‘How to Talk to Your Spouse About Money” is a guest post by author Katie Pozzuoli
Prior to committing to becoming debt-free, money was a source of tension in our marriage. My husband, Joe, and I often arrived at the end of a two-week pay period frustrated that we were “out” of money, and unable to account for where it had all gone. We didn’t have a budget, although we made a basic effort to track our purchases. We did this by inputting our receipts into an Excel file after we bought something.
However, I was irritated when talking to my spouse about money because he was constantly asking for my receipts. I felt like he was keeping tabs on my spending. (I had a bad habit of eating out when I didn’t make time to pack my lunch before work, and I didn’t want to have to answer for that!)
We’d been married for six years when we “discovered” Dave Ramsey and committed to using his financial principles to pay off our debt. That debt hung over our heads and we had no plan for how to pay it down faster.
Once we’d both committed to becoming debt-free, we became single-minded in our focus. It helps that Joe and I are both all-in people. Once we commit to something, we throw all our energy behind it until it’s complete.
You might think that tightening our belts so that we could pay down debt could cause more stress. However, it was a turning point in our marriage. As we worked to pay off debt, our communication improved, and we enjoyed one of the most productive, peaceful seasons of our marriage. Below are the five tips that helped us learn how to talk to our spouse about money.
5 Tips for How to talk to your spouse about money
Get on the Same Page
When you’re facing a marital challenge, you’ve got to start by getting on the same page and aligning your values. Talk to your spouse about: What are the basic things that you agree about? If there are still areas of disagreement, how can you compromise? Who is willing to yield?
Prior to being introduced to Dave Ramsey, I mentioned to Joe that I thought we should get out of debt. But he wasn’t really interested, and since I didn’t have a solid reason or a plan for how, I let the issue drop.
Then my dad offered Joe The Total Money Makeover, saying, “I wish we’d found this thirty years ago.” Joe read it, then looked at me and said, “I think we need to do this.” However, I was resistant, particularly to the idea of setting a budget. I already hated “turning in my receipts.” I assumed living on a budget would be like that on steroids.
Joe simply asked that I read the book with an open mind. I wasn’t even halfway finished when I told him I was ready to jump in with both feet.
Schedule a Specific Time to Talk with Your Spouse About Money
Working through any conflict requires some dedicated time to discuss it and come to a solution. When we were getting out of debt, we sat down together every other Friday morning (payday!) to talk with each other about money. We called this our ‘budget meeting’. (That habit continues today!)
Once we had accounted for our set expenses – our tithe, mortgage, and bills – we discussed what else we needed, starting with our most important purchases – groceries and gas. We also came to the meeting with a list of things we needed or wanted to buy. Necessities, like shampoo and toilet paper, always made the cut. (We were amazed at how far our money went when we made a plan for how to spend it!) We would sometimes postpone or completely forego purchases that we agreed we didn’t need right away.
As I mentioned, I was resistant to budgeting because I thought it would mean restriction and Joe watching over my shoulder. However, the opposite was true. Living with a budget gave us more freedom. Because we had agreed beforehand about what we would spend, neither of us felt guilty about buying what we needed – and sometimes what we wanted.
Need a tool to help you talk to your spouse about money? Download my Mission Minded Money Worksheet.
Choose Your Big Goals Together
Agreeing to tackle our debt was one of the most important decisions we’ve made as a couple. However, having other big goals to work towards together has always been energizing for us.
What might you and your spouse be able to take on together? If you’ve already paid off your debt, you might be ready to choose your next big (financial) adventure – the down payment on a house, saving for an adoption, a kitchen remodel, that trip to Italy you’ve always talked about, a big gift to a charity you both love, or a family mission trip. Joe and I have always found that we save more aggressively when we’re looking forward to a particular goal. Have a conversation with your spouse about what you want to DO with your money!
Support One Another’s Passions
On the big things, Joe and I strive for unity. But we are two very different people, with unique dreams, desires, and things that bring us joy.
For example, if I were a single woman, there would be no line item in my budget for “camping gear.” That’s because I like to sleep on a soft bed in a climate-controlled room with four walls. My husband, on the other hand, loves leading and organizing backpacking trips. He connects with God out in the wilderness.
It matters to him that he has lightweight, quality equipment. So, even though I personally don’t care to have a tent or hammock, it matters to Joe. Because of that, it matters to me, too. So, when he says he needs a piece of camping equipment, I don’t question him.
He has similarly supported my needs and passions throughout the years, prioritizing travel for my annual “Sister Weekend” and girlfriend getaways.
Remember You’re on the Same Team
In the heat of conflict, it’s easy to see your spouse as the problem or even your enemy. Your marriage will be healthier and your problems easier to tackle if you can reorient your thinking to “It’s us against this problem” – our debt, this diagnosis, this challenging schedule.
A lot of couples fight about money, so if you’re in that boat, you’re not alone. However, when you talk to your spouse about money and choose to get on the same page, budget together, pursue common goals while supporting individual passions, and remember that you’re on the same team, you can conquer so much together.
About the Author
Katie Pozzuoli is a writer who has spent most of her adult life figuring out – through a lot of trial and error – the practices that help her to thrive as a wife and mom of three. Online, she writes about how to build sustainable self-care habits, and she elevates women who are doing just that.
Download her free guide here.
Katie makes her home in Southeastern Ohio with her husband, Joe, their three kids, and a rescue pup. Every other Friday morning, you can find Katie and Joe at the dining room table with their laptop, checkbook, and budget book.