Marriage and Money: Questions for Young Couples | Engaged Marriage

Marriage and Money: Questions for Young Couples

By Dustin | Ask the Community

A few days back, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Matt Bell who is an author, speaker and blogger over at Matt About Money.  Matt focuses on Christian finance, and he has already published two books: Money, Purpose, Joy: The Proven Path to Uncommon Financial Success and Money Strategies for Tough Times.

Matt’s current book project is focused on the topic of Marriage and Money, particularly as it relates to young couples both before they get married and in the early years after their vows.  Our interview was focused on the issue of Joint vs. Separate Bank Accounts.  However, as we spoke for nearly an hour, a few additional themes came up.

Your Input is Needed

Matt is aware of the awesome community we have here at Engaged Marriage, and we decided it would be great to get your feedback on a few key topics.  And there’s a chance that your response could be featured in his upcoming book!

Please check out these questions and leave your response to any or all of them in the comments below:

If you’re married, what were some of the biggest initial challenges you faced in bringing your financial lives together?  Financially, what do you wish you had known or done before getting married?  And what financial issues continue to come up in your marriage?

If you’re engaged, what questions do you have about doing the whole money thing together as husband and wife?

Thank you so much for your feedback and continued support!  I know Matt appreciates your input, and I love seeing your responses since it provides good direction for future blog posts. 🙂

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About the Author

Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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(36) comments

The biggest challenge my husband and I faced was finding common ground in our spending habits and budgets. We both saw different things as important. In our case that change very quickly because our first baby was born a couple months before our first anniversary. She made it so our priority became making sure we set aside our frivolous spending to make sure we could get the things our baby needed. I wish I had known in the beginning just how important a budget was. We always had an idea of what we would spend on things each month, but it was a very relaxed idea and we didn’t really track it. Even when money isn’t tight it is very important to keep a budget and track spending. I wish we had both known that before money became tight and we had to learn it the hard way. We evaluate our spending a lot. I think our budget and what we want to spend money on is the most frequent financial topics. After nearly 6 years of marriage we are finally on the same page with our money the majority of the time. It’s great to be at a point where we’re both working towards the same goals and not having to debate what we’ll spend money on all the time.
.-= The Praying Mom´s last blog ..Tomorrow’s the Big Day =-.

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    Dustin

    Thanks so much for sharing, The Praying Mom! I can speak from experience and say that I agree with you that there’s nothing like that first child to provide a financial wake-up call. And you guys had that early on, so maybe that was a good thing! 🙂

    Reply
    William

    I like to think that paying the bills and holding a budget is a vital part of any marriage. I also recognize that it is most important to realize that not only paying the bills and keeping a budget to keep food and shelter handy. But also to pay attention to each others lives and enjoyments. I think that utilizing existing “love bank” to ensure your love doesn’t go completely money driven is important too. You can keep life simple and still enjoy an evening or do favors for each other. I like to show a way to surprise that unexpected lover with a simple but effective gift. Check into sending an I Love You Bill. Go and see if you like to at http://iloveyoubills.com If anything you can get some good ideas to try and maybe even make someones day.

    Reply

Wow, definitely a great topic! I personally wish we had defined our goals a bit more when we got engaged and then got married. We were both very honest with each other and our finances (I had debt). We kind of paid bills and maybe saved what we had leftover. I think when we decided to go and pay off the car loan I had before we got married, it just clicked. Having a specific, mutual goal got us talking with each other about ways to improve our finances.

I think our biggest ongoing financial issue is not getting lazy. We have a lot of finances automated and after reading Baker’s new book, I can see that we haven’t been the well oiled machine we have been. We check our accounts and review big the picture, but we could do better by reminding ourselves of our goals.

Curious to see what other couples say!
.-= Elle´s last blog ..Introducing Couple Money’s Weekly Round-Up =-.

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    Dustin

    Thanks for your contribution, Elle! Your experiences sound really familiar to our own, actually.

    And congrats on your continued success with Couple Money…great site!

    Reply
Sarah

I’m recently engaged, and I am very curious to see how the money talks will go. I’ll say, my biggest concern right now is going from the singles mentality of “it’s all mine” to realizing that every purchase I make could affect my future husband now. Other possible areas of interest are:

1. How do I encourage him as he builds his income and career (He is a coupla years younger, age-wise and career-wise. But he REALLY wants to transition into primary breadwinner so I can stay home… and I’d love that too).

2. Pesky student loan debt. Looking back, we both would have done college differently had we had a CLUE. But we didn’t. So now we have to deal with the loans.

I anticipate melding our two lives will be a good opportunity to hone our strengths and work on our weaknesses.

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    Dustin

    I love hearing the perspective of an engaged couple, Sarah. Your concerns seem to be common ones, and the fact that you are aware of them (and you’re reading such a cool blog about marriage 😉 ) should put you guys well ahead of the game. Do you have a date set for the Big Day yet?

