When it comes to the most common marital issues, money is usually at the top of the list. Not only is it a common source of discord, but it is also a subject that is often ignored until the problems become too big to resolve easily. If you want to build a solid financial foundation and protect yourself and your spouse from facing bankruptcy, here are some tips to help.
Talk About Your Spending Perspectives
Before you can build a financial strategy, you need to understand the spending habits and financial perspective that each of you bring to the marriage. Set aside time specifically to talk about your marital finances. If you aren't sure what you should be talking about, here are a few questions that can help to get you started:
How did your parents handle money when you were growing up?
What is your opinion of how finances should be handled?
How did you handle your bills and your finances when you first moved out on your own?
Do you have a lot of debt?
How do you define needs and wants?
Do you carry cash or use a debit card? How often do you reconcile your accounts?
What are your financial goals for the next three years?
Meet in the Middle
Once you both understand the financial histories that you're bringing into the household, you can find a way to blend both of your views into a strategy that will support both of your belief systems. By working together, you can identify the most important factors to each one of you and appreciate each other's perspectives.
If one of you is a spender and the other a saver, consider setting a monthly amount for each of you to use as free-spending cash. That way, the spender in the house doesn't feel stifled, while the saver still has the opportunity to feel as though he or she is keeping the spending at a reasonable level.
Set Clear and Reachable Goals
You'll face a lot of frustration if you set goals that the two of you are unable to achieve together. Instead, focus on goals that you can actually reach. For example, set a progressive savings goal. Start with a small amount each week, and increase the amount every quarter or as you start to reduce other expenses. Make sure that you both understand what you are trying to attain. Set a specific savings balance you want to have at the end of each quarter so that there's a clear mark to measure your progress against.
Set your goals on a short-term basis, because they are easier to manage. Even if you feel that you want to go on a trip in three years, break down the savings amount into quarterly figures so that you can see the progress in shorter spurts. This not only gives you immediate goals to work toward, but it also provides you with reinforcement of your success, which can be a morale boost.
Schedule Frequent Discussions
Once a month, you and your spouse should plan to meet and talk about the progress that you're making toward your goals. Make this meeting the time when you pay the bills, too, if you want greater visibility of where the money is going every month.
The meetings don't have to be anything formal. Maybe you and your spouse want to go out for dinner, or you decide that your conversation is best held over a cup of coffee in the mid-morning. The goal is to find what works for you, not make the situation rigid and strict.
Managing household finances can be a difficult prospect, particularly when you don't know how to talk with your spouse about it. If you want to avoid the risk of facing mountains of debt and potential bankruptcy, follow the tips here to maintain control of your household spending.