My first order of business after David and I were married was to change my name on all necessary documents. One of the first places I went was my credit union and while I made the changes, I also put David’s name on the account and made it joint. David still had an account somewhere from before we married but all our paychecks, wedding money, etc went into that joint account and his former one was eventually closed. I also pretty much took on the primary responsibility of paying bills and determining how much could be spent on groceries, household items, etc. For me, this was entirely natural. It’s how my parents operate and what I had been modeled for me while growing up. But David had seen a different model of married financial management: Separate Checking Accounts. I couldn’t even fathom how that worked. However, David didn’t feel compelled to follow that model so it was never an issue for us.
Not that we’ve been without financial conflict. I remember one February, several years ago, we were leaving our apartment to go to a Valentine’s Banquet. We hadn’t checked the mail that day so one of us grabbed it on the way to the car. There was a credit card bill, I think, that was overdue. David questioned me about it, I felt attacked and our evening was completely ruined. We eventually were able to communicate rationally about the situation. We even instituted a rule for ourselves, never check the mail before leaving for an evening out together!
Over the years we’ve tweaked, revised, trashed and reconstructed various budgets and ways of dealing with money. The plan that we’ve found the works the best for us is Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace. The aspects of Ramsey’s plan that have helped us tremendously are: don’t use credit cards, use only cash for purchases and keep to a budget that we both agree on. I don’t believe that there is only one right way of managing money between a married couple. I do believe that you have to find out what works best for you and that you need to agree on how money is managed in your home. Here are some things that David and I have learned about managing our money.
- Be honest: Never, ever lie or try to cover up a financial foible. It’s best to work them out together and you’ll have more peace about the situation. For example, a couple of years ago we had veered off course from our budget. I was (am) the primary keeper of the budget. We were two days from David getting paid, we had very little money in our account and there was an insurance payment (auto, I think) due to be automatically drafted from our checking account the next day. I felt awful, guilty, embarrassed and trapped. I didn’t want to admit to David that I had let our spending escalate to the point that we didn’t even have money in savings to overdraft from. With ever fiber of my being, I wanted to somehow hide this from him, but I knew I couldn’t. So, I told him about the situation. Instead of getting upset with me, instead of blaming me, yelling at me or any of the things that he could have done (and in my opinion, had a right to do) he calmly and lovingly helped me, us work through this situation and come up with a plan.
- It’s a joint effort: While I may be the primary money manager of household bills, budgets and spending needs, we make decisions together regarding how money is spent and allocated. Neither of us comes home with a car, or a boat, or a land deed, or a pony without having consulted with the other first. Any spending done outside of our normal cash budget is decided on between the two us before the purchase is made. We do not have an “ask for forgiveness, not permission” attitude in our marriage, we feel it’s unhealthy and unwise.
- Keep an open mind: Most likely between a husband and a wife, there will be different ideas on how money should be dealt with. Many times one has more of a “saver” mentality, while the other has a “spending” mentality. These two personalities don’t necessarily have to conflict with each other. In our case, one of us is more open to risk than the other and the one that feels we should be more “safe” with our money has needed to be trusting and open to different ideas.
- And as always communication is crucial: Like my example in the first point, having financial harmony between a husband and wife means communicating about everything from screw-ups to successes. While I don’t need to detail my every purchase from Kroger to David, I do need to communicate when I feel our food budget is insufficient. When either of us feels the budget is getting too restrictive or our spending is getting too liberal, we try to communicate that to each other without blame or accusation or anger. It’s not always easy but knowing that we can approach each other about our money has given us great peace and unity in our marriage.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Eph 4:2-3
Note: regarding these posts about marriage, please see my Disclaimer.