Today is our 10 year wedding anniversary. We got married in a little town in the mountains of North Georgia for $500 and today, we’re headed back to that little town to take our three children to see where our family started ten years ago.
Our family started with a 24 and 23-year-old kids that were both from divorced households. Pat and I had one promise to each other – “if you have any doubts about us, don’t get married”. I know that may sound crazy but Pat and I have never had any interest in just “trying out” this whole married life thing. We both have seen the destruction of married from the vantage point that only a child can have and we both knew that was not the life we wanted.
Now, please don’t think that means we come from horrible homes, because we don’t. We come from very loving homes. I’m just making the point that we’re not naive to think that divorce doesn’t exist – we know it does and we know that our marriage is just as at risk of falling apart like everyone else’s. We just simply have chosen to not allow ourselves an escape plan – we’re in this thing for the long haul.
And in the ten years of marriage, we’ve learned a lot of things. Some of our best lessons learned came from being on our debt-free journey and from our early years of marriage. So, I thought I’d share with you the financial lessons from our first ten years of marriage.
There’s literally no point in moving to the other lessons on this list if we don’t first talk about communication. Communication is key in marriage and it is key in managing your finances together. If you’re a Newlywed reading this you may be tempted to think that you’ll never have issues with communication. Think again, my dear sweet friend. Communication is a habit. And like all habits, it has to be nurtured and cultivated throughout the years.
Communication was easy in the beginning for Pat and me because life had not actually happened yet – we were just starting out. We were young and idealistic about all the dreams we had (which is a good thing). However, we just didn’t know all that life would throw us in ten years. There were times in our marriage when communicating about the simplest things resulted in blow up fights and short tempers. It has taken us years to learn to openly and honestly communicate with each other about the hard stuff. But it has all been worth it.
True intimacy is found when you’re not afraid of being yourself with each other and communication is the tool to get you there. You might be tempted to think, “what does this have to do with money?” The answer is everything. In order to get on the same page financially, you have to communicate. In order to figure out savings goals and house buying and all the things, you have to communicate.
Recommended resources for communication: Crucial Conversations; Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs; The Path Between Us; The 5 Love Languages
Young and in love…
2. One Bed, One Bank Account
Yes, I know that this is an extremely unpopular opinion in today’s world, but I stand behind what I believe. I believe that when you’re married and you’ve agreed to do life together, there is no reason for separate bank accounts. I know that there is a popular trend that is marketed to “spare you if your spouse leaves you or cheats on you” to have your own separate account in just your name.
For me, this goes back to mine and Pat’s belief that we didn’t get married to get divorce. We are in this thing for life – together. We don’t get the option of “escaping” when life gets hard because life is going to be hard sometimes. I’m a firm believer that if you married someone of solid character at their core, then you will not ever have to worry about them trying to take all the money even if you end up divorcing.
Like I said, my husband and I are both from divorced households and we both can attest to the fact that my parents had the best relationship with each other after they were divorced. My mom could have wiped my dad out when they got divorced and taking so much money in the form of alimony but she didn’t. My dad showed up every time my mom’s car wouldn’t start or the roof leaked. My parents may have been divorced but they were and are amazing people at their core.
All that said, Pat and I have one bank account and all of our savings accounts have both of our names. He has just as much access to our money as I do (even though he would probably forget where his password is stored and have to ask me for it 😂). This will make communicating about money so much easier because you’ll know exactly how much your household (as in, the both of you and anyone else with access to your money) spends every single day/week/month/year. This is essential for setting up a budget.
3. Speaking of budgeting…
Yes – this “b” word has been an amazing tool in our marriage! Trust me when I tell you that I haven’t always loved budgeting with my husband and for the first 5 years of our marriage I don’t think we even really discussed money and budgeting. But once we started the debt-free journey, we had no other choice but to start budgeting our money together.
Remember that whole “one bed, one bank account” thing? Since our money is together and we live together and raise a family together and you know, do life together, we had no choice but to both be involved in the budgeting process. Now, don’t get me wrong, my husband HATES TO BUDGET! Don’t ask him to sit down and create a budget because he would probably cry…okay, not really. But he wouldn’t do it.
I’m the one in my household that makes our budget, but that doesn’t mean that I get to control all the money. After I’ve created our budget, I run it by Pat. He gets veto power and he gets a say if there’s something that he wants to be added to the budget. He also gets his own “spending” category in our budget. I chose to not have a recurring spending category for myself because I’m a Saver and I’d rather put the money in savings. But since my husband is a Spender, he needs this category to keep him from feeling controlled.
4. Make Big Financial Decisions Together
Pat and I have a rule that we can’t spend more than $150 without discussing it first with the other one. This goes for charity donations, school functions, and the like. This one thing has been super helpful in keeping us both accountable to each other as well as it helped us when we were becoming debt-free.
I may be married to a Spender, but I can drop a quick $100 inside Target like it’s my job if I’m not careful. That’s why we decided a long time ago it’s better if we make these decisions together. That way, my husband can gently explain to me that no, I do not in fact need 7 new bath towels, a cute decor lamp, and a random tube of lip gloss.
