How to Manage Finances in Marriage

Did you know that money is listed as one of the top reasons couples divorce?

Why is money such a touchy subject?

It’s touchy because:

  • It involves shame or pride about whether you’re earning enough or earning at all.
  • Money is often the measure of status, power or personal efficacy.
  • You may feel entitlement about what you think you deserve.
  • You or your spouse may be in denial of debt.
  • You may have guilt over poor decisions in the past.
  • It involves fear and insecurity about not having enough now or in the future.
  • We compare ourselves with others that have more than we do. We look for approval and recognition through wealth and possessions.
  • Control and power are attached to money.
  • Money provides security, freedom, and the opportunity to achieve your dreams.

Terry Gaspard says, “disagreements about money are usually not really about money but your dreams, fears, and insecurities.” 

Hence, it’s touchiness.

Common financial challenges in a marriage:

The two biggest issues that cause stress when it comes to finances in marriage are high levels of debt and a lack of communication. Here are some others:

  • Opposing attitudes toward money – saver vs spender
  • Mismatched financial priorities – you both have different goals and dreams
  • Credit card debt
  • Financial infidelity – secret bank accounts, undisclosed debt, hidden purchases, gambling addictions
  • Overextending budgets
  • Major impulse buys
  • Unexpected major expenses

Should married couples share finances?

This is a personal choice that each couple should make. Some couples are fine with sharing a joint account. Others prefer separate accounts, while still others have a joint account plus separate accounts.

However, let’s talk about a joint account.

Some couples think the best way to avoid money arguments is to keep separate accounts. But separating money and splitting the bills can lead to more money and relationship problems in the future.

A joint account forces you to take the concept of “the two become one” to another level. It fosters transparency in your relationship and forces you to communicate about financial decisions. 

A joint account also creates natural accountability and demands trust in each other.

How to overcome financial problems in marriage

So, financial issues in marriage are tough to solve because they are complex, but you can solve them by doing the following:

Know your money mindset

Your money mindset is your unique set of beliefs and your attitude about money. It drives the decisions you make about saving, spending, and handling money.

How you were raised has a huge impact on how you see money today. 

  • Did your family have a budget?
  • Were your parents frugal or big spenders?
  • How did your family handle debt?
  • Did your parents talk about finances?
  • Did your parents teach you how to manage finances?

Do the free quiz on Money Harmony to figure out your money personality.

Recognise and appreciate your differences.

Communicate

It’s important to talk about your attitude toward money and your value of it.

Is one of you a spender and the other a saver? Why?

What is your greatest fear with finances? Lack of security, lack of power, loss of dreams?

Discuss your lifestyle choices – where you should shop for food, clothes, etc.

Always talk to your spouse before spending a big amount of money – remember, finances are about “we” not “me”.  

Talk about who’s going to manage the finances and how they will be managed. Be sure that the one handling the bulk of the financial management communicates what’s going on.

Remember that you’re both on the same side. Your spouse is not your enemy.

Related: 2 Ways to improve communication skills

Do a regular financial audit

Do a yearly reality check to see if you are still both on the same page when it comes to your financial decisions, and how you are reaching your goals. Discuss and write down your financial goals and dreams and how you can work towards them.

Also do a monthly audit so you stay in touch with what’s going on financially.  

Be completely open about purchases, debt, assets and financial history as you do your monthly audit.

Also be open about your feelings, because this is what makes dealing with finances in marriage so challenging.  

Budget

Some people manage well with a fixed budget, others get by with more flexibility. Either way, the benefit of a budget is that it keeps your spending in check and provides accountability.

The other benefit of a budget is that instead of your money just siphoning away, you get to see where it’s going.

Even if one of you is the money-minder, you both need to work on the budget together. If you are the more carefree spouse, give your feedback and encouragement, don’t just nod and agree to everything your spouse does without considering what they’re saying or doing.

Have no financial secrets

Hiding accounts or lying about big purchases can be toxic to your relationship and can lead to bigger emotional issues like guilt by the person keeping secrets and questioning trust when the partner who was deceived finds out.

One caveat here: If you are trying to get out of an abusive relationship then having a separate, secret bank account is essential for your independence and ability to support yourself once you get free of the relationship.

Overall, remember that the biggest issues surrounding finances are your feelings, fears, hopes and dreams, not the money itself.

If you deal with the deeper issues involving money in your marriage you’ll avoid being a statistic.

Are finances a challenge in your marriage? How do you deal with them?

About The Author

Jennifer Lovemore

Jennifer has diplomas in relationship counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), is a certified SYMBIS facilitator, and is certified in TPM (Transformation Prayer Minsitry). She lives in South Africa, has three grown children, and is married to her best friend – Richard.

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