Finances are cited as one of the greatest sources of disagreements, arguments, and even a cause for divorce. The first is lack of communication, and the second is money disagreements. But money itself is not the problem. Money problems are a symptom of a heart issue. It could be greed, coveting, lack of faith, the scarcity mentality, fear, desire for power, or laziness. Many heart issues grow into problems with money.
Each person starts marriage with their pattern of living. Do they have credit card debt? Spend impulsively? Hoard to the extreme of harsh living? Are they generous, or not? Stating vows does not change the pattern. Determining and committing to honoring God’s guidelines carries is what carries you through tough challenges.
We must go to God together when we make big and small decisions on living space, vehicles, furniture, kids’ education, everything. We talk about and pay attention to where income is coming from and where it is going. We cannot stress this enough. Be attentive, pay attention to all income, and all money going out, and do it together.
These discussions are vital before marriage. Each person needs to come clean about credit card debt, student loans, and even credit scores. These realities will affect your lifestyle as a couple. Bringing debt into marriage may seem insignificant until other challenges come. And life has lots of those.
We suggest these three things that are vital in your marriage to master your finances:
1. Agree on a basic plan.
Given what is coming in, what can go out? What matters to each of you? And why? We cannot stress enough the shared value of NOT accumulating debt and having an emergency fund. That alone will lessen later financial stresses and arguments. It is okay to have separate discretionary funds for nonessentials.
2. Spend time together in regular and consistent budget work.
That newlywed one-bedroom apartment is likely NOT your long-term home. How much does having a home matter? Can we accumulate our emergency fund and have two new credit cards? We suggest attending a class, even online, like Financial Peace or Crown Financial. Meeting with a budget counselor might take the edge off touchy conversations and give an impartial perspective.
3. Be willing to change your habits.
Marriage means compromise. Marriages simply do not thrive without it. Small stuff, home temperature, open windows, eating leftovers, or throwing them out. Bigger stuff, he really wants that car. She is frugal and wants more savings for kids’ college. Each person’s opinion matters. It is better to kick around ideas, not make demands. We like money conversations that include things like “a dream I have is to one day do…” or, “this, to me, is more valuable than…”
Both spouses are of equal value. Marriage should be fair and mutually beneficial. One person should not control everything, and one person should not always be giving in. We sincerely believe that God created each person to bring about His purposes in the world. Marriage should be so empowering that it propels both in the marriage to greater ability to serve God and encourage human flourishing.
It is all God’s, our combined incomes, all we have. God sees your attempts as a couple to steward what is His together. Gain courage by knowing that you matter to Him, your marriage matters to Him. He stands ready to help you.
Adapted from Wise Women Managing Money: Expert Advice on Debt, Wealth, Budgeting, and More by Miriam Neff & Valerie Neff Hogan (© 2022). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.