Sex and money.
Sounds like a Cosmopolitan articles or a 70’s rock song.
It’s the two biggest issues in married life. I don’t have statistics to prove that, but I can vouch for the truth of those words by the number of couples I’ve talked to.
Communication issues rank right up there. But many of the communication issues revolve around sex and money.
So let’s tackle both of these and see how they tie together.
In This Article
- 7 Big Money and Marriage Tips
- 1. Set and Stick to a Budget
- 2. Spend Less Than You Make
- 3. Make More Money
- 4. Save Money
- 5. Live Debt Free
- 6. Be Unified.
- 7. Set a Monthly Meeting To Discuss Your Budget And Spending
- How Should Married Couples Split Finances?
- Types of Budgets
- Best Financial Apps for Couples
What we cover in this article:
7 Big Money and Marriage Tips
How Should Married Couples Split Their Finances
Types of Budgets
Best Financial Apps for Couples
7 Big Money and Marriage Tips
Before we get to punch line, so to speak. I want to give you 7 principles that can help you remove stress from your relationship. Thus, potentially increase your love life.
These are seven big principles to build your relationship on.
1. Set and Stick to a Budget
A 2013 Gallup survey found that only 32% of American households operated with a budget. That means 68 out of a hundred families are not tracking their expenses.
And only 3 out of 10 have a financial plan that includes investing and saving.
Here’s the breakdown of those statistics
More Frightening Statistics on American Households
- 19% have $0 saved to cover an emergency expenses
- 31% have less than $500 in emergency savings
- 49% are “concerned, anxious or fearful about their current financial well-being”
- Only 20% facing financial hardship fall below the poverty line
- 62.4% have credit card debt balances
- 17.5% have student loan debt
- 2% auto loans are financed for longer than 60 months
- 20% of auto loans are between 73- to 84-months
- 61% don’t have enough saved to cover $1000 emergency
- 13.7% have $0 saved for retirement.
- 28.6% have less than $10,000
- 29% of households 55 and over have no retirement savings or pension
Where do you fit in these statistics?
The remedy, at least in part, is to learn to live on a budget. That means creating a budget that tells you where your money is going to go each month.
The majority of couples live paycheck to paycheck because they do not tell their money where to go each month. Instead, they look in hindsight to see where it went.
Ever had this conversation with your spouse…?
‘Hey honey, where did all our money go?’
‘I don’t know. This month was tough. We obviously shouldn’t have spent money on that new item. Maybe we should have waited another month to get it.”
Again, the remedy is not complicated. A simple budget will do the trick.
A budget is simply a document or spreadsheet (or online app) that allows you to know exactly how much you have each month to work with. What expenditures are set (essential…like mortgage, rent, auto, lights, gas, etc). How much you owe each month on those items. And where your money needs to be spent.
If you do not approach money this way, you end up looking at where it went, instead of dictating where it should go.
There are many ways to do a budget. We’ll talk about two specific types of budget later. For now, make a commitment to create a budget and stick to it.
Here’s an excellent video by Coach Nino Villa on how to create a budget. Break out your excel sheet and follow along as he gives step by step instructions on how to set it up.
Video Compliments of Coach Nino Villa
If you are not familiar with excel, or prefer a different method, check out PDF document from Bank of America.
2. Spend Less Than You Make
Sounds simple huh? It is. But it demands guts. Grit. A resolve that is above average.
Most couples agree to this principle in theory. Yet few hold it as a ‘truth to live by.’
Money management is not rocket science. It’s simple. Know how much you make. Spend less.
The problem is most people don’t monitor their spending. They simply buy on impulse. You can learn more on this in my article, ‘Four Keys To Unlocking Your Marriage Goals.’
How to Break Bad Spending Habits
1. Identify Wasteful Spending
The first step is to know ‘where’ you are spending money unnecessarily. Take a look over your budget (now that you have one) and find places wasteful spending.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What am I spending money on that I do not need?
- Can I get a better deal on some of the things I buy regularly?
