Have you wondered, “Will my spouse and I ever agree about money?! Can we possibly work together to create the life we want or will we always be at odds?” The bad news is…money issues are the primary reason for divorce in America. Good news…there’s hope.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to be on the same page with your spouse financially. When you’re not, it’s like being in the same boat, but rowing in opposite directions. You’re together, but you spend a lot of energy and go nowhere.
One of the reasons Stephen and I spent so many years drifting in our finances is because We Didn’t Pay Attention. I kept thinking it would somehow magically all work out. What actually happened was, the more difficult our situation got, the more not being united was a problem. We needed to make some hard decisions and we couldn’t agree.
Getting on the same page with your spouse is possible. Not easy, but possible. Stephen and I struggled with not agreeing on spending, saving or even how to do Christmas! There were many reasons for our divergent ideas.
- Background – Everyone grows up with different money experiences in their childhood.
- Personality – Are you a natural spender or a natural saver. There are lots of times when a spender is married to a saver. (That’s not all bad, by the way)
- Gender Differences – Men look at money as a measure of achievement or a “scorecoard”. Women look at money as part of their security system. When it is not stable, fear can set in. (I experience this!)
- Divergent Goals – Each partner may have a different idea of what’s important to them.
- Lack of Goals – You may not have even thought about goals or what you’d like your future to look like.
All of these issues can be overcome.
Money Represents Your Values
Your money and the way you handle it represents your family’s value system. You may not have thought much about that, but now is a great time to start.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.Matthew 6:21
Dream With Your Spouse
Get a cup of coffee, sit on the deck or take a walk in the park and have a conversation. Just dream. Talk about your dreams and your desires for your future. What do YOU want it to look like? What does YOUR SPOUSE want it to look like? Share your desires for your future with each other. Write them down to reference later. If you made your List of 10 Things That Make Me Happy from the previous post Personal Finance Basics Part 1 – How Do I Get a Handle On My Money?!?, now is a good time to pull that out.
While you’re having this conversation, REALLY LISTEN to your spouse. What do you hear from them that maybe you weren’t aware of? What pain might you be hearing from their childhood? Many of the items I shared above may surface during this conversation. The differences in your upbringing, differences is personality or goals. Have grace and patience with each other. Remember, the end-game is to walk into your future together, hand-in-hand.
I entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.Ephesians 4:1-3
Budgeting With Your Spouse
Working on the budget is where the rubber meets the road. If you don’t have a budget yet, you’ll need to start working on one. (If you don’t know where to start with a budget, I’ll be talking about that in a future post) If you have one prepared or you’ve been using a budget for a while, it may be time to revisit and revise.
Usually one partner is a money person or a spreadsheet nerd. Most times the other is not. The one with the talent and penchant for spreadsheets can prepare the preliminary budget, but BOTH partners need to make the final decisions. This will require some give and take. Some negotiation over categories and amounts, but in the end you should be able to determine a budget that reflects your goals and your values.
The flow of money in a household represents the value system under which that household operates.
The Board Meeting
One way Stephen and I softened the harshness of talking money was to schedule “Board Meetings”. Arrange a time and place where you can be away from the kids and other distractions to talk money. We would often have our Board Meetings at our favorite “hole in the wall” Mexican food restaurant. If spending money for this is not in the budget, go to the park or someplace that is meaningful to you.
Being outside of your normal surroundings and away from distractions and things that remind you of stress can sometimes make these conversations easier. Have these Board Meetings as often as you need. Later on, they will become a habit you look forward to.
Side Note: We found this was also a good way to have a “calendar meeting”. Coordinating schedules can also eliminate stress on your emotions and your budget. If you know that 3 nights next week you will be at school functions or games, you can plan ahead for meals and not “run through the drive-through”.
Getting a reluctant spouse on board may be difficult, but it is crucial to your success. Show them why you want to implement changes. Show them how much better your future can be if you don’t just follow the norm.