My wife and I do not have a perfect marriage. We have, however, done some things well. Money has never been a real issue in our marriage. Perhaps it was because when we first got married we didn’t have any money to fight over. The first few years of our marriage we made shockingly low wages. We were both in school, I was working construction after the great recession of 2008 and my wife worked part-time as a nurse tech. I say that not to conjure up sympathy but to prove that our lack of fighting about money is not because we were wealthy the whole time.
Some Things We Did That Reduce Such Fights:
We Combined Our Income
Since we are both Christians and our marriage is a unification of two believers it only made sense. If our flesh is now joined for the rest of our lives then it stands to reason our bank accounts would be, too. If both our names are on the marriage license then it only made sense that both our names would be on our checkbook (Full disclosure: we rarely use checks anymore but we did when we first got married). I always imagine what happens if one partner was in a dire financial situation. If your spouse was about to lose their car or be forced to file for bankruptcy would you really keep your finances separate and watch them go under? Would you give your spouse a loan?
Purchased Inexpensive Things
We bought a foreclosed home. It was less than 800 square feet.
My dad and my father-in-law were gigantic helps in providing free labor. Both are knowledgeable about this stuff so that certainly saved us a ton of money. So buying a foreclosed home is not an option for everyone but I do maintain that all of us can do more around the house than we think—so keep that in mind.
We drove older cars until they wouldn’t drive anymore
We had hand-me-down furniture, garage sale vacuums, used appliances, etc
Live below your means!
We Paid Our Bills
Seems rather obvious, right? Of course. If you don’t pay your bills then you will indeed have some issues. This is different than if you are literally unable to pay your bills, so don’t get defensive. I’m saying that if you owe $40 and you have $300 then make sure you pay the $40 you owe. This is both because it’s morally right and biblical and for the practical effect of not having it looming over your head. I might also mention that it helps your credit score, but that’s not the focus of this post.
Focus on Your Marriage, Not Your Wedding
Plan yourself a nice wedding. It is indeed a celebration and you want people to celebrate with you but just remember that it’s only one day of the rest of your life together. The people who truly love you will want to celebrate with you in a gym, a barn, outside, in a church hall, or wherever you plan it and they’ll be happy to eat burgers and fries or some fancy meal. Do not go into crazy debt to plan an ornate wedding and purchase the fanciest rings, dresses, flowers and other temporal items. Make sure you’re entering into an equally yoked marriage that’s focused on serving your partner rather than hosting the biggest bash of the summer.
Do Not Compare Your Situation to Someone Else’s
It is easy to get caught up in the trap of keeping up with the Jones’. This is not only an issue of jealousy and envy on your part, it’s also dangerous for you financially. If the other couple makes $250k per year and you only make $50k, then you’ll never be able to keep up with them. Also, even if you make $500k per year and they make $250k it’s still sinful to have that mindset!
Often we look at our parents and see that they have nice cars, a nice house, and go on nice vacations and we want those things too. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with desiring those things or appreciating the happiness they may bring. The error is in thinking you are entitled to those things. Your parents probably worked and saved their whole lives to afford those things. They may have gone without those things for 20+ years of marriage and now you come in as a 20 something and think you should be in the same financial situation? Don’t be foolish!
These principles don’t guarantee you won’t fight about money and they certainly don’t guarantee you won’t fight at all! Take this for what it’s worth and apply it where you need to. Ultimately your marriage is grounded in something far deeper than your wisdom with money. Aim to have a marriage that reflects the Gospel and exemplifies biblical truth.
Excellent article, good practical pastoral wisdom.
What did you guys do for food during your lean years? Did you skimp, or did you splurge, or did you eat normally…clip coupons?
Thanks for commenting, HRG.
We rarely went out to eat. We just watched how much we were spending and made sure not to exceed that amount. All off brand stuff. We ate deer meat we obtained via family. I don’t think it was anything crazy or complex we just paid attention to our spending. You have to eat so you can’t skip out on that area. Our major cuts were in other areas that aren’t essential for survival.