- Can I change my phone plan, internet or TV plan to save money?
- Is there a habit I’m blowing money on?
These questions will help you look over your budget with a fine tooth comb to discover waste.
Just remember, be ruthless with yourself. This is about your financial future. If you want to get ahead, you have to spend less than you make. There’s no way around it.
This means you have to make sacrifices. So get to it. Find those wasteful expenses and cut them out.
2. Pick one at a time and commit to break it.
I’ve found that’s its best to tackle one item at a time. Sure, they may be some things you can lump together, but to minimize overwhelm, pick one (maybe two) things from your list. Make a decision to change. Target one at a time.
This makes it easier and it gives you small ‘wins.’ When you see victory in that one area…that one item, you are encouraged to tackle the next.
3. Replace bad habits with good ones.
Spending is often a habit. We buy things, not out of necessity, but out of impulse and habit.
The best way to break a habit is to replace it with something better.
For example, if you notice that you spend more when you go grocery shopping on the weekends, change the time and place you buy groceries. You’d be amazed at how a simple change like this can alter how you spend money.
Take time to identify your spending habits. Not just the things you buy, but when, where and how you purchase. What is your motivation?
Now, come up with a plan to put a new habit in place.
If you have a habit of stopping at Starbucks on your way to work get a cup of coffee, change your habit by going a different route to work. Or make a thermos to take with you. Most of these habits are formed over time, so it might take time to change them. But the payoff is tremendous.
Do this experiment.
Calculate how much you’ve spent over the past month on things like coffee, soft drinks, gum, etc – the miscellaneous things you don’t really need. Now multiply that times 12 (for 12 months). This is how much money you could have used to pay off debt, invest in your future, or even take a vacation.
Several years ago our children made comments on how often we were able to go to the beach. It was a great opportunity (which we seized) to show them how we ran our household by a budget.
Needless to say, they were impressed. We run our household on a shoestring budget (my wife is an incredible saver, shopper and deal-maker). Because of this, we are able to do things many other people can’t do. Even though we make a pretty modest living.
Point is, find those wasted expenses and eliminate them. You’ll be glad you did.
3. Make More Money
This might seem a lot harder than it actually is. But there are ways to increase your revenue if you put your mind to it.
For many, this is a last resort. Yet, if you are in debt, I suggest you do whatever it takes to get rid of that debt. Even if you have to sacrifice to do it.
Here’s a few ways you can implement this starting today.
A. Have a garage sale.
I doubt you are different than most couples.
You probably have a garage full of stuff you could sell on ebay, craigslist, or in a yard sale.
These things can add up.
I realized at one point I had three sets of golf clubs. I didn’t two of them (obviously) so I unloaded two on Craigslist.
I’m sure there are things you can sell to help eliminate debt or put a little extra in the piggy bank for the future.
You just have to look.
B. Deliver Pizza (or Better Yet, Drive for UBER)
I’ve got a friend in Nashville, Tennessee who drives for Uber and makes about $1500 a weekend. I’m not saying this can happen in every city, but he works mostly on weekends and banks pretty good money. It leaves him a lot of free time during the week to do other small jobs. And spend time with his family.
My point is there are opportunities if you look for them.
If you are serious about eliminating your debt, one of the things you can do is find a second job to bring in more money.
Just make sure you use that money to get out of debt or create savings you refuse to touch. Don’t blow it on things you don’t need. This is about getting your finances in order.
C. Start an Online Business.
This can be tricky. Most online opportunities end up costing you more than you make. It is possible to generate income online, just be smart about it.
Avoid businesses that require a lot of money to get started. Your goal is to make money, not spend it. So start small and work your way into bigger opportunities.
Here’s a short list of things you can do. You wont’ get rich doing this, but there is no (or little) start up cost, and you can make extra money right from home.
Opportunities to Check Out
D. Start a Side Business on the Weekends
Years ago I needed extra cash to make ends meet. I’ve always been a entrepreneur type. I knew some people who were looking for someone to clean their house every other week, so I asked them to let me give it a shot.
