Early in my marriage the pretty one and I decided on some very basic and straight forward ground rules, such as “not going to bed mad at each other” or “not spending more money than made”. For the most part of our almost 7 years together we have been admirably successful. I have to say that having financial stability, albeit difficult at times, has actually been the catalyst for major harmony in our home. I can confidently say that when a couple agrees on their money-spending and money-saving habits, 85.32% of all fights are extinguished I’ll attribute the other 14.68% to such bad habits as leaving the toilet seat up or playing too much video games. A family budget is to be regarded as a sacred financial blueprint that will not only guide the temporal capabilities of a family, but also allow for a stronger and more easily accessible spirit in the home.
I would like to suggest a few basic guidelines to staying financially happy. Many of the principles I suggest here came from my background in finance (now gladly behind me), my observation of broken homes due to financial distress, and my study and personal application of these principles.
Six Steps to Financial Harmony in Marriage
1. Have a family budget and stick with it.
When was the last time you put down on paper exactly how much you make, how much your spouse makes, and how much you spend each month? I’m not just talking about the “unchangeable” bills like your mortgage or cable. Think about the yearly American Express fee or the average on your power bill, or even the unexpected new tire. All that should be added to your budget and averaged out for the year, even the surprise expenses. I set aside $4.16 each month to my annual $50 Costco membership fee. When time comes to pay for it, that money has been banked into my savings account and paying for it doesn’t damage my bank account one bit. Use tools like Mint.com or Pageonce.com to receive notifications of how far you are on your spending. If you’re a smartphone user, these tools will come in very handy, especially when you’re about to blow $25 on that Blu-ray you’ve wanted for so long, only to be notified you have $3 left on your Movies budget. It’s tough to say no, but if you stick with it, you’re also sticking with peace at home.
2. Have a team captain.
This doesn’t mean you’re off the hook if your wife decides to be the one in charge of the bills and the budget. This just means that someone is coordinating all efforts and avoiding duplication or errors. Make sure you are still involved in the budgeting process, making suggestions, helping out with reminders and most importantly showing that you care. Nothing makes a wife happier than showing her you care as much as she does.
3. Pay yourself.
My wife and I have actually set aside a monthly allowance in our budget. This helps us still be independent enough in our budgeting that we don’t have to always be accountable to each other for every CD, movie or candy we buy. This allowance has also helped me be more frugal in general. Most of our vacations are paid for this way. We pay ourselves, set that money aside for a little bit and when we have enough for it, we pack our bags and go.
4. Get out of debt.
You have to remember that the math principles are a little different when you are talking about debt. The basic equation 4-5=-1 doesn’t stand anymore. The correct answer is definitely -1.2. Interest will eat your money and your happiness away. Sure, some sort of borrowing is essential, like your home mortgage. But avoid unnecessary borrowing like the plague. There is joy in complete ownership.
5. Save money.
Sounds basic enough, right? Not only should you be putting money aside for a rainy day, but also for your sunny years (that’s what I decided to call retirement). If you’re not saving in a 401K or IRA, start now. We all know the stock market is very unstable right now, but I dare you to find a 40-year period where people didn’t make money in the long run through it. It is still the safest bet for retirement savings, especially if you have a Roth option and company match. If you can’t take your pretty one on a cruise now, make sure you can at least take her on one in 40 years!
6. Give back.
Make sure you help others and contribute to your community. I am fortunate enough to donate 10% of my income to my church, or as many of us say “give 10% back to the Lord”. The spiritual blessings that come from this principle will bless your home and your marriage more than any other budgeting techniques.
These principles have literally kept my marriage and my sanity alive. Try it for yourself and write down your results. There’s nothing more rewarding than financial tranquility, especially in troubling economic times like these.
How do you and your spouse handle the money in your home?