When I was asked to write a piece about marriage and finances, my first thought was “I am the last person in the world who should be writing about finances.” I was never good at keeping my money straight, I used to be absolutely horrible at budgeting, and my entire financial plan was “the money will come.” But then I realized, maybe I should be the one writing this article, precisely because I used to be so bad with money.
When my husband, Niki, and I got married four years ago, we talked about how to handle our finances. I bluntly told him that I was bad at it, and I thought putting me in charge would be the worst idea. He looked at me, thought for a bit, and said, “Okay, you’re in charge of the household budget.” I swear, I almost cried. I was terrified that I would somehow find a way to ruin everything and plunge us into debilitating debt. But Niki was unwavering in this decision, and said that the only way I would get over the fear was to learn from experience. So I reluctantly agreed, and he wholeheartedly trusted me with our hard-earned money.
This decision stemmed from our belief that marriage is about becoming One; that means we are united in everything, from mundane everyday choices to big ones that could affect our whole life. We went from using the words “mine” and “I” to “ours” and “we,” and we tried to apply this to all aspects of our marriage, including finances.
This trial-by-fire of learning how to save and budget didn’t come easy. I got pregnant two months after we got married, and we decided that I would work from home. We were going to have a son and we wanted to be as present as possible, for as long as possible. I’m also a freelance events host and voice over talent as well as a pole fitness teacher; in other words, I am a raket queen! This meant I could manage my time how I wanted, but it also meant I was going to earn only if I worked; my husband would be the sole breadwinner for the most part. Technically, it was his money I had to carefully handle. This was terrifying.
Niki set up a budget sheet on Google Drive so that we could both access it when we needed to see what we were working with. The constant monthly expenses were our tithes for church (10%), savings (20%), and the rest (70%) was to be divided for rent, groceries, gas, credit card, utilities and services, and leisure. Seemed simple enough, until you realize that working from home with a very small child can drive you nuts, and what made you happy was to eat out, or go to Mind Museum, or watch a movie with him. In other words, the “small things” added up and I didn’t realize until the credit card bill came.
This really was my biggest weakness, and the biggest mistake I made. Small things always, always add up. Once I was able to pinpoint this, it slowly became easier to resist the urge to impulsively eat beautiful and expensive food. I made mistakes, I went over budget, and I sometimes strayed and ate out five times in two weeks; but with every mistake I made, I learned how to do better next time. My husband and I would sit down every month to review our budget, plan out, and adjust. Through it all, not once did he doubt my ability to handle our family finances, and he never made me feel like I was handling his money; it was always ours, and we were both accountable. His trust was steadfast, which made me feel more and more empowered to make better, more responsible decisions.
It works differently for each family, and as long as your financial strategy is hinged on love and respect, do what works for you. But why did this specific route work for us? It worked because my husband loved me and he wanted to help nudge me from my comfort zone; he empowered me to believe that I was capable. And because I respected him, I wanted to be worthy of his trust and to take care of our home. Beyond learning practical things such as budgeting and saving, we learned to trust each other, worked as a team, and moved as one. It was a healthy practice for other aspects of our marriage, and I expect for all our future endeavors.
Money is such a sensitive topic for most couples. But what we’ve learned through our short time as a married couple, and from our wise friends and family’s counsel, is that communicating has to be foremost. You may be very different, or prioritize different things on a personal level, but talking honestly and openly can help you come to a middle ground; a compromise that works well for you and your family. Lay all your cards on the table, decide on a plan, and trust each other wholeheartedly. Your finances, and your relationship, will be all the better for it.