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Prevent Fights About Money in Marriage

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/

Photo by yourdon

I have talked to many couples about money over the years and there always seems to be some tension around money within marriages.  According to some evidence fighting over money greatly increases chances of divorce.  It may be a testament to how powerful the love of money is in our culture.

My wife and struggled with how to handle our finances in a biblical fashion and how to handle money issues within our marriage with the grace of the gospel and we have learned a few things about preventing fights about money in marriage:

  1. Don’t become money Pharisees: Many church folks talk about money with a very legalistic mindset.  We set hard and fast rules to live by when it comes to our money and then we experience the same guilt with money that we do with every other sin in our lives because we broke the rules.  You will both make mistakes or have already and there must be grace for those mistakes just like any other sins that have been forgiven by Jesus.
  2. Remember to communicate: It is easy if one spouse “Does the bills” or “Handles the money” for the other spouse to feel left out especially if that spouse also doesn’t bring in any income.  I have had to work very carefully to keep my wife involved and help her to know that our money is OUR money.  We have gone as far as to schedule a weekly finance meeting where we go over spending, budget and planning.  Mint.com creates great little graphs for my presentations.
  3. Create and commit to your budget together: The initial budget should be something you and your spouse decide on together.  It may be a tough conversation but you can help one another by calling out the idols you have in your life around money.  My wife, by nature of taking care of our home, is responsible for spending a large share of our budget that isn’t automated.  She does her best to stick to the budget we agree to and we discuss it when it needs to be changed.
  4. No questions asked money:  If you can afford it allow one another play money.  If my wife wants to order a new gadget for her camera she doesn’t have to ask me she just buys it.  Similarly, I don’t have to ask her when I want to go out for lunch.  We each have our own accounts with direct deposits that are ours alone.
  5. Automate things: When possible automate savings and bills.  Saving is much less painless when you don’t have to do anything to accomplish it.  We have a whole article on how to do it here.
  6. Ask “Why do I feel this way”: We all have experiences with money that lead us to think a certain way about it.  I, for example, value my savings like an idol just for its own sake.  I trust that having no debt and money in the bank will save me from life’s circumstances instead of trusting in Jesus as my savior.
  7. Know your Role: No not that men are the breadwinners and woman should be home barefoot and in the kitchen. (Although my wife hates shoes and loves to cook).  Know how your individual styles complement one another.  Or know what you can and cannot do.   By way of example:  My wife will hold onto cash like it is gold.  She will spend that $50 in her purse several times.  Each time intending to deposit it to cover the purchase she just made.  I ,on the other hand, will hold onto cash and spend on a card because it isn’t concrete money to me.

This list, like most of this blog, is a monument to our failures.  We have learned many of these lessons the hard way. What else can you do in order to prevent fights about money in marriage?

Amazon Subscribe and Save

Most people know about Amazon.  Many people order electronics, books and toys from the E-tailer.  Fewer people know that you can order all sorts of household items from Amazon.  We order most of our non-perishable household supplies from amazon as well.

Amazon started from an online bookseller in 1995 to being one of the largest internet companies in the world selling everything from books to furniture.  Amazon has prices lower than most stores and they often deliver free to your door (if you have a prime membership or order $25 or more in qualified products).

But Amazon Subscribe and Save is almost a secret compared to other offerings by the online giant.  If you can plan carefully it can save you a ton of money.

What is Amazon Subscribe and Save?

Amazon Subscribe and Save is a subscription ordering service.  You set up a subscription to have a product delivered in 1-6 month intervals and receive an additional 5% off your purchase.  If you have 5 orders arrive on the same monthly subscription delivery date you save an additional 15% off your entire order.  This is where the planning comes in.  Take a look or keep track of what you are buying and how often.

What is available in Amazon Subscribe and Save?

What all is available from Amazon by subscription?  Almost everything!  Non-perishable grocery products, cleaning supplies, baby supplies diapers, cat food and dog food almost everything you could want that doesn’t grow on trees.  You can see the vast selection here.  If there are products that you buy regularly you should compare prices to amazon.

Keep an eye out

Just as many with many deals, you have to watch carefully.  Just because you are buying in bulk or subscribing does not mean you are always getting the best deal.  In preparation for this article I took a walk through our local Kroger and compared the prices on Amazon.  While some prices were great savings others items were cheaper at the store.  There were a few items that would be a better deal on Amazon if timed correctly to enable the additional 15% savings for having 5 items delivered at the same time.

Here are the prices I reviewed.  Red means Amazon was a higher price; green indicate Amazon had a better price.

Amazon Subscribe and Save

This article contains affiliate links.
Cover Photo by  401(K) 2013

Lifestyle Creep

What is Lifestyle Creep?

This is the cycle of lifestyle creepLifestyle creep is defined by investopedia as:

A situation where people’s lifestyle or standard of living improves as their discretionary income rises either through an increase in income or decrease in costs.

This simply means spending more money just because you can.  For most of us that comes when we get a raise.  We can spend more now; we can buy the little things we have always wanted.

