Sense & Centsibility Blog

The Ultimate Guide to Marriage and Money: 5 Tips for Success

Do you and your partner avoid money discussions because it tends to create too much tension in your relationship? Or maybe you do try to address money issues as a couple, but it always seems to end in a fight followed by a door-slam. Why are some couples successful when discussing financial matters while others can’t seem to get it right? If you are both on the same team, the odds are already in your favor!

When counseling, it’s always difficult when only one person shows up seeking financial guidance while their other half refused to attend the appointment with them. My biggest piece of advice in this type of situation is always to get that other person on board with the plan. Because unfortunately, no matter which steps one partner takes to improve their financial situation, there is a good chance that their partner’s lack of cooperation will unravel any real progress made. Couples are at a huge advantage when they both acknowledge a need for change and are willing to work together as a team.

Talk about your money on a regular basis

A successful partnership means checking in with your partner on a regular basis. I recommend scheduling regular “team” meetings to discuss the financial game-plan with your partner. This is the time to discuss everything money related. Avoid bickering about minor financial issues from day to day; instead, you can jot it down and address it at your money meeting. Choose a location outside of your home such as the coffee shop up the street. If money tends to be a “hot button” in your relationship, you will be less likely to yell at each other if your meeting takes place in the middle of Starbucks rather than in the comfort of your own home. Also, if you repeatedly meet at the same location for your money discussions, you’ll train your brain to be ready and focused to discuss your money. Make sure you bring a timer and don’t let your meeting last longer than an hour or two. It will be up to the two of you to decide how much time you realistically need and how often these meetings should take place. Since your time is limited, it’s important for you both to stay on task. And that means you both must avoid rehashing past mistakes no matter how tempting.

Avoid the “blame the game”…

Remember, you are on the same team, and you are moving in the same direction towards a common goal. We’ve all been there, wallowing in the swamps of “coulda, woulda, shoulda,” and wishing we could change it or start over. Some of us simply find it easier to recognize where others have messed up rather than look at ourselves. “Well if Sandy hadn’t maxed out our Visa to buy Christmas presents for every single person she’s ever known, we might have been able to get new tires for the car!” Does this sound familiar? Others find it easier to hyper-focus on all of the things they did wrong. They prefer to spend hours apologizing for past mistakes rather than discussing an actual solution and then taking action to turn it around. If you catch yourself dwelling on past mistakes or you start playing the “blame game”, simply STOP yourself at the moment you realize you are doing it, even if it’s mid-sentence.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what matters is which way you are walking TOGETHER now. It makes no difference which of you is more at fault here because the problem still belongs to both of you! Remember, the blame game will not bring you any closer to a solution. In fact, the “blame game” is a great way to remain divided. Blame triggers negative emotions such as shame, guilt, and anger. So if your goal is to end your meeting with a huge fight and no real progress, then let the blame games begin. Do you really want to spend more time running in circles, arguing about the same old junk from the past? Or, are you ready to accept where you are and start moving towards a solution?

Play fair and be willing to compromise on some things

A budget will not work unless it feels fair for both of you. A realistic family budget should include some room to meet individual needs. Be willing to compromise on some things and make sacrifices for the greater goal of creating financial stability and a better future for your family. If you don’t think something is fair then don’t agree to it! If your needs are not being met, you will start to resent your partner and this will keep you both stuck. Be willing to meet somewhere in the middle on some things. Speak up if your needs aren’t getting met and make sure you also have a suggestion for how to tweak the plan so it feels fair.

Be honest with your partner

And PLEASE tell the truth! Do not hide spending or lie to your partner about the finances. If some aspect of the family budget doesn’t feel fair, then say so! Don’t do something behind your partner’s back and then conveniently leave them in the dark about it. We used to call this “creative financing” in my family, and it’s an absolute no-no! You are a team, and your relationship must be based on a foundation of mutual trust and respect. Remember, you will mess up from time to time and your money meeting needs to be a safe place where you can discuss what is and isn’t working. If you are willing to work together, that is half the battle.

Seek additional help from a Financial Counselor

Not sure what to discuss at your money meeting or where to start? LSS Financial Counseling offers free debt and budget counseling for both individuals and couples, too! We can help you create an action plan for reaching your financial goals and conquering your debt. To get started, call 888-577-2227 or get started online. Take action today to improve your financial future!

Author Mary Mckeague is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS and she specializes in Debt and Budget Counseling.

Want to read more about money and relationships? Check out “Secrets to a Financially Happy Relationship” by Sarah Packingham.