We agreed on a price (at first this was messy because I wasn’t sure how to charge for my services, but over time I found my sweet spot), and started cleaning while they were away. I had to adjust my schedule a bit to accommodate, but I made it work.
After several months I was adding more and more clients. It turned into a pretty lucrative business. I even managed to hire some people to help.
Although I knew it didn’t want to build a massive business doing this, it served a purpose to generate income during a tough time.
I found that the cleaning business was easy to get started (partly because I knew people who needed the service), and low cost to start up. It was a perfect fit for that time in my life.
There are plenty of other small job opportunities you can launch.
Take inventory of your skills and discover needs around you.
- Are there people who need help?
- Do you have a skill that is in demand?
- What opportunities do you see around you?
- What ads are running on Craigslist? Could you do that service?
- Do you write? What about offering your services to people on job boards?
The key is to pay attention to the needs around you and be willing to step up when the opportunity arises.
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
4. Save Money
Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like. —Will Rogers
This is perhaps one of the biggest things you can do. Of the seven keys, this one will move you forward faster than anything else.
Review the statistics above. Pay close attention to how few people actually save money.
We are a consumer driven economy. This can be good, because it provides opportunity for business and commerce. But if you are going to get ahead and prosper, you must shift from a consumer mentality, to an investor mentality. This begins with knowing the value of money. And committing yourself to keep as much of it as possible.
Let me address one thing before we continue.
I’m a huge believer in investing for your future. I don’t like to ‘sit’ on my money. I want to put it to work for me.
However, the audience I’m addressing in this article is not to that place yet. Most people don’t have discretionary money to invest. They are living paycheck to paycheck. Not making enough to even pay all their bills.
This is the problem I want to address first. Before you invest money, you need to have some to invest. This means, earn more, spend less, and save a lot. Once you have money saved, you can get counsel on how to put that money to work for you. But only after you have it saved.
Saving money is the result of spending less than you make. If you haven’t put that into place yet, go back and revisit that key point. Spend less so you can save more.
Basic Saving Tips
1. At first, save everything you can.
2. Put it into an account you agree not to touch.
3. Make it a habit. Celebrate it.
4. As you grow your resources and make more, practice percentage saving.
Note: This means you decide on a percentage of your income you will save from now on. This is a life commitment. I like the idea of saving 10%. That’s a good even number. If you can do more, all the better. But start somewhere.
Financial peace isn’t the acquisition of stuff. It’s learning to live on less than you make, so you can give money back and have money to invest. You can’t win until you do this.
5. Live Debt Free
Rather go to bed with out dinner than to rise in debt.
– Benjamin Franklin
This has to be your frame of mind. A sloppy commitment to debt free living will cause you to slide right back into the clutches of disaster.
Decide now to live a life that is debt free.
There are many ideas about debt. Some say business debt is good. Some say not.
Some say only consumer debt is bad. Others disagree.
So how should we approach debt? What is the truth about debt?
As mentioned above, I am addressing families who are not in control of their finances.
In fact, if you have read this far, chances are you are reading because you need to get your house in order. You are in debt. Not saving. Possibly not making enough to make ends meet.
So for this audience, all debt is bad.
That’s my working principle.
For those who want to argue that using debt for business (or other financial advancements), you are not my audience. At least not in this article.
The problem is if I try to explain the proper way to use debt to someone who is overwhelmed by consumer credit debt, they will drown. So for the purpose of getting to a place of balance in your home finances, I want you to see debt as bad. I mean real bad.
This happened many, many years ago. I was young and dumb.
Because of a few business deals that went sideways, I mounted up some hefty debt.
I decided to put all these principles into place because I hated the way debt made me feel. I was sick of worry. Anxiety. Stress. To break that monster, I took a radical course of action.
I sold stuff. Took extra work (you read about some of that above).
I even sold my car and paid cash for a clunker so I wouldn’t have a monthly car payment.
