by Jeff Rose
Marriage is amazing.
That is, if all goes well. And many times, it doesn’t.
There are many issues married couples must deal with that singles don’t experience — and they aren’t simple issues to solve, either.
Think about it. When you want to buy that new car you’ve been eyeing since the fourth grade, you remember and think to yourself, “Oh yeah, I’m married. I just can’t go out and buy a car!” At least, if you’re an experienced married person, you won’t make the mistake of purchasing something big without talking with your spouse first. And that, can be complicated. Convincing your spouse isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
When you slip that ring onto their finger, it’s no longer all about “me,” it’s all about “we.” Unfortunately, many newlyweds aren’t truly ready for that level of commitment. So they learn as they go.
Whether you’re learning as you go, you’re doing well or you’re preparing for marriage, make sure you avoid these financial blunders in marriage.
1. Not creating and sticking to a budget. If you hear the word “budget” and cringe, don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, I hate budgeting. Why do I hate budgeting? It’s usually pretty boring.
Still, if you’re married, it’s absolutely necessary to budget in order to keep fights down to a minimum and to maintain one’s sanity. Seriously.
When your wife buys $500 worth of clothing in one day because you don’t work a budget together, and you get mad at her, how do you think she’s going to feel? After all, if that’s how she has always spent money, why should she do anything different?
OK, OK, perhaps she should have had the wisdom to ask you first before making such a large purchase. But it may not have even crossed her mind that $500 is a lot of money to spend on clothing in one day — at least, she had no clue that it was a lot of money to you.
Maybe your husband has been eyeing that new truck and decides to give it a test spin. The salesperson is good and your husband buys the truck because you aren’t working a budget with him. Similar scenario, but much more costly. Yikes.
You see, budgets keep both spouses on the same page regarding what should be spent and what should not be spent (and on what money should be spent on). Perhaps, for example, you and your spouse can agree to only spend $200 a month on clothing. Maybe you decide to only spend $600 a month on groceries. It could be that you decide to have some discretionary fun money that can be spent on whatever you each individually want.
As you start to budget together, you’ll find that many times having a budget frees you to spend money freely without hesitation — because it’s in the budget. This is very liberating — which is pretty profound as many people feel budgets restrict people instead of free them.
Learn how to make a budget that works and get to it. You’ll be glad you did.
2. Not communicating regularly about financial goals. Now, budgeting in a marriage lends itself to having a higher degree of communication about money, but it doesn’t necessarily help all the way.
That’s where communicating regularly about financial goals comes into play. In fact, when you’re creating your budget, you should also be budgeting for large purchases you may want to make (including a down payment on a home, saving for retirement or saving for your children’s college education).
If you’re not communicating with your spouse about what you want your lives to look like in 10, 20 or 30 years, what you’re really doing is leaving your future completely up to chance or up to whoever has the strongest will. Instead, talk about the future regularly and dream together about your goals and ambitions. By doing so, you’ll be able to build those goals into your finances and make them much more likely to be accomplished.
3. Maintaining debt because of a lack of contentment. There are a number of circumstances when incurring debt might be a reasonable option. There also might be circumstances when keeping debt around temporarily is reasonable as well. However, if you’re increasing your debt as a couple because of your lack of contentment (when you really should be content with what you have), there’s a problem.
This financial blunder can have devastating effects on a marriage. Why strain your marriage over debt when you don’t have to have debt? Do you really think that getting that fancy new car you can’t afford to gambling with your credit card is going to make you happy over the long-term? Forget about it.
Instead, find contentment. Don’t become materialistic.
4. Keeping separate bank accounts. This financial blunder should be a no-brainer — avoid it.
If you’re going to be working a budget together as you should, why keep your bank accounts separate? There should be no secrets in marriage. If you’re married, you should definitely have joint bank accounts. This will also put more pressure on both of you to work together toward your shared goals.
I realize that some people have separate bank accounts because perhaps one account is for the bills and another account is for one-time purchases. Why can’t both of these accounts be joint accounts?
Really, the way I see it, there’s no reason to have separate bank accounts. In marriage you’re one, and so should be your access to bank accounts.
5. Not having an emergency fund. Emergency funds play a critical role in financial plans. Should something happen to you, your spouse, your children, or your property, your emergency fund should help offset the financial losses.
Why is having an emergency fund particularly important in marriage? Some married people feel pretty comfortable not having much money in the bank. They simply trust that money will somehow always be around or that emergencies won’t happen to them. But here’s the thing: spouses of these people don’t always feel the same way.
Being on the brink of not being able to pay one’s bills sends some people’s stress levels into orbit. They can’t fathom being comfortable with $1,000 or $2,000 in the bank — they want more just in case.
And you know what? They’re right: a couple thousand dollars in an emergency fund isn’t nearly enough over the long-term.
Imagine getting into an accident where you hit a telephone pole and you don’t have collision coverage. Oops. Now you need a new car and you both figure you need to spend more than two grand for reliable transportation.
The big oops? You didn’t save enough money in your emergency fund. If you’re the spouse who felt comfortable with just a couple grand in the bank, imagine the look on your spouse’s face when they discover that there’s not enough money to pay for your accident.
6. Keeping important business decisions private. Your spouse should be involved in all aspects of your life — not just your personal life. If you’re planning on taking out a loan for your business, for example, you should definitely talk with your spouse first.
When I was thinking about signing up for a pricey business coaching program, I first asked my wife. Sure, she didn’t jump for joy and approve right away — but eventually she agreed and it proved beneficial to my business. Now, can you imagine if I would have just dropped over $7,000 on a coaching program without talking with her first? She wouldn’t have been happy, to say the least.
Talk with your spouse about your important business decisions before you make them.
7. Not forgiving financial mistakes. Yes, this, too, is a financial blunder.
When you first get on a budget together, do you really think you’re both going to abide by it with perfection? Hardly. It’s going to take some time to adjust to the new rules.
So when your spouse makes a mistake, don’t make the mistake of not forgiving their error. Don’t hold these things against them. Intentional deviation deserves a serious conversation (still with forgiveness), but unintentional mistakes deserve a try-harder-next-time-and-no-worries sentiment (along with forgiveness).
If you can’t forgive your spouse and you harbor anger, do you really think they are going to willingly work the budget with you or communicate about finances? Probably not. They’ll most likely want to hide. And that can be financially damaging, too.
Avoid these financial blunders in marriage, and you’ll be on a road not many travel — but boy will it be worth the effort.