I’ve had the privilege to officiate many weddings. I tried to count the other day, and I have led almost 40 weddings so far. With those weddings, I have also counseled about 40 couples as they embark upon marriage.
One of the greatest sources of conflict in marriage is finances.
It doesn’t matter concerning family backgrounds, experiences, or amount of money in the bank account. The stress associated with money can significantly impact a marriage.
Whether you are a newlywed or have been doing marriage for a while, I want to share 5 financial tips that I think can improve your marriage.
#1. Unite Your Resources
I have known couples to receive advice about having separate checking accounts and each person having their personal “blow” money that can be spent on anything that person desires, but I want to share another principle with you – oneness. We come into this world alone (Gen. 2:18), but marriage seeks to provide a helper (Gen. 2:18) whom we actually achieve oneness with (Gen. 2:24). That means in marriage that I don’t have my stuff and she has her stuff. We have our stuff. When you divide bills, responsibilities, and leisure money between you, there are these significant areas that are removed from the light and put into the dark (Luke 8:17; 1 Cor. 4:5).
Having hidden financial areas in marriage can promote insecurity, suspicion, and selfishness.
What is greater is when you say that my spouse’s needs are greater than my own (Phil. 2:3-4) and so therefore, we don’t have mine, we just have ours, and if my spouse needs something, I will forego my needs for my spouse’s needs. My recommendation is to have complete transparency in finances, passwords, and activities. If you have to hide it, it probably isn’t good in the first place. Too many sorrowful stories for me to share concerning this one.
#2. Schedule Monthly Appointments
Once you unite your resources together, a simple discipline can save many marital headaches – put an hour-long appointment on your calendar once a month to discuss the family finances. I am unable to overstate how much this might help you especially in the early years of marriage. During this time, you pay bills, balance accounts, forecast future purchases, and prioritize needs present in the home.
A monthly family financial meeting can help you make wise plans and establish marital trust.
We started this about 12 months into our marriage, and I wish we had started it 12 months earlier because it could have put my wife at ease. I wasn’t doing anything wrong with finances, my problem was I wasn’t doing anything with them. I wasn’t give it any thought. Once I saw this brought a banner over her for protection (Song of Sol. 2:4), we made it a priority. It was such a wise use of our time (Eph. 5:15-17). I created the first spreadsheet of my life and created a zero-based budget. On this spreadsheet, we put in our income and made all the columns pull from that lump sum.
The goal of the zero-based budget is to spend every penny on paper before you spend it in real life.
This allows you to watch spending patterns and plan for any overage. This helps you be an effective steward in this life. If you want more info on how to do this or a form to get you started, start here.
#3. Prioritize Giving Away
As you prioritize this monthly meeting, I want to encourage you that the first item you put on your zero-based budget is what you give away. In our case, we made our tithe to our local church the first thing that came out of our budget. I didn’t want to spend our money on ourselves and see if we had pennies at the end to give away. There is always something to spend money on concerning yourself. You may be thinking that you don’t have a lot when you get married, and that is why it is so important to start giving from the outset.
If you struggle giving when you have a little, you will rarely decide to give when you have a lot.
I am asked regularly if someone should tithe on the gross pay or the net pay. The difference is confusing to remember, but gross pay is your income before taxes are taken out (think it is gross how much you lose to taxation), and the net pay is your income after taxes are taken out (this is what I get to take home caught in the net). Personally, I believe the goal should be to tithe off of your gross (the larger amount) pay. Let me finish by saying I think that should be the starting point and not the ending point. Many people will correctly say that tithing is an Old Testament principle (Mal. 3:10). If you want that as an excuse for giving, then you can go with the New Testament principle which is selling everything you have and giving it away (Acts 2:45; 4:32-35). Giving should be done out of a generous heart (Acts 20:35), so the goal should not be how little you can give but how much you can give. Start with the tithe on the gross pay, and pray that over the years, 10% can increase to a larger percentage and you can give away even more.
#4. Avoid Credit Purchases
Some financial decisions will cost you more than you can afford. In the early stages of marriage, it is easy to run up credit cards getting desired furnishings for your new place. Regardless of how rich you would label your family growing up, you probably were wealthier than most people on earth if you are able to read this post. For those who had yearly vacations, nice clothing, and a car to drive during high school, you were really doing well. Then you step into your first job and as an adult, you can’t afford to maintain the lifestyle you had as a child. To compensate, it is easy to borrow money that you do not have.
Unless it is a necessary, major purchase, refrain from using credit cards at all costs.
The one who borrows money is a slave to the lender (Prov. 22:7). Don’t owe anyone anything if you can help it (Rom. 13:8). The hasty decision to run up credit cards can lead to a lifestyle of debt and poverty (Prov. 21:5). Be content with what you have if you have food and covering (1 Tim. 6:6-8).
Every spending decision is a spiritual decision.
You can build credit by paying your bills on time. Items like a house, a car, or an education can fit into a necessary, major purchase. Acknowledge that a nicer sofa or a nicer wardrobe or a nicer vacation is not worth going in debt. That $1000 you borrow will be much more than that very soon with the interest rate dragging you along into poverty. Borrowing money can cause you to refuse contentment (Phil. 4:11-13) and create stress in your marriage.
#5. Eliminate Debt Quickly
Most newlyweds do have significant debt. Whether it is a car payment, student loan, or credit card bills, they can stack up and feel very suffocating. As you pool your resources together, budget monthly, prioritize giving, and refrain from future debts, you must coordinate a plan to eliminate debt quickly. Pay what is due (Rom. 13:7-8). Don’t be unrighteous and neglect to pay back what you owe (Pr. 37:21). If you have the money now, pay it off (Prov. 3:27-28).
The decisions you make today will make you tomorrow.
In our first year of marriage, I was introduced to Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball principles. When I first read it, we had one student loan, one car payment, a house payment, and an impending hospital bill for our first child. Reading the concept came at just the right time. The Debt Snowball in short is take all your existing debts and start by paying the minimum on all of them this month. As you budget, look for overage somewhere and attack the lowest debt relentlessly. Throw all extra available money there. As you pay that first one off, then apply all that you were paying on the first one and stack it on top of the minimum payment to the second one. The snowball grows as it heads down the hill and you can pay things off quickly. If you want more explanation, you can go here.
What you will realize is that making the hard calls right now will free you up later. By eliminating all debt except our house payment early on in our marriage, we were free to make the decisions concerning our convictions concerning employment when our first child came, our timing concerning a desire for adoption, and the ability to make wise decisions when the unexpected comes (and it will come).
Spend It Wisely
I hope these 5 principles help you in your marriage. I believe they come from biblical principles. There are definitely other convictions and principles out there, but the main thing you need to do is to start having these conversations with your spouse.
The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10), so don’t let it tarnish something so beautiful as your marriage.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.