree with this pointers because out of what i have seen most of the friction in marriages are caused by money issues and if a couple can talk through it a form of stability would come of it. I am not married, nor am i close to but i would like to follow this advice in the future

  9. Great post. I actually printed these out and gave them to my husband to read. We agreed you have to have open communication and discuss all these points to have financial freedom.

    Thanks for posting these items.

  10. @Financial Samurai – the thing I like about “survial mode” is that you are always in complete control. While there is ultimately a point where you can no longer cut back we typically have at least one more item to cut to help us get through a tough time.
    @ Patricia. Wow. You printed it up? That is the ultimate writing compliment! I hope that this article will be a blessing to your and your spouse.
    @kenyantykoon – My wife and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage this year. These ideas have helped

  11. great information, thank you for that.

  12. As a (stay- at- home- mother- of- five- Christian) woman who is currently in the midst of a financial crisis with her husband, I find it hardest to not put the blame on him for being in this situation. Having your security ripped out from under you truly is a test of faith; and I do want to be proven faithful at the end of this whole ordeal.

    While we trust in the Lord who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, sometimes the not knowing can eat us alive. And we, in turn, eat each other alive. The harsh reality is that life right now is very hard and unsettling. It becomes easy to wonder why “God would allow this to happen to us, as we have sought to be faithful to Him”.

    We want to learn the secret of being content, as Paul says. It’s hard in coming, though. May God be praised as we try.

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