Nobody wakes up on their wedding day and thinks, I bet we’ll be divorced by this time next year. At least, I hope not!
Most of us have the highest hopes and dreams for our marriages. Sometimes, though, after a few years, reality sets in—in the form of debt, credit cards and financial infidelity—and we give up hope. That’s why money problems are a leading cause of divorce in America, and it’s why I’m so passionate about helping people take control of their money.
When I speak at events or talk to couples across the country, I hear time and time again that money is at the root of so much marital stress. It’s amazing how appearance, status and stuff can take over our lives and ruin our relationships if we aren’t careful. The good news is that there is an antidote. It all comes down to common sense.
Whether you’re just dating or are already an “old married couple,” here are a few tips to make money a blessing in your relationship—not a cause of stress and fights.
Work together, not separate
How can you be on the same page about money if you have two separate bank accounts? Didn’t the pastor at your wedding ceremony say, “You will become one”? Keeping your accounts separate is one of the most effective ways to completely wreck your financial life—and maybe even your marriage. If you want to win with money in your marriage, you must be on the same team.
Make a routine
At the end of every month, sit down with your spouse for your monthly budget meeting. Plan out how you will spend every dollar for the coming month—groceries, gas, bills, everything. And don’t forget to budget a small percentage of “fun” money!
It’s okay if one of you is in charge of budgeting and paying bills, but you both need to communicate and know what’s going on. My husband and I use the budgeting app EveryDollar, because it’s easy to use and gives us both visibility into what’s going on with our money.
Be willing to say “no”
If it’s not in the budget, then it’s not in the budget. That might mean you can’t have the latest iPhone or designer shoes. Remember, it’s only no for now. Once you’re debt-free, you’ll have more freedom to afford the things you really want. My dad, Dave Ramsey, taught me to “Live like no one else, so later, you can live like no one else.”
Don’t compare your marriage to anyone else’s
You may think other couples have it all together based on what you see on social media, but their marriage may very well be stressed. Maybe they have no margin with their money, because their paycheck comes in and goes right back out in payments. Their “perfect life” may be just one money fight away from divorce. Stay focused on your marriage and your goals!
If you and your spouse are struggling right now, change won’t come overnight. But you’ve got to start somewhere. Getting started is the hardest part, but once you start those conversations with your spouse, it will change your marriage. If you’re struggling with how to approach it, check out my list of six money conversation starters to help.
So, sit down for a heart-to-heart with your spouse, be honest, and be proactive. Don’t let your marriage fall apart because you’re not paying attention to money issues!