8 Steps to a Blissful Matri-Money

By Shannah Game on 11 March 2015 1 comment

You remember the first moment you laid eyes on your spouse. In that moment, no one else seemed to matter. Life was bliss, and you were deeply in love. Then you get married, and the almost inevitable money fights begin, as the bills keep growing and growing, while your bank account seems to shrink and shrink.

Never fear — it is quite possible to banish conjugal money woes. Check out these eight steps to marital money bliss.

1. Take a Timeout

Sometimes couples just need a good ol' time out when it comes to talking about money. Best selling author and speaker Lisa Steadman says, "The biggest things couples fight about? Sex, money, and how to raise the kids."

Taking a timeout when tensions run high is an effective way to calm yourself and enable productive discussions. Take five minutes, go to a different room, and come back together when you're better able to think clearly and communicate effectively.

2. Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Every budget should have an expense line titled "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Just as it sounds, this is a dollar amount that each spouse is free to spend every month without questions from the other. By creating this budget line, you'll each have a degree of agreed-upon budget autonomy. No longer will you have to answer the question, "What did you buy now?"

This one expense line alone could eradicate a significant chunk of many couples' money disagreements. Set a limit that is reasonable with your budget. Once the money is gone, you've got to wait until next month to receive your next "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" spending amount.

3. Money Huddle

Some of the best moments in sports follow a group huddle. It's a few seconds where the teammates gear up for the next play and cheer each other on. The money huddle works just as splendidly with your spouse. The next time money tensions arise in your relationship, call a time-out and huddle up for a minute or two. Remember that you are both playing for the same team. Every money decision can be solved through a few minutes of calm and quiet negotiation.

It's impossible to think straight when someone is yelling at you — it's as if your brain decides to go on vacation and you can't reason clearly. This is what happens when you argue with your spouse about money. Game over. The money huddle however, is a technique you can use anywhere and at anytime.

4. Get Cash Creative

Spending money just for the sake of spending money is so 2014. The concept of being cash creative means that you find creative ways to keep up the lifestyle that you and your spouse enjoy, without spending as much money. A great example of being cash creative is the cost of magazines. If you have a habit of grabbing a magazine at the checkout stand or Barnes and Noble, then it's time to look at it with a cash creative angle.

Let's say your guilty pleasure is reading Us Magazine. If you bought it over-the-counter, you would spend $207 a year. Now, if you got a subscription for that same magazine, you would only spend $67 a year. That's a $140 SAVINGS. Think of all the things you could do with that savings. It is possible that being cash creative you could save hundreds, even thousands, of dollars every year.

5. Set Some Goals

The foundation of every good, sound financial plan is realistic goal setting. Goals are also critical in your relationship because they give you direction. You wouldn't get in your car to go on a trip without having a map, and the same is true with marital financial future.

"What I didn't realize, but came to realize once we got married, is that when you marry someone, you need to merge some of your assets," says Lisa Steadman. "This helps you set common goals, plan for your future, be on the same page about big purchases, and have a balanced relationship between the two of you and how you spend/save money. Without joint goals, you may avoid the tough conversations. But you may also miss out on designing a healthy, happy, profitable future together."

It's always a good idea to schedule some time with your spouse to get goals in place. This doesn't have to be a painful experience; in fact, it can be a lot of fun to dream about your year ahead.

If you've ever trained for and run a marathon, then you know a thing or two about goals. A runner needs to visualize the finish-line goal in order to endure all those long and painful days of training. The same is true with your money goals — knowing where you are headed helps to smooth out the bumps along the way.

6. Pick a Point Person

Have you ever each tried to take care of the finances at the same time? What was the result? That's right — it just doesn't work. It's tough to want to give up control over handling the finances, but every marriage needs a financial point person. This person's job is not to make sweeping executive decisions (after all, this is a partnership), but the point person handles the day-to-day transactions — moving money into savings, paying the bills, and making sure you are staying on budget.

7. Share the Passwords

Take a minute and count up how many logins and passwords you have for shared accounts. If you are even remotely human, you probably have a laundry list of logins that you can never seem to remember. While you might have some super secret methodology for creating passwords using your favorite Star Wars characters, it's probably a good assumption that your spouse can't read your mind and doesn't know them all.

Creating a login and password list can be a marital money lifesaver. It's easy to create a password-protected password list — and yes, ironically, you will need a password for your password list. Using Dropbox and Excel, you can easily create a document in seconds that you share with your spouse.

8. Combine, but Keep Separate

Peanut butter and jelly are a great combination, but they're also delicious separately. There are pros and cons to combining your finances when you get married, as well.

"Marriage is a legally binding contract that couples often overlook in the name of love," says Steadman. "I love my husband so much that when we got married, I insisted on a prenup. We both owned properties outside the relationship. We both have retirement accounts. It just made sense. Other women say I'm un-romantic. I say I'm a realist. And I love my husband enough to say, 'If this ever goes south, I loved you enough to protect you.'"

If you're each entering the marriage with significant assets, you may wish to keep those you had prior to marriage separate. Once you get married, create a joint account for paying your normal monthly expenses and two separate accounts that you can each use for incidentals. You can put your "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" monthly funds in those accounts. With this strategy, each spouse can feel a sense of control over a portion of his or her money. This, alone, can bring greater balance to your relationship.

What techniques do you use to manage your marital money?

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Guest's picture

The strategy I employed in my previous marriage was to hog all the financial money management to myself. Imagine how well that worked for me? (I did get divorced....). What I learned from this experience is that you need a point person but both people should be regularly involved in managing the money. Maybe one person should manage paying the bills while the other person deals with the savings and investment side of things. I don't really know.....maybe someone else might have a better answer.....I just would be careful not to hog the finances..... Share....

Shannah Game's picture

Jason you are right on. I think by enlisting a point person, you are not hogging the finances, but you're the go-to person for day-to -day issues. The other person absolutely needs to be involved, know what is going on, help make joint decisions and you both need to come together weekly to talk about what's going on. Good points though!