Last week, my husband Josh and I went to the eye doctor. I wear glasses for driving at night or watching a movie at the theatre, neither of which happen very often these days. (#parentlife) So when I put them on a few weeks ago Josh looked at me and said, “Wow. You need new glasses.”
Somehow, life happened and it had been 15 years since my last eye exam. I’m no fashion designer, but I’m guessing at least 6 fashion cycles have come and gone and my trusty purple spectacles from 2002 have never come back into style. The optician kindly informed us that Josh’s were out of style too. Evidently, ignorance is bliss.
The irony of how uncool we are flows over to our closet as well. Josh and I have slowly begun working out again, and as I prepared to re-enter the intimidating gym, I realized that most of my workout clothes were from college. I paid a lot of money for Lululemon pants and jackets 15 years ago, and I somehow just can’t justify getting new ones, even though the zippers barely close. (#thankskids)
However, our uncoolness has an upside. We paid off Josh’s student loans last year. According to Dave Ramsey, we are officially debt-fee (sans mortgage)! But to be quite honest, we are debt-free because we chose to live the way we did. We made mistakes, but we kept at it.
Money is one of the single biggest reasons marriages fail. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, the typical Millennial carries an average of $29,400 in student loans. Make that times two, and we can assume the average college-educated couple is carrying approximately $60,000 of debt into their marriage. And that’s without any credit card debt or car loans.
Then, add to it our different perspectives on money. We all came into marriage with a suitcase of beliefs and habits about money we picked up from our families and absorbed from the world around us. There’s a good chance your suitcase and your husband’s look different. It is no wonder money brings about stress and arguments.
So how do we get on the same page? Here are some ways we have learned to navigate finances in our marriage:
- Form a team.
The pastor who married us, who happens to be Josh’s best friend, gave us some wise advice on finances before we got married. “You’re a team: Team Straub. If you approach your marriage and finances as a team, you’ll stop fighting against each other and start working together.” So when we got married we literally created our financial logins to be “Team Straub.” (Please don’t hack our bank accounts.) It changed how we approach our finances.
- Talk about the elephant in the room.
The biggest thing we have learned about money is the importance of talking about it. Arguments come from years of pent up resentment over your spouse’s money habits that you’ve stuffed down. Or maybe you’re the ignorant party who is happily unaware of your current money situation. Leaving one spouse to shoulder the financial management burden makes the “team” feel like an unfair singles match where one spouse is always feeling all the pressure. So talk about it, gently, graciously. If you have more questions than answers, ask them, until you both know where you’re at and where you’re headed. Anything left unattended festers. Consider doing a Bible study together like God Owns It All. This financial study will naturally create a space for conversations about money and lead you and your spouse to deep, meaningful discussions.
- Know your money personality.
Our friends, Scott and Bethany Palmer, developed a tool that can help you discover your money personality. Battles over money often stem from spouses having different tendencies with money. You could be a: saver, spender, risk taker, security seeker, or flyer. Once you know your money personalities, you can take steps to address the issues that turn into arguments.
- You don’t have to sacrifice everything, but sacrifice something.
We love Dave Ramsey’s motto, “Live today like no one else, so you can live tomorrow like no one else.” Living like no one else requires sacrifice. We value adventure over material possessions so we spend money more on trips and memories instead of clothes and stuff. I understand that style and fashion may not be something you’re willing to sacrifice. But, we all have to sacrifice something.
- Set goals.
We encourage you to follow Ramsey’s baby steps. We did a few things backwards, like built an emergency fund before we paid off student loans. But regardless of your goal, make sure to set one and build on it. This begins by setting a budget. Goals in your finances give you something to aim for, and something to celebrate when you achieve them (which is the best part!). Our goals now include investing money for retirement and our kids’ education.
- Give generously.
God rewards a cheerful giver. Sometimes we need to take an honest look at how tightly we’re holding on to our money. Find causes that you and spouse care deeply about, that make you feel like you’re making a difference in the world, together. Nothing will strengthen your team like praying faithfully for and giving cheerfully to the local church and causes you believe in.
Christi Straub, M.A., M.B.A. is a native Canadian, wife to an American, and momma to two feisty preschoolers. She and her husband Josh are the cofounders of The Connextion Group, a company designed to empower marriages and families. Passionate about families in her generation, Christi writes and speaks on helping moms discover their identity and have marriages they’d wish on their children. Her honesty, wittiness, and transparency are contagious which you can experience by listening to The Dr. Josh + Christi Podcast. When she and Josh aren’t working together, they’re playing trains or having tea parties. (And trying really hard to put the phones away.)