Money & Marriage: 7 lessons I have learned so far

Money and MarriageAs I’m nearing my 11th wedding anniversary, I have been thinking about some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

No doubt I still feel like there are an unlimited number of lessons for me to learn still, but since we’ve had our fair share of money fights, these are a few takeaways that I’ve had.

I hope you find them helpful!

1. Money issues need to be talked about

Many people try to avoid subjects (or really anything) they don’t like or are afraid of. You have to face the giants. If your finances are a mess, you have to face up to the truth. How can you expect to move a mountain that you refuse to admit exists?

2. Decide what you want to accomplish – together

In order to succeed financially as a team, you have to have unity. You may not agree on everything, but find those areas that you are in agreement and shoot toward those goals.

They will be a lot easier to attain if you are both putting focused energy towards them rather than pulling against each other for your own thing.

3. Realize that you balance each other out

This might not be the case for everyone, but for my wife and I, this was clearly one of the reasons God brought us together. We both bring different financial mindsets to the table and it keeps us in proper balance. If one is a spender and the other is a saver, I got news for you: it is probably by design.

If my wife were just like me, we would be living an unbalanced life, probably saving too much for the future and not focusing enough on today. We both bring balance to each other’s life financially.

In our case, we both had to make sacrifices to meet in the middle, but because of it we are living more in line with God’s best for us.

4. Support your spouse (yes, even if they have problems)

It is so critically important to cut each other some slack and allow your spouse an opportunity to grow. None of us are perfect and we all have areas to grow in.

Part of the growing process involves making mistakes, so if your spouse isn’t being as financially disciplined as you are – cut him/her some slack.

If you are constantly nagging your spouse about money (or anything for that matter), it doesn’t give them much incentive to change and it keeps them from being open with you about their failures.

Being able to encourage each other when either one of you fails is very important.

5. A budget is necessary

Living on a budget is different for a single person than it is for a married couple. Let me say, I think everyone should use some sort of a budget, but especially married couples.

The reason being is that a single person who doesn’t budget ultimately knows that the responsibility for the bills, debt, consequences, etc. will fall on them.

When a couple lives without a budget, they both can be secretly thinking, “well, I will let my spouse take care of it,” and things can fall through the cracks. Having a budget creates an unbiased system to hold both parties accountable for their actions.

6. Individual spending money is necessary

It is way too much of a hassle to have to discuss EVERY purchase you make. Each person needs a specific (and small) amount that they can spend however they choose – but just like allowance, no more when it is gone.

It has worked well for us to make this cash solely for individual, miscellaneous purchases – going out to eat, clothes, buying food for potluck at work, etc. You can look at how we manage our money, but basically 95% goes to our joint accounts to pay our bills, pay debt, common saving goals, etc.

The remaining 5% gets divided between us for our individual interests.

7. Eliminate sources of strife

This was eye-opening to me. When we first got married, we paid for gas for our own car out of our individual spending money. It just seemed logical to me and seemed like it would work fine.

We only had a limited amount of spending money for each of us and it would be enough to cover the gas for the week and other miscellaneous things we needed like I mentioned above.

The problem arose in a very subtle way – we both seemed to be keeping a mental list of how often we drove places together in each other’s car. And of course, we both often thought that we were driving our car more than the other person.

We really were not selfish in other areas of our marriage, but that one small thing was causing unnecessary strife. Now we pay for all of the gas out of a joint account – problem solved.

Have you learned any lessons about money and marriage that you could offer?

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24 Comments
  1. jeffapperton

    I totally agree with the need for couples to work on a budget, while leaving space for individual choices. However, you also need to think of new avenues for generating income. One example is the forex market (foreign exchange). For people who love the financial world and the Internet it’s a great option to consider. There is plenty of information at forex trading education resources, such as ForexFace.com. Such websites include articles on forex basics and on how to choose a forex trading system.

  2. Curt

    Excellent article. I agree with every point. Without working together, it’s very hard to have an intimidate relationship. How you plan to spend money is based on your values and goals in life. Sharing your plans about money is sharing your values and goals. It’s impossible to separate them.

  3. bob

    @Curt

    yea, You are right the whole “sharing” thing was a bigger deal than I realized before I got married. Becoming a Sharer is a very important skill to develop when (or preferably before) you get married…

  4. I have also been married just over 3 years. I can certainly agree with the lessons you have learned- and I can say we learned them the hard way.