I eliminated anything and everything so I could get my head above water.
And it worked.
What’s interesting is I developed money habits that are still with me today.
My wife and I both have pretty decent cars we drive. But they were bought with cash.
Because I paid cash I got great deals on them. It’s amazing how much negotiating power you have when you have cash and aren’t desperate.
My point? Because we have determined to live debt free, we have removed most of the stress from our life.
My wife loving talks about our ‘boring little life.’ It’s not boring in the way you may think. We are pretty adventurous. It’s boring because we have no stress. Partly because we have no debt.
Make a firm decision to live debt free from now on.
If you do, you will eventually have all the resources you need to live the life you truly desire.
“The man who never has money enough to pay his debts has too much of something else.”
–James Lendall Basford
I often say that paying off your debt is like dieting. There are no miracle cures; it takes discipline and hard work.
– Lisa Madigan
6. Be Unified.
Have a unity mindset: It’s not ‘his’ problem, or ‘her’ problem. It’s our problem.
The only way to conquer debt and get on track is to do it together.
I’ve seen too many couples hit rock bottom simply because they weren’t on the same page financially. This is a vital step. Don’t minimize it. Get in unity about your money.
One of the important reasons to establish a budget is so that the budget can become your arbitrator. Once you agree on how money is to be spent, where money is to be spent, and when money is to be spent, that document (the budget) becomes your boss. It resolves conflicts so you don’t have to argue.
For example, if Bob wants to buy that new boat, but it’s not in the budget, Sarah (his wife) doesn’t have to argue with him. The budget rules over all money matters.
Bob’s option is to either put his desire on hold, or get the money from extra work, selling something, or…you get the point. The budget controls the decision.
Let’s face it. It’s easier to govern and manage when there is a document that you both agree on. A budget that keeps you both moving in the same direction.
A budget can eliminate controversy, confusion and disagreement.
7. Set a Monthly Meeting To Discuss Your Budget And Spending
Why is this important?
First, most couples are in the dark about their finances. Usually one partner handles all the money issues, and the other remains silent.
According to TD Ameritrade, 38% of couples surveyed were not aware of their spouses debt.
Fidelity Investments found that 43% of the people they surveyed didn’t even know how much money their partner earned each month.
Having a monthly ‘financial meeting’ with your spouse keeps both partners in the know. It helps keep financial issues above board. Knowledge is power.
Second, what you measure gets managed.
That’s a business slogan that is built on the principle that if you are not monitoring your business, you can’t manage it effectively. Again, knowledge is power in this situation.
Debra Greenberg is director of product management at Bank of America. She write:
“Whether you choose to do it at the same time each year — say, the first week in September — or at certain financial milestones, like when your 401(k) or IRA balance increases by a certain amount, it’s valuable to put your heads together and review the financial state of your union.”
While Greenberg says to review annually, I like to look over things monthly. This keeps problems from getting out of control.
You may not need to look at investments monthly (annually will do), but you certainly should manage your household and personal finances on a monthly basis. Weekly could be overkill, and while quarterly works for some couples, monthly seems to be the magic number for most households.
The key is to review income, expenses and goals regularly.
The Benefits of a Financial Review Are Enormous
1. It keeps both partners informed
2. It offsets potential problems from getting out of control
3. It allows you to keep your goals in front of you
4. It allows you to monitor effectively
5. It creates unity in the marriage
6. It inspires you to keep moving forward toward goals
7. It keeps you moving toward your goals
I led with a hidden promise. That promise was that if you resolve money issues you can increase your love life. I believe that promise is true.
There is a psychological reason. Stress reduces hormones (in both men and women) that bolster sexual desire. By eliminating the #1 reason couples experience stress in their relationship (money problems), you increase your ability to experience intimacy.
Trust is another psychological factor in sexual behavior. When money problems are brought under control, and couples share the same goals of living debt free and financially independent, intimacy increases. Love life grows.
Before we close out this article, there are a few other related issues to discuss.
