Money. The word alone brings about all sorts of thoughts and emotions. Some people hate money, some people love it; but we can probably all agree that we simply want more of it. An endless supply would be pretty nice.
We all have our own beliefs and habits when it comes to money—sometimes not the best beliefs or habits―which is why marriages are notorious for their money issues. In fact, it’s right up there with the leading causes of divorce. Money issues can lead to excessive debt, which causes stress. It can even lead to losing a home, which can really uproot the family. These money “failures” can cause us to feel bad about yourselves or our spouse on a daily basis. Not a good combination.
How do you break this cycle and make sure that money doesn’t ruin your marriage? You’ll need to set up some times to talk about money in stages so you can cover all your bases, and then you can put an action plan together.
Here are 8 tips to secure your marriage and money for years to come.
- Come to Terms with Money Beliefs
Sit down with your spouse and have a talk about money. But let this be the talk about your old beliefs. Take turns answering these questions: What did your parents do with their money? Did they save or spend a lot? Did they invest? Did they fight about money? The more in-depth you can both get about your parents’ feelings and habits about money, the more insight it can shed on you and your own beliefs and feelings.
- Discuss Current Habits and Feelings
Without pointing fingers, blaming, or getting angry with yourself or your spouse—talk about your current habits and feelings with money. How often do you spend? Do you tend to spend more when you are emotional? What sorts of things are your weakness? Are you late when making payments or do you always pay on time? What are your general feelings about money at this point in your life? What are you most worried about? Get those feelings out in the open so that you and your spouse can understand each other.
- Write Down Your Money Goals
You and your spouse may be just living day to day, and paycheck to paycheck. It’s a fairly normal way of living these days. But you are missing out on opportunities and future possibilities! Sit down and together, write out all of your money goals, no matter how extravagant or small. It could be starting your own business, retiring early, allocating X dollars per year for travel, making a big purchase, buying a cabin for family outings—whatever your dream, write it down. Then begin formulating how to make those happen. If you planned it right, how long would it take to reach these goals? Does one of you need to switch jobs in order to meet these goals? How do you feel when you dream about these things? You may not be able to reach all of these goals, and your goals may change over time, but getting them written down is a start.
- Align Your Current Money Habits and Feelings with Your Goals
This will be a hard one to face. We don’t want to admit we’ve made mistakes in the past, and we definitely don’t want to change. But unless you do this step, you’re not going to be able to move forward with what you want out of your money. And that’s all money is, really—a tool to help you do things. So try to let go of the past and look toward the future. What habits and feelings do you need to adopt NOW that will help you reach your goals? Set yourself and your spouse up for success. Do you need to enroll in a financial class so you can better learn money strategies?
- Detail Your Budget
Maybe you know the basics of your budget, but if you got down to the details you could save some serious cash that could be well used toward your goals. Print out a list of ALL of your bills and payments and the day of the month they are due. Keep that list pinned up next to your desktop computer, in your planner, or where you can see it often. Your spouse should do the same. Besides those bills, you have other things like groceries, eating out, gas, and other regular but not monthly expenses. List all of those. If you don’t know how much to allocate, go to the last three months of your statements for an average.
- Find Other Ways to Save or Earn
Have you shopped around for car insurance lately? Are you taking advantage of the retirement matching program at work? Could you eat out just once a week and save what you used to spend into college savings? Do you have some things you could sell to put toward debt? As a couple, discuss these options. In this case, two heads are better than one. Write down all your ideas and tackle them one by one.
- Set Clearly Defined Roles
You and your spouse must come together and see money as a team venture. As with any team, you both should have your own clearly defined roles. Perhaps you can split up which bills to take care of, or maybe one of you could take care of all the bills while the other works the grocery bill to get it down as much as possible. Be realistic with what you each can handle and what you each are good at. The one who likes to budget more can certainly take care of more of it, as long as you both communicate and stay on the same page about it.
- Make Saving Your New Default
When we see the money in our account, we tend to spend it. It’s almost like it being there is granting us permission to spend! When doing your budget, make sure to pay yourself first. Have a savings account that is completely separate from your regular account (maybe even a different bank!) so that you aren’t tempted to use it—or even really look at it. Even if all you can spare this paycheck is $20, then put $20 into savings. The idea is to make it a habit. Once you and your spouse see this $20 turn in a few hundred, you’ll start to feel different about money. You’ll feel more in control, which can be your new way of feeling about money for years to come.
Author Bio: Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy, happy marriages. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Google+ and Pinterest.