    Reply

I’ve been married for two years and a huge Dave Ramsey fan for 3+. We were blessed to find Dave’s program and it taught us not only how to handle our money, but the importance of working TOGETHER with it and communicating clearly. For us the biggest initial challenges are balancing our financial goals. My personality wants to save money and invest as much as possible as soon as possible, and my wife’s personality is to make our home a great place to live first. We both appreciate the other’s point of view and work together each month to decide the best way to spend the funds we’ve been blessed with.

Logistically speaking, it’s taken some time to figure out how to spend out of the same debit account and keep accurate tabs on what everyone’s doing. We’re getting better though!
.-= Deacon Bradley´s last blog ..What Web Startups Teach Us About Winning with Money =-.

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    Dustin

    Awesome, Deacon! Man, you and your wife sound so much like us on the topic of balancing financial goals. We had a big chunk of debt to overcome, and I was totally focused on it and willing to sacrifice to a greater degree to get it done faster (we compromised).

    It literally took her until recently (two years after we paid it off) to REALLY *feel* the benefits and see why I was so passionate about it. I’ll be writing a post about that soon. 😉

    Reply

The first time around, I simply didn’t date my husband long enough to learn his spending habits and, ultimately, his spending held us back financially and was part of the reason I left him. But the only thing I asked for in the divorce was to have my small student loan paid off, so thankfully, I started my new life debt free.

The second time, I was far more proactive in paying attention to my intended’s habits and thankfully, he was very receptive to my ideas about where we could cut costs. I was already used to living frugally thanks to my first marriage, but he’d always been a footloose and fancy free bachelor. We didn’t have a joint account until we got married, but we spoke openly about expenses.

While we are getting by, our singlemost recurring financial problem has been employment. Neither of us has managed to find a career, neither of us can support the entire household. Neither of us has an attractive degree. (He’s Air Force, I have two associate degrees.) We’re basically starting over at 30 and we cannot plan ahead financially because we barely have an income.

The upside of this is that it has firmed our commitment to being as close to debt free as possible. We have a mortgage, but our cars were paid in cash. We have one credit card, but we purposely asked for a low limit since it’s only a tool to rebuild my credit. I use it for groceries and pay it off in full every month since it’s an expense that’s already in the budget. And I have to say that cultivating a debt free lifestyle is a powerful thing. When we find our careers, we’ll be miles ahead of the game.
.-= Newlywed & Unemployed´s last blog ..Mini Photo Album =-.

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    Dustin

    Thanks, Newlywed & Unemployed. I really appreciate hearing the perspective of someone who has seen the importance of this issue from both sides, especially since finances were part of the reason for your first marriage ending. I totally agree that the frugal and responsible habits you are forming out of necessity now are going to pay off huge when you get your employment situation resolved.

    Reply

I think our biggest challenges when we first got married included:

1. The Mine/Ours paradigm shift: Probably the biggest switch for both of us was having to get used to the whole “becoming one” thing, and realizing that we were now a couple, and that we couldn’t just go out and spend money on something without it affecting the other person. Having to become less selfish in our relationship took a long time!
2. My wife’s previous experience: My wife had limited life experience when we were married. Her parents were pretty well off, and had always provided everything for her. It was quite a shock for her to live in the real world where you have to worry about income and expenses. She would overspend on unnecessary things, and then she would panic all the time thinking the smallest things were going to bankrupt us. Eventually we got more on the same page by doing monthly budget meetings, and by taking Dave Ramsey’s FPU course.
3. Our preferences and different expectations: We each had our own preferred bank, and our own spending priorities. It took a while to sort them out so that we could become one.
.-= Peter´s last blog ..Is It Time To Get A Second Job? =-.

Reply
    Dustin

    Thanks for sharing, Peter! I think your challenges are quite common, especially number one about getting away from the yours/mine perspective on money (and life). That seems to be the source of a lot of financial difficulties for many couples.

    Thanks for visiting, by the way. I love the work you do at Bible Money Matters!

    Reply

I think just about any young married couples would say that they learned A LOT about money and marriage in those first couple of years. I know I did! I was the guy that got his wife to walk out on him over a $40 pillow purchase. Seriously. The good news is, we worked everything out from there – thanks to much patience and grace – and are now very productive together financially. (I even got her on my show – Past Due Radio – to talk about it.)

To any engaged/newlywed folks out there, I would look out for these:

A) Establish a set of mutual goals first. What do you want to accomplish? What matters to you? It could be saving lots of money, or it could be preparing for a family and one parents staying home with the kids, or it could be that dream vacation to Italy…or it could be all of them.

