How Should We Manage Our Money as a Married Couple?
We often get asked the question, “How should we manage our money as a married couple?” While it’s true that financial issues are one of the most common sources of stress in marriage, it doesn’t have to be a stumbling block in your relationship. There is no one answer to how you and your spouse should manage finances in your marriage because how you choose to do so may look different than other couples. Additionally, your financial management plan may change as you experience different seasons of marriage—one spouse goes back to school, you’re working towards purchasing a home, you’re growing your family, or you’re newly empty nesters. So, rather than provide a 1-2-3-step process for “how to manage finances in a marriage,” consider these suggestions to kick-start you and your spouse down the path of healthy financial communication and connection and ultimately successful money management throughout your marriage.
1. First things first—individually, determine your personal relationship with money.
Everyone comes into marriage with a different viewpoint toward money that usually is a result of their upbringing. Do you know the “whys” behind how you personally respond to financial issues or the habits that influence your money behaviors? If not, check out Money Habitudes, a fun, easy way to discover your spending habits and attitudes around money. When you and your spouse learn each of your money habitudes and whether they’re different, you start with a foundation of healthy understanding, and you build trust, so you can have productive financial conversations.
2. Create guidelines around how you talk about money.
Once you’ve gained an understanding of what money means to you as individuals, create guidelines for when you have financial discussions, so they’re constructive rather than hurtful or conflictive. Agree together on a time and place where you can be free from distractions and engage in positive conversation. Consider attending a financial course, in person or online, so you can learn more about how to have healthy conversations and establish mutual financial goals. Mostly, it’s important to remember whenever you’re talking about money, you’re on the same team and working toward the same goals—you’re winning because you’re doing it together.
3. Determine your family’s personal plan for managing finances.
Once you’ve done steps one and two, it’s much easier to “manage” your finances. If you and your spouse are getting to the end of each month and wondering where your money went, that’s a good sign you need a plan. A budget is a simple, workable plan where you both agree on how to spend your money. There are several great tools you can utilize to simplify the budgeting process. Check out EveryDollar, Mint, Monarch Money, or YNAB. If a working budget feels too constraining, come up with another mutually agreed upon plan for your money. Communication is key! When you’re determining your budget, make sure to decide together how much you want to spend each month on different things like food, clothing, fun outings, travel, etc., once your bills are paid.
4. Decide if you will have joint or separate bank accounts.
It might surprise you to know that researchers in 2022 studied 38,000 couples and concluded that couples who worked together with shared finances were happier and less likely to break up. In addition, they reported experiencing a stronger connection—using “us,” “our,” “we” language—and more positive interactions with each other than couples who kept their financial lives separate.
5. Decide what the two of you consider to be a financial need versus a financial want.
It’s not unlikely that you and your spouse may have differing opinions about what is a financial need versus a financial want—refer to your Money Habitudes results. For example, one spouse may believe furniture in every room is a need, while the other may believe that’s a want. Work together to determine your family’s definitions for needs and wants to protect you from future drama. A good rule is to only make a purchase that falls under the want category if it’s agreed upon by both parties. Additionally, before going into debt for something in the want category, discuss whether the purchase will still be worth it once the added interest cost is calculated into the total cost, should you choose to finance a purchase. If you both determine it won’t be worth it, agree the purchase is a no, for now, and can be something to look forward to in the future.
6. Decide what capacity you will give and save.
As Christ followers, we know everything we have, including wealth, comes from the Lord. A great initial financial goal to consider is the 10% rule. Save 10% of your income—you won’t regret this in the future—and give 10% of your income—tithe to your church, donation to a worthy cause or organization, etc. Even if you and your spouse can’t set aside the full 10% right now, start somewhere, and increase incrementally until you reach the 10% mark.
Bottom line—there is no one right way to manage finances in a marriage, but ignoring the topic of money is just about guaranteed to create stress in your relationship. The keys to success are determining your personal relationship with money, communicating openly and often about money, making a financial plan together, and sticking to it.