My wife and I have noticed that we spend more on things that we didn’t “need” before.  It happens to us all, when we are forced to do so we can live on very little and be quite satisfied, remember college?  What is it that happens to us that causes us to spend more later down the line?  Our lifestyle creeps.

Is lifestyle creep bad?

If lifestyle creep isn’t intentional then I would argue that, yes, it is bad, because it means you are not in control of yourself and your finances.  If you and your family have intentionally made the decision to improve your lifestyle or increase your budget for the right reasons, then great.  I am not arguing that everyone should be living like broke college students.  Most of us paid our dues, and if we have kids now they would love ramen noodles and mac and cheese for every meal it would not be healthy for anyone.

If we aren’t paying attention and lifestyle creep happens then we are not being good stewards of our money.  We are just allowing it to flow whatever direction we feel like at the time.  Not being careful and intentional with the money entrusted to you can cost you down the line by reducing the amount of money you can give or save.

The more expansive your lifestyle is, the harder you will be hit by financial crisis if and when it comes.  If you live more simply, by definition you require less money each month.  If you lose your job or have an emergency expense you will have more money to be able to handle it.

How to Prevent Lifestyle Creep.

The best way I have found to prevent lifestyle creep is to automate your finances as much as possible.  Direct deposit is a huge benefit for this.  My wife and I know exactly how much we have budgeted and that is all that goes into our regular checking account from my paycheck.  This is easily explained with an example.

Preventing Lifestyle creep

This is what our actual budget looks like but I have changed the numbers a little.  The $1479 would be my total paycheck.  Only $650 is deposited into our primary account (The one we have easy access to).  The remainder is directly deposited into a secondary account where it then transferred to other savings plans and pays our monthly bills.

The pink accounts are non-cash spending.  Veritas is our church and that is automatically sent by the bank every two weeks with every paycheck

The green line items are our cash spending.  We actually pull cash and put them into envelopes marked as groceries, eating out etc…  There is a whole set of reasons why we settled on cash spending.

It leaves us with a little ($59) left over every two weeks.  When I get my next paycheck I pull what is left over from that $59 dollars out and into a savings account.  Every two weeks we are starting from scratch and keeping to the same budget.

This way even when I get my yearly raise we don’t see it in our primary spending account.  Our budget changes when we decide it needs to, not simply because there is more to spend.  This worked out very well when I got an unexpected bonus from work, we didn’t say “Hey, let’s spend it”  In fact I forgot to tell my wife until a few months later that I got a bonus at all. (oops)

Improving your lifestyle is not a bad thing; if I lived like I did in college with my kids CPS may show up at my door.  But if we are to be good stewards of our finances we should be in control.  And we should be constantly looking out for things getting out of hand.

Give Yourself a Raise

One of the things I like to tell people in my stewardship presentations is that it is possible to give yourself a raise of roughly $2900 a year, depending on your personal situation.  Not only is this possible, I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to act responsibly with their money.

Give yourself a raise and this could be yours.

Photo by TALUDA

If you are looking to pay off debt, make ends meet, or just invest YOUR money so YOU gain the interest you owe it to yourself and your family to give yourself a raise.

Now for a little background…Every paycheck the government takes a ton of your money before it even hits your pocket and every spring people get really excited that the government makes them fill out paperwork to get back the extra that the government took out in the first place.  We call it tax season.

If you get a tax return back every year it means you are giving the government too much money every paycheck and they hold it all year and then give it back to you interest free when you file your taxes.

I don’t want to get political, but I believe it is irresponsible to allow the government to take your money all year only to give it back to you interest free in the spring.

The average tax return in 2011 was $2900.  By filling out a new W-4 form you tell the government to take less of your money each paycheck.  It reduces your refund but you will have more money in your pocket every paycheck.  How do you decide what is right?  The IRS actually supplies a handy little calculator for just such an occasion.  It will give you the correct number to enter on your W-4 to get you the smallest refund and the largest paycheck.  I, personally, like to have just enough money to pay for turbotax but you should do what you are comfortable with.  For years before I knew the calculator existed I just moved my W-4 number up a each year so I was paying less every year.

The point is, that is your money they are taking and holding.  Imagine going to the grocery store and paying too much for your groceries every week but not getting any change until the end of the year.  You wouldn’t be excited about that money at the end of the year!  It should have been in your pocket all along.  That is exactly what happens with your taxes.  People over pay their tax bill and get excited when they get their “change” in one lump sum because they don’t understand the process.

For this to work you must have a regular paycheck which has taxes withheld   If you are responsible to pay your own taxes then this won’t work.  You must also get a tax refund at the end of the year, if you don’t then you can’t get that money back throughout the year.

If you are looking to get more control over you money, to pay off debt, save for the future or just keep it out of government hands.  This is a great first step.

As always you should do you own due diligence when it comes to these issues.  This article is for informational purposes only and is not to be considered tax preparation or legal advice.

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