There's no hiding from the statistics that show that the more often a couple argues about money, the more likely they are to get divorced. Granted, couples disagree about a lot of things - from family issues to household chores. But, more than anything else, the frequency of arguments about money is the best predictor of divorce according to the research.
Money isn't everything - and it sure doesn't bring happiness. But not being on the same page about finances with your spouse can bring a lot of disagreements and unhappiness into your marriage.
Right after we got married, Joseph and I combined our bank accounts and credit cards. We both didn't bring any debt into the marriage, which was (and is!) a huge blessing. But when we started our marriage, we didn't have a set budget. Later that Spring, Joseph read Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover, and we took a more intentional approach with our funds.
We use the Every Dollar Budget system, and, thanks to intentional stewardship with our money, we've been able to face some pretty significant financial issues together just within the first ten months of our marriage. Between hospital bills and car repairs, we've been so thankful that we switched to a budget system that we work on together.
If you and your spouse have already combined your finances and are ready for the years ahead of you, that's awesome! We should probably sit down over dinner so you can give us some pointers. But if you're where we were when we got married in January, here are seven ways that budgeting our fiances together has only helped Joseph and I's marriage together.
1. We have regular conversations about our goals together
Every month, Joseph and I sit down and chat about our monthly budget. We keep track of what's coming up in the days ahead and remind each other of birthday gifts, date nights, or vacation goals. Then, we set out budget for the month. We regularly go through our credit card and bank statements to update the budget as we spend and deposit money throughout the month. We talk about money quite a bit in our house, and it's helped us to be on the same page about our spending and savings goals.
Both of us are so excited to travel to Italy sometime within the first five years of our marriage, so each month we put back a portion of Joseph's paycheck to save for that trip. We also know that we'd love to own a house (and a dog, let's be honest), so we put almost everything I make between freelancing and the bookstore directly into savings. Because we talk about money in our conversations together, both of us are aware of the goals we have for our marriage and for our fiances.
2. We hold each other accountable when it comes to spending
If I had no budget, all of the money I made would either go to new books or dresses from Francesca's. And lattes and doughnuts, if we're being honest. But because Joseph and I set a budget with our money together, we remind each other about what goals we have together. Yes, it'd be fun to book a week long hiking trip to Colorado when we see ticket prices drop, but spending that money wouldn't get us closer to the bigger goals we have. Even though these accountability conversations aren't fun all the time (who likes being reminded to not buy so much coffee?), they're part of a healthy conversation that we continuously have about our shared finances.
3. We have so many chances to celebrate together
Following Dave Ramsey's plan, we began saving for our emergency fund - 6 months of coverage for all of our expenses. When we met that goal, we were so excited and were able to celebrate that together. Now, whether it's a really good paycheck that we deposit or turning in our rewards points on our credit cards for Christmas money, there are so many little celebrations that we get to have together that we never would have had if we kept our finances separate or didn't talk about money.
4. It helps us be more generous (and better stewards)
Money will never bring us happiness - that is a hole in our hearts that is filled by God alone. But being good stewards of the finances that He's given us is a way that we're able to get to know Him better and realize the dream that He has for our marriage. We set up a separate checking account for our tithing funds and 10% of paychecks go directly into that account. We're able to support missionaries, sponsor children, tithe to our parish, and pick organizations to support with that money. Because we know how much money we have available and how much we have in our tithing account, we're able to intentionally support others with the money God has given us.
5. We're ready for those financial surprises
When we lost Marion, our hospital bill was hefty. When Joseph's transfer case in his car needed replaced, it wasn't a fun bill to get. But because we've saved back, those bills haven't left us scrambling for funds. Because we keep track of what we spend on our credit cards, the statements don't surprise us when they come in the mail. This means that, even when those big bills come due, they're not a source of stress on our relationship.
6. It encourages honesty with each other
If one of us wants to buy something, or wants to make a savings goal, we have to let the other person know. We don't have separate budgets or credit cards, so everything we spend and those dreams we have are all out in the open. But instead of being a burden, those goals and dreams are something we get to honestly share with each other. We take each other's desires into consideration when adjusting the budget during the month.
Don't be fooled - it's not all sunshine and roses. There are multiple times during the month when one of us (usually Joseph) will say, "We need to update the budget," and the other one of us (usually me) will say, "Ughhhhhhhhhhh. Do we have to? Let's just drink coffee." But that's part of being honest with each other. And when the budget is adjusted and the stress is lifted with some adjustments in our budget, it's totally worth it. And sometimes we drink coffee while we adjust the budget, and everyone wins.
7. It reaffirms our efforts to face life as a team
When Joseph and I said 'I do' almost 11 months ago, we promised to give ourselves to each other freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully. That involves giving our financial goals, habits, and desires to each other, too. We don't hide things from each other, and we both know what we're saving and what we're spending. We rejoice with a trip to our favorite ice cream spot when we meet savings goals, and we prepare for bigger bills and financial obligations together. Is budgeting and finances my favorite subject? Nope. But being on a team with Joseph and managing our budget together makes it something that I can even enjoy doing because I know we're a team.