But this also goes into other areas as well. This keeps us from deciding on a whim that I need to go on that girl’s trip or that my husband needs that new tool when we don’t actually have the money to do so. It also forces us to have big conversations around major expenses like medical expenses.
Set your own threshold and stick to it. You’ll be so thankful that you did.
5. You are not in control.
If you follow the Enneagram, I’m an 8. My husband is a 7. I’m a complete control-freak. And if I don’t calm myself down, I’ll destroy my marriage. That’s because no one likes being controlled and my husband is no different. Just like I don’t want him to control me, I don’t get to control him.
It’s important to remember that we don’t get to control anyone else but ourselves. That also means you don’t get to micromanage every little penny your spouse spends or saves. Work together on your dreams and goals but allow each other the freedom to still enjoy the money you earn.
6. This is worse than a mistress…
I’m a firm believer that there is nothing worse between spouses than…secrets. And I mean that. I know everyone wants to say that it’s another woman but the truth is, secrets are what kill a marriage. Secrets bred mistrust and just all around ugliness. That’s why you should never hide your spending from your spouse.
Honestly, nothing makes me more sick to my stomach than to see a meme about hiding shopping bags from their husband. Unless if it’s his birthday present, there’s no reason to ever hide how much and what you’ve spent it on. Fear leads that decision – when you do this you’re afraid of what your spouse will say. You cannot live and thrive in fear.
7. Understand yours and your spouse’s money mindset.
Here’s the thing – most of the time, the way we handle money is a direct reflection on how we were raised around money. And since this helps define our money mindsets as adults, it’s super important to really understand how money flows in and out of your own hands. Yes, you’ll need to help your spouse figure this out as well, but you first have to start figuring out how and why it is you use money the way you do.
Once you know how money works in your own hands, you can then start to make positive changes to the way you handle money. For instance, I’m a frugal person, but for a long time, I didn’t realize that I would buy things specifically because I was afraid of running out of them. So then we’d end up with a bunch of stuff that just took up too space in our home. It caused clutter and caused us to have way more than we ever needed. Once I realized that it was totally okay to know stock up on every little thing, I was able to stop myself in the store from grabbing two of everything.
8. Where this grows, love cannot.
This isn’t necessarily money related, but it’s important to all aspects of marriage. Where resentment grows, love cannot. If you resent your spouse, then you just bred more and more resentment because more than likely your spouse will start to resent you. Love is a verb – it’s not a thing. Love is a choice made every day. So even when your spouse spends too much money on some silly thing that you think is stupid, love is the answer, not resentment.
Should you talk about that crazy purchase? Yes. Should you yell about that purchase? No. Does this make you right and them wrong? No. Communicate with your spouse, get to know their money mindset and learn to understand and respect each other and when the other one makes a mistake, love one other.
9. Nope. It’s not the same thing.
Here’s the deal – agreement does not equal love. You are allowed to disagree with each other. You can totally take a completely different stance on a topic from that of your spouse’s. You can still love each other and have totally different beliefs. I’m talking about everything from religion to politics to money to raising kids.
My husband was an Atheist when I married him and I’m a devout Catholic. We shared very different religious beliefs when we were first married. And even though my husband is now a baptized Christian, we still share very different opinions about faith and disagree on many things.
We also share very different political beliefs. My original major in college was history with a minor in political science. I was taught to use the “by candidate” approach to voting versus, voting by party. I hold no party affiliation because I literally make a list of all candidates for whatever election it may be and then list out their stances on all of the topics. Then I compare and contrast each candidate against my own viewpoints. My husband will literally just vote straight down one party.
My husband is also a Spender and I’m a Saver. I like LOTS of money in a savings account and I quite literally never want to touch it – even if we need it. My husband can’t hold onto a $5 bill without having to spend it and he struggled for a long time with the concept of saving.
We share vastly different opinions on many different things and we have had our fair share of arguments about all of these topics. But here is the thing that completely changed our marriage. One day we realized, that just because we didn’t share the same viewpoints on everything wasn’t a reason to stop loving one another. I mean, what was that thing that Jesus said about loving our neighbor??? The reality is, agreement is not the same thing as love. So long as disagreement happens in a loving way, your marriage will survive.
10. You are a team.
In our house, we have a chant. “Teamwork makes the dreamwork. Team Fearon let’s do this!” I know that may sound lame to you, but you have no idea how our marriage changed because of this belief. Once we started realizing that we are in fact a team – my husband and I and our beautiful family are a team. Together we can achieve way more than by ourselves.
Take a very deep look inside and ask yourself if you see your spouse as your teammate. When I originally did this, I realized that I wasn’t. I didn’t see Pat as my teammate. To be honest, I kind of saw him as someone else that I would have to “deal” with as I tried to achieve my own dreams. But once I change the script that I told myself and started seeing him as my teammate in life, amazing things happened.
After all, we didn’t become debt-free because we were fighting with each other. We became debt-free because we were a team and Team Fearon had work to do. Become a team with your spouse and you two will change the world.
Friend, I hope this post helps you and your spouse. I know not everything on here is strictly “money” related but that’s because I believe that money is only one part of the equation and not the whole equation.
If you have a lesson to add to this list, add it below in the comments!
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