Marriage is hard. Actually, it’s the hardest thing I have ever done. Being completely selfless is more difficult than you could ever imagine. Have you ever tried listening to someone during an argument? I mean really listen? I’m talking about hearing everything they have to say without mouthing off a rebuttal every time they start to speak. It almost seems impossible, especially when your sparring partner happens to be the love of your life.
Marriage requires work, and arguably nothing in that commitment is going to require more work than the topic of finances. Money has been the cause of many a failed marriage—and after being married for over a year now, I can honestly see why. Once the honeymoon is over, you’re just going to have to accept that money will be the cause of many, many arguments in your life.
I don’t offer a lot of marriage advice. For one, my marriage is in no way perfect. I am unquestionably in love with my wife and can’t imagine growing old and wrinkled with anyone else. (Love you baby). But I do believe I can give a little insight on what I learned about money and finances to those couples who soon will be taking the plunge.
So, for what it’s worth, here are the only pieces of marriage advice I’ll offer.
1. Talk About The Past
This one is actually for before you’ve tied the knot. Everything needs to be put on the table. How much debt you have. What your credit score is. You even need to talk about what your strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to spending.
Lay everything out there for your better half to see. Being honest and open upfront will prevent many future arguments. Not all arguments, mind you, but with the amount you’re going to have you’ll be grateful to at least put a dent in that number. Trust me.
2. It is Our Money
Everything you have is now shared. This includes your finances. Individuals who are single, dating, and even engaged act like two year olds who always say “my money” before throwing a tantrum on the floor. Remove this statement from your vocabulary. It is our money. Both parties need to understand that what they have and earn is for both of them.
3. If You Make More, Don’t Ever Bring it Up
If you really want to start a fire in your relationship, just bring up that you make more. To drop a bomb, try bringing it up during an argument. Sit back with some popcorn and watch the fireworks. Or start digging your own grave.
If you make more than your spouse, don’t ever acknowledge it. They know what you make. You don’t have to demean them by throwing it in their face. You both have an important role in your finances. Regardless of whether you make more or less, show your spouse respect. They deserve it just for being willing to put up with you.
4. Make Every Decision Together
Staying on the topic of being the breadwinner, many might have the mindset that if they make more, then they should make the financial decisions. This is absolutely unequivocally wrong!
Every decision that has to be made—with or without your money—must be made together. Communication is key in a marriage. It makes both individuals feel important, that their voice will be heard. Talking through things and listening to your spouse will build a healthy and happy marriage, especially when it comes to big purchases.
5. Have Your Own Allowance
When budgeting together (which is what you need to be doing) make sure to budget an individual allowance for each of you. Yes, you should have a joint account. But you also need to have some money of your own.
Give each other a monthly allowance. This can be the money you can spend however you wish. It gives you some independence. Having a small sense of financial freedom will be good for your marriage. There will be no arguments on how this money is spent—not like there would be if you saw money mysteriously draining out of your joint account.
6. Don’t Condemn, Be Understanding
Mistakes are going to happen. Don’t pretend like they’re not. Your spouse might use the joint account for something you didn’t budget for. For example, maybe they bought lunch when you both promised to pack a lunch in the name of saving money. Whatever their explanation may be, reasonable or not, they have made a mistake and you are going to be mad.
Calm down. Your first instinct will be to accuse them of breaking the budget and wasting money. I’m not proud of it, but I’m guilty of doing this. Believe me, it gets you nowhere. Bring it up to them, but bring it up the right way.
Please listen to what I am about to say. If you don’t listen to anything else please listen to this: it is not in what you say but in how you say it.
Maybe they needed a little pick me up. Maybe they went to lunch with a client. It doesn’t matter—if they made a simple mistake, don’t freak out. Simply talk about what happened and how it impacted your finances.
7. Don’t Let Your Friends Break Your Budget
What is one of the funnest things to talk about when in a relationship? Other couples of course!
If you are the poor couple amongst friends, the day will come when you’ll be forced to spend more money than you have in order to make a better impression. While no one is necessarily forcing you to spend anything, peer pressure can be a heck of a motivator. You certainly aren’t going to be the couple that ruins everyone’s good time, right? Sometimes, that’s all the reason you need to make a bad decision. Your friends make more so they go out all of the time. You make less but don’t want to be the party pooper or miss out on a fun night out.
Let your friends know that you’re on a budget. There’s no shame in it. They will work with you on finding ways to hang out without spending money. If they don’t, then at least you’re a step closer to finding out who your real friends are.
8. Emergency Fund
You want to hear a true story? Once my dog ate three whole tampons. She is 12 pounds! Don’t ask me how she got to them or how she forced them down without choking. But she did. It ended up costing us over $400 to fix the problem.
Lesson learned—you better have an emergency fund. Put a little bit aside after every paycheck before it is too late. With no emergency fund you’ll have to dive into your savings, 401k, or god forbid your credit cards to bring the planets back into alignment. Using any one of these can drive your debt up quicker than you can blink.
To put it simply, life is too short to argue about money. Take the time to work as a couple to make your finances a bright point of your marriage. You both will be much happier.