    Before I got married, I was a fiercely independent single mom. What an adjustment it was when we switched to a joint checking account!

    One thing we do to eliminate strife is pay the bills together. That way there are no surprises!

  5. bob

    @Alyssa
    Your point on paying the bills together is a good one. We have had instances where we were both thinking different things because we didn’t pay them together. Generally, I take the responsibility for them, but it definitely helps when both are on the same page.

  6. All are excellent points. I’ve been learning three and four in the last six months or so. Oftentimes, bringing up the action/behavior you didn’t like causes more trouble then it’s worth. So what if my husband spent $3 on shampoo when I only would have spent $1 (from combining a coupon with a sale)? Those $2 aren’t going to derail our entire life. It keeps the mood in our house much happier if I say, “Thanks for getting shampoo, Honey!” then if I say “Why did you buy shampoo? I had a coupon for that and we could have saved $2”. Tough lesson to learn, though, sometimes…

  7. bob

    @Frugal vet tech
    great point… I need to work on that one myself – or so my wife would say 😉

    • Etim Jack

      Money is an essential element created which no human can do without. It has a powerful influence to the psychology of every human being.It is a drive to individual spouse performance in marriage.

      Therefore, I subscribe to the fact that every family budget should define individual spouse areas of implementing the budget wherein he or she would be in charge of the fund budgeted for that areas while both parties supervise. However allowances for individual spouse emergencies should always be with the individual. This way, individual interests and common ground are protected and established. And every spouse has a sense of commitment to the realisation of the family goals.
      A situation where funds are dispensed by a single spouse may cause inactivity and lack of confidence of the other spouse.

  8. judy

    I want to ask you about a friend who is in marriage trouble since she is not allowed to touch any of the money in her husbands accounts. He makes her figure out ways she can by groceries and take care of needs for her kids school things and events etc. She has to figure out ways to pay for insurance and all and any needs. It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever heard of. She, Sue is so stressed out over things that she is litterally getting sick over it. She works in sales and gets commissions, but no regular pay. She can’t switch jobs with the job market these days. She has thoughts of leaving and can’t seem to “feel” love I think because she doesn’t feel loved. She’s barely hanging on. Any advice. She’s a christian and he is, actually, I’m not sure but probably not a christian. Help any one???

    • Casherie

      She sounds like she needs a counselor, either marriage and family to improve her marriage or individual to help her figure out how to separate.

  9. Heather

    Thank you for making this website; it has been helpful!

    Much appreciation flowing your way.

    God BLESS YOU!!

  10. Linda

    Talking about money BEFORE marriage….probably is not a priority for people nor for the pastors that marry them. Everything you highlight above…SHOULD be talked about BEFORE you walk down the isle and say I DO.

    I am hoping to remarry someday (I am a widow). I am going to print out your list and reflect on them….keep them….and hopefully some day God will send that man who I can share the list with. (;-))

    Since money is your topic….why don’t you find a way to get this list into the hands of pastors who provide “marriage counseling”. Maybe if you encourage pastors …more might do marriage counseling which includes the “money side” of a marriage. I would THINK that since money is one of the things that people fight about (causes strife) this would be one of the areas which pastors would definitely counsel about BEFORE they marry people.

  11. Yoni C.

    I am a single male student in my final semester of university studies. Never have had a stable income and never have been in a relationship. Lord willing, that may change in the very near future. As a Christian, I have been exposed to lectures where logically one should be financially stable and mature as a person before concerning a relationship. I would like to add into this conversation that before one marries, one ought to have no debt. This is one of many things to include in the check list before marrying. Reasonably speaking, debt won’t be an initial issue within the marriage.

    Thanks. Spoke my mind, haha. Lord bless everybody =D

    • James

      Dude, if no one marries until they are debt free, the marriage rates would drop to almost nothing! I respectfully disagree. The important and game-changer in marriage is not whether or not you come into it with debt; it’s whether or not you want to get out and stay out. Just like you said, it won’t be an INITIAL issue within the marriage. But, if they don’t agree before getting married on their goals and staying out of debt, it will BECOME a major issue later. So, in your own personal search for a spouse, don’t look for someone who is out of debt. Look for someone who has the mindset that debt is wrong and that you should live within your means. You might miss a keeper 😉

  12. Julie @ HappinessSavouredHot

    My spouse and I have a short, medium and long-term plan when it comes to money, which we don’t hesitate to revisit whenever necessary. Since we have similar views on saving and spending, money is not the source of much conflict between us, but I imagine that if we didn’t see eye to eye, an open channel of communication would make the difference.

