Marriage Dos and Don’ts for Your Finances

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Even with today’s pre-nuptial agreements, spouses will need to deal with the fact that they are managing the same household and that there is a merging of their finances somehow. This may be one of the reasons why money matters are such a hot button when it comes to marriages. The financial aspect of a marriage (and the resulting blowout if the couple disagrees) is also a good reason for couples to go for marriage counseling.

Each person comes with his or her own financial upbringing and personal view about money. One may see money as something to be enjoyed and spent. Another may be brought up thinking that money (which one works hard for) should be well spent and purchases thought over carefully before they are made. One may feel that a budget is not necessary. Yet another may stress the need for a budget and spending below your means.

Another aspect to consider is that couples may not have the same level of income. A spouse may earn more or another spouse may have decided to stay at home to take care of the kids. There is a question of who has the control, who holds the purse strings in the marriage. Usually, family counseling will strive to dig into the core of the issue and couples will see that underneath the money issue is a deeper issue that they need to thresh out.

A couple has to be proactive and creative in facing money matters. The best time to deal with this issue is when it has not already flared up and become a full-fledged problem. While your finances are not being threatened, it is best for you to develop rules (dos and don’ts) about how you will handle this. Here are a few examples.

  • Agree on basic money principles. Although you may come from different financial backgrounds, it is important for you to decide on a set of financial goals and how accountable each is towards meeting that goal. Decide on just how much money to spend and how much to keep as your nest egg. Agree on what is worth cutting and what is worth splurging on once in a while. Decide on just how much money is allowed to spend at his or her discretion, without having to discuss it with the other spouse. Discuss your financial goals – paying off the mortgage, setting aside an amount for the kids’ college fund, wiping your credit card accounts clean, etc. – and how you as a couple plan to reach these goals.
  • Agree to track your spending.Do you know where your money goes? Make a budget to help you track spending and savings. You will also need to regularly check if you have been keeping to your budget.
  • Stop living beyond your means. As much as possible, spend below the level of your income so that you can have some left to put aside. If you live beyond your means, your monthly salary earnings will just be a way to catch up with last months’ debt. Avoid getting into debt – rather than buying items through debt, try to save up and pay with cash.
  • Assign someone to handle the bills. Agree as to which spouse will handle this chore – it is important, though, that the other partner knows the details of these payments.
  • Talk about money at the right moment. This is when tempers are cool and a financial problem has not cropped up yet. Initiating the “money talk” when your partner just got home tired from work may not be a good time.
  • Discuss major purchases with your spouse before making them. Purchases that will make a considerable dent on the budget should be discussed and agreed upon by both spouses. If one spouse disagrees with the purchase, the other can present alternatives as to how he or she can get extra funds to make the purchase possible. 
  • Hide expenses from your spouse. So you’ve overdrawn your account or weren’t able to resist a certain purchase, stop hiding it from your spouse. Instead, be responsible to discuss possible solutions with your spouse.
  • Micro-manage. If you and your partner have your own spending money, you don’t need to micro-manage and check what he or she is purchasing with that spending money. Since this money is already allocated for in the family’s budget, give your partner some leeway as to how he or she will spend it.
  • Merge credit card accounts. It is a good idea for each partner to have at least one credit card account maintained under his or her own name. This way, you maintain your credit history and will make things easier for you in the event of your spouse’s death or if you divorce.
  • Accuse. There may be a strong temptation to get on your partner’s case for a financial mistake he or she has made. Instead of making accusations, try to point out a solution for your financial strain. For instance, if your wife is passionate about shoes (and is intent on buying one every week, it seems), encourage her to earn supplementary income to support this passion.
  • Ignore financial issues. Getting your head stuck in the sand over financial problems will not solve them. One may feel overwhelmed by the financial morass but it will do you good to own up and look at how you as a couple can solve a financial problem. Being aware of just how you stand financially and understanding the size of the financial problem will be helpful in coming up with workable solutions.
  • Refuse to get help. Money matters may have already caused an emotional breech between husband and wife. Sometimes, when emotions get in the way, it is harder to find a suitable solution. You may need outside help who sees things in an objective manner and can help point the way towards a solution. A marriage therapist has the training and experience to help couples with financial issues, as well as a host of other problems related to marriage and family. 

Dealing with money matters can be problematic. This is where a good marriage counselor can come in and help. It may feel that going into marriage or family therapy will cost you more – when your plan is to save money. However, let us assure you that this is money well spent – since it will help you get the tools to communicate with your spouse and develop good spending habits.

For your marriage therapy needs when in Provo, Utah, you can count on Dr. Triston Morgan for a non-combative approach towards resolving the conflict brought about by money matters. Dr. Morgan holds a Ph. D in marriage and family therapy and has years of experience counseling troubled families, couples and teens. He holds a license to practice family and marriage therapy in the state of Utah.

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