B) Embrace the fact that you don’t know everything. You need each other in this. You should expect one member of the marriage to handle all the finances by himself or herself. If something happens to that spouse, the other better know what to do. Likewise, this inspires regular communication about money.

C) It’s all ours. If you truly believe that when two people get married they become one flesh, then there is no more mine. That kind of mindset will prevent you from serving your spouse in love. Selfishness with money – or anything else – truly has no place in a marriage. That’s a tough one, and I’ll be working on it until I kick the bucket.
.-= Derek Sisterhen´s last blog ..098 Past Due – The Tax Man Cometh =-.

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    Dustin

    Wow Derek, I think you nailed it with your suggestions for engaged and newlywed couples! But I think I’m more impressed by your pillow story. 😉

    Thanks for the great comment. I’ll be following up with you on Twitter.

    Reply
Suzie Wood

The most challenging part of the initial marriage of the finances was just getting used to having to discuss purchases with another person. And being open to him saying, “No, I don’t think this purchase is needed. We have other goals.” Urg, that was frustrating. I was a super spender and he was a super saver. This was probably our biggest “coming together” issue. But eventually we both moved toward the middle and got it together. 🙂

Reply
    Dustin

    Thanks for sharing, Suzie. It seems like we all have to compromise on a lot of issues to have successful marriages…too bad we can’t just recognize that up front and save all the trouble. 🙂

    Reply

Hey Everyone, thanks for all the great comments. And please keep them coming. I’ll be in touch with some of you about using your comments in my book. Thanks again!
.-= Matt Bell´s last blog ..More Amazing Tales From Super Couponers =-.

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    Dustin

    I echo Matt’s sentiments…you guys are awesome (as expected)!

    Reply
Jena

Our transition to combining finances was relatively easy, but it’s still forming (as we are still in our first year of marriage). I am an accountant, so have a natural tendency to controlling the finances. Fortunately, that has suited my husband just fine. I became very involved in figuring out the BEST way to manage our finances for us, something we are still working at. We really didn’t have a choice on whether or not to combine bank accounts; because my husband is in a military we moved overseas a few months after we got married and I didn’t have an income as a result. COMMUNICATION has been the key to our (so far) success. We have already been through one deployment, and even through that we were able to communicate and stay on the same page with our finances. I find that any purchase out of the ordinary should be common knowledge. Even though my husband regularly reminds me that he trusts my judgement on financial decisions and purchases, I have found transparency to be the number one important thing! A close second is budgeting (together) and tracking expenses to keep a hold of your financial picture at all times.

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    Dustin

    Thank you for sharing your insights, Jena! It seems that young military families sure have some unique challenges to deal with in a lot of areas, including finances. It sounds like you guys are navigating those issues really well, and I applaud your efforts.

    Please also extend my gratitude to your husband for his service! And the same applies to you as well in your support of him and his mission.

    Reply

Right after we got engaged, we went out to dinner. I had a pit inmy stomach. I knew I had to tell him. So, right there at the restaurant, I spilled that I had $13,000 of credit card debt (and NOTHING to show for it except some good college memories!)

That sucked really badly, and he said softly, “I can’t marry into that kidn of debt.”

I was shocked.

But then he told me what he really meant was that we (yes, WE) were going to get rid of it before we got married, which was one year away. We didn’t eat out or go out. I didn’t buy anything but the essentials. We paid that debt off exactly one week before we got married.

I obviously learned from the debt-building and paying off process, but I think the most important lesson I learned from all that was to be HONEST with my fiance/husband about the money situation, and I’ve never deviated from that. I am a stay-at-home mom, and he goes to work to support our family of four. He has, in my opinion, every right to know what I spend the money on. It works for us. I buy what I need on my credit card and when the bill comes, I turn it over to him. He pays it off completely every month. It helps curb any frivolous spending I might do because I know I have to be accountable for it, and he is good about overlooking the occasional Kohl’s or Old Navy appearing onthe bill.

Lots of people fight over money and I don’t think it’s worth it. I think 100% honesty goes a long way to counter that. I don’t think we’ve ever fought about money, even when it is an issue.
.-= Krystal´s last blog ..Fine Doodles review =-.

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    Dustin

    Wow, thanks Krystal! That is a fantastic story, and it’s awesome that you were able to pay off your credit cards just before your wedding. You had a lot to celebrate, including the establishment of an expectation of open communication in your marriage!

    Reply
Diana

Well, we only got married 3 months ago… haha! The biggest challenge so far is the loss of independence. He has never kept a budget of any kind before, and I tend to be overly controlling. Neither of us are huge spenders, but his lack of awareness about money is frustrating for me. i want us to establish mutual financial goals and both work towards accomplishing these, but he’s just not much of a planner. Fortunately, we agreed to keep track of everything we spend for the next two months in a notebook and then reassess. He’s pretty surprised by how quickly lunch out every day adds up. 🙂
.-= Diana´s last blog ..Making the case for feminism strengthening marriage =-.

