She stares at the empty Starbucks cup on top of the garbage in the can and wonders how many coffee drinks he purchased this week. She’s had none since they agreed to cut back on expenses. The shiny, white blouse that hangs on her side of the closet catches his eye. The price tag dangles precariously from the sleeve, and he thinks about how they committed to no clothing purchases this month due to their tight budget. Neither one says anything to the other but their silence is brewing a kettle of hot water in their hearts that may soon lead to someone blowing off steam.
Struggles with money and finances are the number one cause of arguments in marriage. This is one of the leading reasons why marriages dissolve. What is sad is that figuring out finances is probably easier to fix than a broken heart caused by one spouse engaging in an extra-marital affair or from a spouse claiming they’re no longer in love. Instead, couples end up fighting so much over money issues, they start to believe they have irreconcilable differences when in fact they have reconcilable differences that just need to be understood.
Each person comes to the marriage with a different financial philosophy. She likes to save or hoard. He likes to spend. Her mom always balanced the checkbook. He thinks it’s fine to go with the bank’s balance. How money should be earned, spent, saved or thrown away is a perspective that’s been cultivated over the years through watching parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends or neighbors handle their dough! Nobody is necessarily wrong in what they believe, but in order for the dough to rise, a couple needs to blend or merge their ideas into one solid attitude that will help them make good financial decisions in the future.
One problem that stands in the way of financial freedom is that couples don’t want to talk about money. For some reason, they think it’s easier to just combine their paychecks, spend sporadically, save whatever is left, throw budgeting out the window and then fight like dogs and play the blame game when more money is spent than what is earned. It’s crazy!
The smarter approach to take is to sit down and talk about financial goals. Do you want to take vacations, and if so, how much should you spend? How do you feel about debt? If you have children that want to go to college, what are your views on paying for their education? Do you pay it all or ask them to contribute a portion?
In order to reach your goals, you need to have a plan. That plan is the dreaded B word—budget! If you don’t have one, then no one is accountable for how money is spent. You will spin the wheels of frustration forever until you run out of money and land in the valley of bankruptcy and divorce.
Money issues will not go away just because you ignore them. More likely they will fester like blisters if not attended to immediately. By taking a small step approach which could include formulating a budget, talking weekly to address progress, and meeting annually to determine if the current game plan still applies, couples will have a better chance of learning to live with their reconcilable financial differences and live within their means. You can take that to the bank!