How Should Married Couples Split Finances?
This is a tricky issue. Here’s my take….
I think most couples should combine finances into one account and manage it together. That’s just a general rule of thumb.
I like co-managing for accountability (I’ve seen couples divorce because of secret money issues) and unity. Sometimes one person is better at the ‘bookkeeping’ than the other, but both spouses should know what’s going on with their finances.
What about having separate accounts?
It’s okay to have separate accounts as long as…
Have spending accounts but keep a household common account for all household expenses
Separate accounts should be for discretionary spending.
This is an ‘only if you can afford it’ account
Get out of debt FIRST and FAST
This is priority #1
When does separate accounts work?
In my opinion they only work when there is trust in the relationship. If you do not trust your spouse with money, then this is not an option.
It must be something you both agree on. And it must be something that you are accountable for.
I do not…I repeat…I do not…think it is a good idea to have ‘secret’ accounts. Separate accounts should not be secret.
A separate account can work for couples who have a good grip on their money issues.
Several years ago I had to travel some. Each Monday I would hit the road and be gone for three or four days.
We do not have debt, but I needed a way to track my business and personal expenses while traveling, AND I didn’t want to clutter up our household account which was only for household things.
So I opened an account (my wife is on the account and has access to all expenses). I used this as a convenient way to monitor, track and record my travel expenses. It served it’s purpose. Which is my next point.
Make sure your separate accounts have a purpose.
This can be different based on your needs and desires.
We have some friends who have built up a pretty good nest egg. The wife enjoys taking trips with her daughters, so they set up an account that is used for her to treat her grown children to special events and trips. She also uses it as her discretionary spending account to shop.
It works for them. Primarily because they can afford it. And they have good money principles in place so it doesn’t get out of control.
My caution would be to make sure you have the seven principles firmly engrained as habit in your life before you attempt to build separate accounts.
They can work. But only for those who manage them well, hold themselves accountable, and can afford to do so.
Types of Budgets
There are many different types of budgets. I want to discuss two of the most popular ones. I have my favorite for eliminating debt, but you decide for yourself.
I’m not sure who came up with this, but it’s been used in one form or another for a long time.
Here’s how it works:
50% of income goes to necessities
30% goes to discretionary spending
20% goes to debt reduction and retirement
Some people reverse the second two numbers and put more toward future planning and less toward discretionary spending.
Case.com has a good article explaining the specifics of how it works. It seems simple enough.
The 50/20/30 Rule offers flexibility and security. These percentages serve as a general guideline and can be adjusted, depending on your lifestyle. Whatever ratio you choose, though, remember that making a budget is useless unless you stick to it.
Watch this video by Jack Chapple on how to set up a 50-30-20 budget.
Compliments of Jack Chapple
This works best for those who already have a pretty good grip on their finances.
I prefer the zero based budget (see below) because it accounts for every dollar brought in and spent. It puts a tighter grip on your money (to keep it from running you instead you running it).
Zero Based Budget
What exactly is a zero based budget?
A budget is simply a plan for your money.
It’s a way to estimate how much money will come in and what goes out.
A zero based budget means that every penny is accounted for. It looks like this:
Dave Ramsey has put together an excellent video explaining it plain terms.
Compliments of Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University
If you want help with your budget, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s books. Financial Peace will get you moving quickly toward your goal. Get it and devour every page. You won’t regret it. [Note: This is an affiliate link]
Best Financial Apps for Couples
I want to close with a quick comment on apps and sheets to manage your money.
I’m a hands on guy, so I usually default to a basic excel sheet that I can modify to focus on things I prefer to track. This works for me. There are tons of resources online. Take your pick. Just commit to something, stick with it, and use it to control your money.
Some people Prefer online apps and programs.
Two that come highly recommended are:
Both are free programs. The key is to get set up and start using them.
Dave Ramsey recommends Every Dollar, but I’ve found either one will do the job.
How about you?
How have you conquered your money woes?
Is there a plan that works for you?
I would love to hear from you.