Several years ago, my husband and I took a popular financial course together. We made a budget, quit using credit cards and tracked all our spending. We even began using only cash for many of our expenses. For several months, we made great strides toward our financial plan.
Then life happened. A child’s hospital visit, a costly move and a dry spell for the supplemental income I brought in as a self-employed writer piled on expenses and wore away at our financial resolve.
We drifted back into less disciplined money habits and leaned on our credit cards. When we finally decided to “right the ship,” arguments erupted over the best way to fix our money struggles.
Money is a top source of marital stress
It turns out that when it comes to experiencing marital stress due to finances, we’re not alone. One online survey found that 36 percent of couples said money was the issue that caused the most stress on their relationship.
Rob Jackson, a licensed professional counselor, agrees that finances can be a major source of tension in marriages. “Couples should discuss finances as soon as possible,” he says. “And after that, they should be working on a plan.” Different expectations and spending habits can create problems if spouses aren’t on the same page.
Taking a financial course together can be a great place to start, Jackson says. But if your financial habits are on the downhill slide, here are three ways to get back on track.
Set financial goals
You’ve probably heard the old adage, “If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” The same is true for finances. Take some time as a couple to discuss your financial plan and goals. How do you plan to pay off debt? What are the items for which you want to save? When and how do you plan to retire? Where do you want to give?
This phase is about dreaming together. Thinking about the things God might call you to do with your money can be bonding and need not be a drag. One financial advisor suggests that couples plan two to four special dates each year to dream about, discuss and reevaluate financial plans.
Make a plan
Once you have your financial goals in place, make a plan to accomplish them. Your financial plan will be as unique as your partnership. Seek guidance from someone who understands money. Then create a budget, track your spending, establish savings and give. Use tools that feel intuitive and try to keep the process simple. Financial advisors emphasize that your plan needs to be sustainable and one that both of you can stick to. Don’t be afraid to make small adjustments as you go.
Talk about money often
While it may seem greedy to talk about money regularly, one study shows that couples who discuss money on a weekly basis are more likely to describe their marriages as “great” than those who avoid the topic. Plus, sticking to a financial plan together requires steady communication, which can improve other areas of your relationship.
Whether you’re newlyweds or a seasoned married couple, it’s never too early or late to set a healthy course for your finances. Research reveals there is a clear connection between financial struggles and marital strife. Couples who set money goals, work on a financial plan and communicate about finances often make a significant investment not only in their bank accounts but also in their marriages.