Marital finance is a touchy topic. Financial conflicts in marriage are a major contributor to divorce. Here are some activities to try so that you can be on the same page with your spouse.
Marital Finance Activity 1: The Tried and True Budget
No, I am not going to suggest that you do a budget worksheet. This is the 21st century. There’s an app for that. In fact, there are a few thousand apps for that. I recommend Mint.com. It’s fast, free, user-friendly, and visual so that you don’t have to be an Excel Wizard to make a budget.
Marital Finance Activity 2: A Values Conversation
Discuss these questions at least twice a year with your spouse:
How important is it to you to be generous with your money? How do your actions line up with your values?
How important is it to you to save for the future? How do your actions line up with your values?
How important is it to you to enjoy the moment? How do your actions line up with your values?
Marital Finance Activity 3: Know Your Financial Personality
This is not the same as the value conversation. The value conversation asks “deep down, what do you believe is the best use of your money?” This conversation asks, “what are you likely to do with your money on the best day of your life?”
What are you likely to do with your money right after you have told yourself “I deserve it?”
People tend to be givers, savers, or spenders. In an ideal world, we would give a third, save a third, and spend a third. But we don’t live in that world. So things are out of balance.
Givers are great people. You might be the type of person to “give the shirt of your back.” That’s wonderful, but it is possible to go too far. Make sure that your have met your basic needs, then give, then save, then spend.
Savers are wise people. You might be the type of person who mere mortals will envy in retirement. Saving for the future is great, it takes a ton of discipline. But the future is uncertain, so enjoy the moment. No amount of savings will replace the people in your life right now.
Spenders are fun people. You may need to worry about keeping up with the Jones, because you are the Jones. Enjoying the present is great, but it can go too far, just like giving or saving. Give first, save second, spend last.
Now go the next step. Tell your spouse who you think you are. Are you a giver, saver, or spender? Now look at your bank and credit card statements. How do they reflect who you are?
Marital Finance Activity 4: Mood and Money
You have already done the value and personality activities (s 2 and 3). Now ask the question, “what are you likely to do with your money on the worst day of your life?”
What are you likely to do with your money right after you have told yourself “it will make me feel better?”
We have our values. Then we have our actions when times are good, and our actions when times are bad. If our actions line up with our values, GREAT!
Marital Finance Activity 5: Check In Conversation
Have a check in conversation at least weekly. It might be as simple as asking “how did we spend our money this week?” It might be as complex as pulling out your budget app and looking over it together. It might be checking the balance of your bank accounts.
The detail and complexity of the check in conversation is not the point. The fact that you just have the check in conversation is the point.
Both of you need to be fully present and fully tuned-in to the conversation.
Marital Finance Activity 6: Lowest Spender Competition
Give yourselves both a spending budget for the week (or month if your up for a real challenge). Say $25 for the week. Whoever has the least money left has to do the other person’s chores the next week.
If you both come back with all your money, then re-do the competition one of two ways.
- with more money, or
- lighter consequences for the loser
At the end of the second week, have a conversation about what you learned about your spending habits.
Marital Finance Activity 7: Biggest Giver Competition
Pick a local charity or person in need that you both want to support. Set a time limit.
Give out of your own spending money, and out of whatever side-hussle money you can come up with.
Whoever gives the most wins. Have a conversation about what you learned about your giving habits.
Marital Finance Activity 8: Biggest Saver Competition
This is like the giving competition. But here you are both contributing to your savings account.
Whoever saves the most wins. Have a conversation about what you learned about your saving habits.
Marital Finance Activity 9: Meet with a Financial Advisor
No matter how savvy you think you are, get professional advice. Meet with two or three different financial professionals before making your choice. Then stick with one. Meet with them together, at least once a year, with all three of you (you, your spouse, and the advisor).
By the end of each meeting make sure that all three of you are clear on three things:
- your current financial status,
- your long term goals,
- and your short term strategies.
Marital Finance Activity 10: Rinse and Repeat, with Variety
This is an ongoing process. It is not a one time thing. It is easy to pick one of these activities, try it once or twice, then burn out. The key to sticking to it long term is variety. If you only do one of these, you will get really bored, really fast. If you do each of these, the variety will keep things interesting. You will make progress toward your financial goals.
Most important, you will build financial unity in your marriage.