Arguing About Money? Two Things That Could Save Your Marriage
So I was reading an article about how arguments over finances are the #1 predictor of divorce. I think a lot of people suspected or assumed that was true, but this study proved it. The part of the article that got me excited was the researchers' suggestions for preventing and repairing those issues. They are two very simple things, yet so crucial, that could be the difference between making or breaking a marriage. Luckily, they are things anyone can do, financially-minded or not.
Image: Phillip Taylor via Flickr
Marriage-Saver #1: Have a "Fun Fund" or "Mad Money" Account for Each Spouse
Our own MHM author Lauren addressed this issue months ago and she was dead-on. One of the first conclusions drawn by one of the study's co-authors, Sonya Britt, was that "when one partner makes more money than the other partner, the couple has to decide if they each get to spend equal amounts of money on personal preference items." So how does a Fun Fund work?
Marriage-Saver #2: Have a Monthly Budget Meeting
To quote Sonya Britt again: "Couples should set times when they talk about the budget and if changes need to be made to the way they are allocating their money". She continues, "This advice remains the same no matter how long the couple has been married. Our preferences change all the time, so it is important that how the couple is spending money reflects changing preferences."
If your response is, "Aww man...but I don't wanna budget!", consider these things:
How much time per week would you be willing to dedicate to preventing the #1 predictor of divorce? If your answer is at least 30 minutes, then you have officially committed yourself to budgeting.
Have you ever heard that successful marriages take work? Well, this is exactly the kind of work they were talking about! Budgeting may be a pain at times, but it's a *whole* lot easier than dealing with the fallout from not doing it. Budgeting doesn't have to be hard (see our "How To Budget" here) and it doesn't have to be perfect. It's about putting something together that is good enough to facilitate that monthly discussion revolving around a few questions.
- How are we currently spending our money?
- How do we want to be spending our money?
- What changes do we need to make to reach those goals? (e.g. "How can we lower our gas expense?" "Do we need to allocate more money to groceries?")
Our marriage isn't perfect (Bryan won't play card games with me anymore--I'm kind of a sore loser). Despite our shortcomings, we don't argue about money or finances, largely due to our commitment to making a budget AND sticking to it. Even if you've never budgeted before, throw something together and adjust later as needed--it will never be perfect (it doesn't need to be), but you'll find it gets easier over time. With all the free budgeting programs out there (as mentioned in Step #1 of our budgeting post), most of the work is done for you. Keeping your budget up to date may just be a matter of setting up your accounts and checking back on a regular basis to correct any errors the program may have made. By having a budget, the discussion about finances is when everyone is cool and you are logically making decisions based on needs and wants instead of pointing fingers and being accusatory about the spending habits of your spouse.
I'd suggest "tuning up" your budget (making sure the transactions get downloaded and correcting any mistakes) on a weekly basis, preferably around the same day/time each week so you don't forget.
Real Life Example
Every Sunday night, my husband and I spend about 15-30 minutes updating our budget. Once a month (usually on the first Sunday of the month so we can review the previous month), we have a "budget meeting" to review how we did and make adjustments as needed. Some months are smooth and it's a happy, 5-minute "Looks good" discussion. Some months we realize certain expenses have gotten out of control and it takes 30 minutes to figure out how we're going to deal with it (e.g. "Maybe we need to take money from our entertainment budget and increase our grocery allowance" or "Ugh...time to cut back on eating out. Our dining out budget got slaughtered this month.") It's a time investment, but because those discussions happen regularly in a productive and structured setting, we spend little to no time outside of those meetings discussing money and virtually no time arguing about it. It's a beautiful thing.
If you and your spouse argue about money, you're in the majority. You can decide now to do something about it by taking these two steps towards a healthier relationship (and healthier finances!). It takes a bit of work, but the payoff is huge. Consider it an investment in the most important relationship in your life.