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    Dustin

    Thanks for your honest input, Diana! It’s great to get perspective from a true newlywed, and I think you and your husband are experiencing a very common issue. I know we faced the same thing in our early years as well. By the way, interesting blog you have, too!

    Reply

I am currently engaged and I guess like my biggest money question would be how do you deal with one (or both of you) being in school and needing to pay for that while also being married and having living expenses and so on. And I know we are going with a joint account, just because in our situation that will make things ten million times easier.

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    Dustin

    Thank you Miss Lissy! I know from experience how tight it is to live as married college students. I’m guessing this is a common issue and one that Matt will be addressing in his book.

    And kudos to you for being proactive in preparing for your marriage. The fact that you are reading this blog and planning ahead for your bank accounts is awesome!

    Reply

      I think that almost everyone has difficulty with money as a college student, but adding a marriage to the equation would make things even more difficult. In college, you are still learning who you are and what you value (including your money habits). However, acknowledging the potential problem is a great first start. I think that the only thing you can do is make a budget and stick to it. The downside is that in college, that income number is probably going to be low, so you won’t have much money to spend, and less spending money equates to more potential conflict.
      .-= Tim´s last blog ..Budgeting =-.

      Reply
        Dustin

        I agree, Tim. By the way, great post on budgeting over at your site! I’m going to tweet about it…

        Reply
Steve

I’ve been married for almost 29 years. My attitude toward money was horrible in the early years of our marriage. I believed that it was OK to put off paying bills,and to spend more than I took in (I was financially illiterate). It took me a few years to realize that:
1) I had to grow up – there is nothing like a phone calls from bill collectors to make you realize that you have to smarten up.
2) I had to get an education so that I could support my family – I was in a dead end job. I went to university at age 30. I now have a well paying career, that I enjoy (most days).

My wife and I are now helping our daughter and her husband, because they are going through a rough patch financially.

My advice: become financially literate and be honest with each other re: debt, and spending and savings habits.

My two cents,
.-= Steve´s last blog ..Where Does Money Come From Mommy? =-.

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    Dustin

    Excellent advice, Steve! One of the things that my wife and I focus on is ensuring that our kids are NOT financially illiterate. We both grew up with a less-than-desirable knowledge of money (and terrible examples in my case), and we want our kids to start off in a place of strength financially.

    Reply
Mollee

My boyfriend and I have been dating for 2 years now, and we’re positive we’ll be married at some point. We know we’re very young, though. (I’m 21, he’s 20). We’re ready to move toward getting married and want to plan sufficiently. Still in college, with average jobs, fortunately with no debt, and with NO intention of getting into any. We also have great examples in our parents. We have been working while going to school and paying it up front before each semester. While it’s next to impossible to truly plan for what the future could hold, we want to be prepared and not overwhelmed with everything financially when we do get engaged/married. We have great communication about money, we share the same opinions on where it should be spent, etc. I’ve JUST started tracking all of my spending, and am actually starting the envelope method. I feel very motivated, but I still feel as though I have no idea what is waiting ahead. Any suggestions from anyone to help us prepare would be so greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Reply
    Mollee

    (I’ll definitely be reading on here more often, too… what a great site!)

    Reply
Liliana

My boyfriend and I, live together with his parents and we will get married at some point but for now we have other priorities. I am 23 and he’s 25 and we both have decent jobs in our country and earn a little over minimum wage (witch is what most people her earn). We have a joint account and that works very well for us and we also manage to help his parents a little with their debt problems. The only problem I have is that we don’t know what should we do when it comes to birthday/christmas gifts and so on. We both like surprises and surprising eachother but with a joint account we don’t know how to do it. We only have a joint account for a few months and we don’t know how to do it. Could you help us?

Reply

Liliana – I’d recommend two things. First, use a budget and make sure you have a budgeted amount for gifts. You could actually have several gift budgets – one that you use to buy him gifts, one that he uses to buy you gifts, and one that you both use to buy other people gifts. When you want to buy him a gift, simply withdraw your budgeted amount and buy the gift. Since you withdrew cash instead of writing a check or using a debit card to buy the gift, he won’t know where you bought the gift, making it easy to surprise him.

Reply
    Liliana

    Thank you very much, Matt! We talked about this and I read all that have been said about this topic on this site and we decided to have two separed equal budgets for gifts (not necessarily in a bank account) and each of us can spend his amount when he decides keeping in mind that the budget is made for a six months period. For gifts we make for other people we simply take money from our common account and we plan that ahead from our monthly budget. Thank you again! I’ll keep reading this site for other topics considering that today our parents met eachother. 😀

    Reply
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