For some reason, most people in this culture find it extremely difficult to talk about their finances. It’s not just with salaries; people are also secretive about how much they paid for a car, house, or even what they pay for car insurance. However, when we get married, we are called to come together as “one flesh”! This is kind of hard to do if we don’t talk about finances with our spouse.
Usually, what happens is one person handles all of the finances and the spouse doesn’t get involved at all. The non-finance spouse will either receive an “allowance” from the one who handles the money, or they spend at will – through their credit and/or debit card!
This definitely does not follow the biblical model for marriage:
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. ~ Genesis 2:24
Because the bible addresses the area of money management so often, it would seem necessary that a couple be on the same page, and have excellent communication regarding the household finances, if they are to truly become “one flesh“!
Here are a few practical things that you can do in order to make sure both partners are involved in the finances:
Schedule A Regular Meeting
Communication is one of the most important things in a marriage. Most of us know that, but it still can be a difficult thing to put into practice. Setting up a regular time to meet and go over your finances, can help to make communication that much easier. Some couples may meet once a month, and others may choose to do it weekly. Whatever you choose, make sure they are frequent enough to make them meaningful.
Here are some things that you should incorporate into your regular meetings.
Pray Together And Bring Up Financial Matters
Praying together about your financial goals, concerns, problems, and insecurities does two things for you. First, you are asking God to replace your earthly goals and desires, for spiritual ones; also, you surrender all of your fears and anxiety to the Lord, so He can give you perfect peace.
Second, by praying about these things together every time you meet (and every day if they are really an issue), you acknowledge your complete dependence on God! You realize that in order to make wise financial decisions, and to be able to communicate and compromise with your spouse, you’ll need God’s help.
Discuss Your Goals And Progress
Once you have laid out all of your fears, concerns, and desires before God, it’s time to discuss your goals with each other. Go over the list of goals which you have previously established – if you have not yet done this, take the time to make such a list.
Talk about why these things are important, and what you plan to do to make them a reality. Be very specific, even getting down to your motivations for having those goals. This step lays the foundation for sound financial management and communication.
Make Sure That You Both Agree On Your Goals
When discussing these goals, don’t just take it for granted that your partner shares the same goals, or shares them with the same intensity. In areas which you don’t agree, such as the question of whether to pay off debt or establish a 9-month emergency fund, try to find a place of compromise. For instance, maybe start out with a 1 or 2-month emergency fund, and then attack your debt.
The key here is to make sure that you walk away from the first meeting with a game plan (also known as a budget); and that can only happen if you agree on your goals. It may take more than one meeting to iron out all the details, but it is worth the effort!
Review Your Budget And Actuals
Now we get into the details of your household finances. Take time out to review your purchases, monthly bills, and income to make sure that everything is going according to your plan. If something came up which you didn’t expect, discuss how it was handled and how you can be better prepared in the future.
Make sure that you both understand how much it costs to support your current lifestyle, and the effect that your debt and/or unexpected expenses are having on your finances.
Admit Any Failures/Mistakes
As you look at your budget, and review your purchases to see if you are in line with them, you may come across a few areas in which one partner has failed. Maybe you decided to pack lunch every day, but your spouse charged $80 during the previous month on lunch.
It might be an issue where a phone call needed to be made in order to secure a particular price or prevent a fee from being charged, and as you review your task list, you find that it wasn’t done. Mail that was misplaced, an offer that was squandered, or even an obligation that was created (by one spouse signing a contract without the knowledge of the other) – these are the types of things that can cause serious frustrations and damage trust.
Even so, you must admit these things as soon as possible in order to mitigate any possible damage, and also to maintain the lines of communication.
This act of humble confession can do a lot to help solidify trust.
Show Mercy And Compassion
If your spouse has to come to you and admit a failure or mistake, you need to be compassionate, loving, merciful, and forgiving.
Remember, the point of these meetings is to strengthen communication regarding financial matters. This can’t happen if your spouse feels that they can’t come to you admitting that they made a decision, or even forgot something, that may have a negative effect on your finances!
In order to avoid confusion, use these meetings to assign responsibilities. If one spouse hates talking on the phone, and the other doesn’t mind, have the “talkative” one make the phone calls. The one that is great with organization should be the one who handles all of the mail.
Go through all of the typical tasks involving your finances, and divide them up by who is best suited for them.
This task list should be one of the items that is reviewed at your next family financial meeting.
Pray And Then Do Something Fun/Romantic After Your Meeting
Even though family finances can be a very serious matter, you must remember that you are a family, and not a business. To take the away any stress or pressure that may have been caused by reviewing your finances – especially if there were mistakes or sins confessed – you should do two things to close our your meeting.
First, you should pray. Commit every financial issue over to God. Make sure that any sin (like worrying, anger, pride, etc) is confessed, and you ask for the strength and faith to trust God’s promise to provide and care for His children.