  13. Reuel Dawal

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for sharing this post!

    I’m still a single man but I’ve been applying your principles on budgeting already at the start of this year. It’s been great! But this post makes me realize that if I skillfully manage my money as a single today, I’ll be used to it already when I get married someday. So, looking ahead to dealing on finances with my future wife, I’ll do my best to keep my finances in order.

    Thanks man!

    • Bob

      You are welcome!

  14. Tesha

    I’m a great believer in budgets. They work miracles! I prefer to do annual budgets at the start of the year and then monitor my expenditure as the months progress. It helps keep priorities at the fore as I trust God for provision through the year.

  15. Gathoni Chege

    Thank you for that article. Am a spender and my husband is a saver and that compliments us alot since i have learnt how to appreciate the budgetting, saving and most of the topics you have discussed. So informative and am happy to know that you still manage this after being married for 11 years. People tend to say that it only works when you are only newly married.

  16. James

    Oh boy, my wife and I TOTALLY balance each other out. If it were all up to me, we’d be living in a hole, watching Netflix, and eating only Cap’n Crunch. On the contrary, we’d probably have a bunch of debt if it were my wife’s way. I have also said that balancing us out was one of God’s ideas for putting us together. While she does call me “codo” sometimes (literally means elbow in Spanish, but also slang for cheap), we both recognize each other’s positives.

  17. Claire

    Can I just say WOW! Thank you so much for sharing such an achievable way of dealing with finances when married. I especially love number 6. I’m a stay at home mom/homemaker and my husband works incredibly hard to support our family of four. (We have a one year old girl and a two year old boy) That being said, I know that I don’t have an actual job that requires me to leave the house and work for a company or an employer. But I do feel that taking care of our two children, providing the kiddos with education and attention that is tailored to their specific needs/issues that they wouldn’t really get if they were in daycare, cooking, cleaning, and a whole bunch of other things that is required of a SAHM/Homemaker, is basically a job. Although, I look at my life as a privilege and a blessing that I am able to be with my children during the years that seem to go by so quickly. Now I make a little money here and there selling crafts, but I would never be able to support our family on my craft sales. But the reason why I started trying to make extra money was because I wanted my husband to feel like I am contributing financially so he would be more open to giving me a bit of spending money, not just money for groceries or household items needed. And that didn’t work, so I really don’t know what else to do. Hopefully I can share this with my husband to open up a better line of financial communication. Thanks!

    • im

      @ Claire
      Being a homemaker is a big job whose financial value is really underestimated.
      For example, you buy a meal (any meal) from a restaurant that same meal can be made at least 10% less cost and more healthier at home.
      Same goes for cleaning, lawn moving, taking care of young and the elderly etc.
      Not only that, you get immense satisfaction that you are doing it out of love for your family rather than having someone to do it for money( it does cause resentment no matter how good the employee is).

      I hope you understand my point.

  18. Angela

    Bob,

    First compliments on a great blog. It is a wonderful resource and I have recommended it to many people. I would like to get your thoughts about independent and joint accounts. I know that this is a very personal issue for many but I just like to hear others thoughts. I recently read an article by Michelle Singletary and Rodney Brooks of the Washington Post about money and marriage. In they article they give their thoughts on joint and independent accounts for couples.

    Here is the link if you are interested
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/get-there/our-valentine-to-you-singletary-vs-brooks-in-the-love-and-money-debate/2016/02/12/0a493f80-cf36-11e5-88cd-753e80cd29ad_story.html

    Just want to hear your thoughts based on your faith and experience.

    Thanks!

  19. Emily

    Great ideas – you definitely need unity with your spouse in the area of money. It was that kind of unity that enabled DH and I to retire in our early 40’s. A lot of agreement about sacrifice and what would come next in life had to happen.

    We did budget for a while, but I don’t think it’s strictly necessary. What IS necessary is keeping track of expenditures every month so that you spend conscientiously.

    This is not the same as budgeting, as it happens after the fact. I experienced many times when I had to rob Peter to pay Paul, b/c, say, I ended up overspending in the grocery category but underspending in the clothing category. I would feel guilty about not sticking to the budget. Had we followed the “keeping track of expenditures” strategy, we would have been under less stress (and I would have done a lot less worrying and nagging when DH bought a $4.99 used book once a month!)