Christian Premarital Conversation: How to Handle Money in your Christian MarriageĀ 

Edward Lee

Nov 17, 2021

You just got engaged (or newlywed or been married 40 years). 

There are so many things to be done between now and the day that you and your now husband or wife to be will exchange vows and say, “I Do”. 

 

Engaged

I am always surprised when engaged couple’s tell me they have set a wedding date but haven’t talked about how their money will be handled. [It’s ok - it’s never too late]

Here’s the thing: I’m not a fan of dictating one set way to approach money and marriage. Because, there is no one way to handle money matters in marriage. Instead, I encourage couples to find what works best for them. I often say, “As many couples that I have worked with over the last 16 years, that’s how many ways there are to handle money in marriage”. I often hear couples share how they are going to handle their money and think, “that would never work in my marriage”. Which really is the point - it is not my marriage. Let God direct you to the way that works best for your marriage. 


So whether you are going to have 1 joint account to handle your household bills and then personal accounts for your individual needs, OR, split up the bills and keep your finances separate OR some other way, there are some key principles that you will want to follow:


1. Keep it Even: This is a big one. A mistake I see couples make is to allow the person that makes more money to have more personal or “extra” money than the other person that makes less money. At a minimum it opens the door to problems and further imbalances in other areas of the relationship.Ok, here is an extreme example. Years ago I knew of a couple where the husband made more money than his wife. So they agreed he should get more money to spend on personal stuff than his wife. To many couples this may sound fair, but this extreme example had an extreme result: He made so much more money that he bought himself a BMW. Does that sound fair, to you? In a healthy marriage, you want to be pulling in the same direction and let me tell you, one person getting more “free spending money” than the other, is a recipe for strain and disaster. So. Keep it even! After, however you agree to pay bills, make sure any other personal spending money is even. 


2. Communicate. Talk about it. Stay on the same page: Communication is the key to handling money in ways that don’t tear your relationship apart. So, regardless how you divide the financial management of your household, have an understanding how much you both need to know about what is going on. Example, if the husband handles paying the bills, how much does his wife need to know and how often does she need to be updated? These questions are topics of discussion that need to happen in every relationship because there are no text book answers. Some couples a husband or wife may say he or she pays the bills and I don’t need to know what’s going on {they got it}. In other marriage’s a husband or wife may feel more comfortable with periodic updates at some interval - weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc…Talk about it, honor your spouse’s comfort level and stay on the same page. 

3. Allow 1 to be a Majority: Similar to the last point, but to clarify. When it comes to financial management in your marriage, if one of you is uncomfortable than you both need to pay attention to that. Regardless of how many years, “we have been doing it this way”, once one of you is uncomfortable with how the finances are handled, talk it out and make a change. A statement I often make is, “If it matters to him or her, then it matters to you”, if anywhere in your marriage that statement is true, it is in how you will manage money. 

4. Know the Thresholds: When do spending and financial decisions become a problem? If your spouse bought a Snickers bar, you probably wouldn’t care, too much. But what about a $1,000 pair of shoes or golf clubs, would that be a problem. Though I have met a few couples that wouldn’t mind a big purchase like these, I think most couples find that those big purchases might cause just a little tension. LOL. So what are the points (threshold) between a $2 candy bar and a $1,000 purchase, where spending becomes an issue? Like much of what we have said so far, there is not a set answer, check your budget and agree together what the spending thresholds of your marriage should be. 

5. Financial Ten Commandments: Real simple and real direct. Help each other out and save years of figuring this out through tension and arguments . Write  down what are the most important things to each of you when it comes to money. If my wife was filling her’s out it would be something like, “Thou shall not have late fees”, one of mine would be, “There shall be no new credit cards without talking about it”. Now, rarely do I meet a couple that actually has 10 issues, but even if you only have 3 or 4 it is going to be a great help to clearly communicate what matters to the two of you when it comes to money. 

Bonus: After reading back through this list, I want to add one more thought regarding marriage and money. It’s not really a “what to do”, rather it’s a thing to remember about dealing with money. Always remember that communication is the key! How you talk about money: plainly, directly and honestly throughout your marriage is the difference between harmony around your financial realities or marital distress. So talk about money, openly and often. You may even want to go beyond just talking, communicate with pen and paper by writing down what you agree to. The overall point is, when it comes to your money, talk, work together, be patient and lastly be determined not to allow money matters to challenge your marriage relationship.

Written by:

Edward Lee

Nov 17, 2021

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