Secondly, you should then do something fun and/or romantic with your spouse. Make sure that you are enjoying each other and expressing your love to one another, even after discussing something as serious as your finances and future.
Share Small Financial Activities Together
Even if there is one person who handles the bulk of the financial transactions in the household, you should still try to find something that you can do together.
My friend and her husband pay bills together. She reviews the bills and account balance and writes out the checks, while he prepares the envelopes to be mailed out and updates the checkbook register. This way, they both know what they are paying for each bill, and they have a good understanding of what it truly costs to support their lifestyle.
Also, they both know which vendors they use for every service, and they should have a good idea of how much money is in the bank account at all times. She told me that this only takes 15-20 minutes, and only needs to be done about twice each month!
Find a small activity that you and your spouse can share, that will go a long way to get them involved in the finances!
Outside of these regular financial meetings, you should take a few minutes whenever necessary to go over any new financial developments. This can be something as simple as receiving a balance transfer offer, which a close deadline, in the mail, to something like wanting to donate $200 to a cause that your coworker is supporting.
No matter how often you hold your meetings, you should still make sure that you regularly communicate about financial matters with your spouse, so that you both can be informed about all that is going on in your household!
- What are some things that you do to get your spouse involved in your finances?
- Do you currently have a regularly financial meeting in your household?
- Does one person handle the finances in your marriage, or do you share certain responsibilities?
Peter Anderson says
One thing that we just started doing again this month was actually sitting down to talk about our finances in a monthly budget meeting. It’s amazing how far apart your goals and expectations can stray when you’re not talking about financial things. It’s so important to touch on those things on a regular basis, otherwise you can become estranged financially, and one or both partners can have a sense of helplessness. We’ve also implemented a new zero based budget to keep better track of things, and both of us are now more involved in actually tracking the money that is coming in and out. Thanks for reminding me about the importance of prayer to these discussions as well. That can be something that’s easy to forget – i’ll have to remember that next time..
Khaleef Crumbley says
You make a great point – it is easy to have your goals end up completely different if you don’t talk about these things often.
I’m glad that you are motivated to pray during these meetings. I think it reminds us of Christ being the head of our homes and finances.
Tim @ Faith and Finance says
I like to talk and think about money strategies throughout the day (go figure…a finance writer who likes to talk about $$$), but I’ve learned ways that just don’t work well when talking about them with my wife. More specifically, when I talk about money without having a pencil and paper, I can lose her sometimes. It’s not that she’s not smart about money issues, it’s just that she can’t see the outline written on the paper in my head :)
Sitting down and writing down goals and how we can get there works really well for us.
Khaleef Crumbley says
I think that’s a great idea! I find that it’s easier to talk to my wife when I have everything spelled out in a spreadsheet. It ends up helping me as well.
One area covered in our premarital counseling was budgeting and goal setting. We sort of let the whole idea slip aside during the early years as we both worked and life was very hectic. (I was working 60 or more hours a week plus a commute.) Once we landed at my husband’s iternship and I suddenly became a stay at home spouse, then mom of a premie, we had to talk about every penny. We used a simple written budget and envelope system, and with some modification have ever since. It’s there for both of us to see in black and white as we enter our purchases. My husband would like me to do Quicken, but I find physically writing down numbers more real.
We divide the financial work up, though either of us could handle the system. He does the taxes, balances the checkbook, pays the credit card bills. I write most of the checks, keep the budget books, and scope out bargains. We discuss every non budgeted expenditure, large anticipated purchases, the progess of our budgeted goals, what to do when glitches occur. Yearly, when the budget is made up (based on the new salary amounts), we have a good bit of back and forth before putting it to paper.
We don’t have as formal a communication system as you suggest, but your’s would have been useful in our early years when we had greater potential to save. We’ve learned things as they came, tried to be good stewards of what was given, and the Lord has been faithful.
Khaleef Crumbley says
I love your system. It proves that you don’t have to do everything electronically. I think it’s wonderful that you both have a large role in handling the finances.
Because you see yourselves as stewards, you are already ahead of most people.
As for your husband’s desire to use Quicken, you can always enter or download the information into Quicken, and then print out reports and write out your plans and analysis.
Thanks. I’ll talk to him about Quicken again. The idea of having print outs is reassuring.
Frugal Living says
I really don’t want to get my spouse involved in the finances unless she is spending too much money
Peter Anderson says
What would happen if you were to pass away one day or become disabled? Would she know how to proceed? Does she have any trust issues in regards to not being privy to all the details – or does she prefer it that way too? Just curious..
Khaleef Crumbley says
I’m curious to know if there is any particular reason why you don’t get her involved. Does she hate discussing finances?
Peter makes a great point about making sure she’s prepared to handle the finances if you are no longer able.