Why Having a Budget Could Save Your Marriage

Believe it or not, the number one reason couples list as the cause of their divorce (other than the cryptic “irreconcilable differences”) is finances. This is a very tough issue for many couples. It is very common to have too many bills, too many wants, and too many dreams for the money you have coming in to stretch that far. Many couples have the idea that their marriage should have enough money for many, if not all, of their desires, as well as their spouse’s desires. But unless you inculcate sound Biblical principles into your money management, your marriage could break up over handling money poorly. Good marriages have some kind of system for money allocation that allows them to spend in predictable ways, save for the future, and have enough money to last all month with some left over.  

There are three basic categories where Biblical principles about finances can guide your life:

  • Income
  • Management
  • Generosity

Our current American culture does not teach helpful principles about these three areas. In many cases, our culture promotes destructive ideas that will lead to financial ruin and relational destruction. Even if finances are not an area of strength for you, it is important that you and your spouse have a basic knowledge of biblical principles in these three areas. Some couples need to spend time learning God’s income principles because they do not make enough, do not have enough streams of income, or are making their money in unproductive or troubling ways. Most couples need to learn God’s principles for managing money because they have enough money (even though it doesn’t seem like it), but they are not allocating it well. And many couples do not understand the absolute need for generosity if our society, marriages, and children are to be healthy.  

One of the best ways I have found for helping marriages in this area of finances is to have a budget meeting every time you get a check. This is a management principle based on Proverbs 27:23-27, which in essence says, TELL YOUR MONEY WHAT YOU WANT IT TO DO!

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks,
    give careful attention to your herds;
for riches do not endure forever,
    and a crown is not secure for all generations.
When the hay is removed and new growth appears
    and the grass from the hills is gathered in,
 the lambs will provide you with clothing,
    and the goats with the price of a field.
2You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed your family
    and to nourish your female servants.

Proverbs 27:23-27

Talk as a couple and come to an agreement about what you want that money to do. If you can’t agree about how to spend some money, then put it into savings until you can agree. At the beginning of a meeting like this over money, the meeting may take an hour or longer, but after a while, you and your spouse will be able to come to an agreement in less than 5-10 minutes in most cases. Realize that both spouses may have very different ideas on how to spend money that comes into the family. Great! Have a discussion and find wisdom where everybody wins in some way. 

Ask, “We just got our normal paycheck (or commission or bonus check). What do we want that money to do until more comes in?” You have to realize that if you don’t do this, there will always be more things to spend money on than money to spend. I have seen people earning $800,000 a year and still struggle with how they are going to get all they want with only that much money. And I have seen couples who make $24,000 a year combined who do extremely well because they have agreed where every dollar goes.  

One program I recommend using is Y.N.A.B. (You Need A Budget). This has been tremendously helpful to me and my family, as it walks you through the various categories of a typical budget and subtracts the amount you commit to a category from the total left to budget. I have consistently seen couples who start using Y.N.A.B. software and got off living paycheck to paycheck within a few weeks or a few months. It really is amazing. There are hundreds of podcast tutorials for learning the software and the budgeting ideas at their website for free (www.ynab.com).

You must commit together where every dollar is going to go until the next monies come in. Those arranged amounts show up on your phone app and keep track in real time what you have left in a category.  

Some of the larger principles about finances can be learned through the Financial Peace University programs, which are often offered at your local church. This program is especially helpful at getting couples out of debt and into stable thinking about money and financial expectations. There is a tremendous amount of financial illiteracy in our country, and these courses by Dave Ramsey are very helpful. Many couples need to take the course multiple times in order to deeply embrace the principles in their lives. And I highly suggest engaged couples take the course prior to getting married so they can start their marriage off on stable financial ground. For that matter, single people should do this too. Everyone needs financial wisdom.

Some couples or individuals want the money side of a marriage to magically take care of itself. Trust me, it won’t. You have to work together with agreed upon goals to accomplish what you want with your finances. Even if you hate talking about money, you need to talk with your spouse about what you want your dollars to do every time a check comes in. Even if your spouse handles the money, both of you need to interact about what you want this new money that just came in to do.

Here’s what I’d like you to do:

  • Commit to a money meeting each week;
  • Talk about what systems you need to put in place to manage your dollars;
  • Discuss what is working and what isn’t;
  • What goals and plans do you want to implement? 
  • What things are necessary versus “nice-to-haves”? 

You have the ability to not allow money matters frustrate you to the point of relationship trauma. Good luck with this, and I look forward to hearing from you on what you plan to do, or are already doing. Email me at info@ptlb.com to let me know.

Follow Gil Stieglitz:

Dr. Gil is a catalyst for positive change both personally and organizationally. He excites, educates, and motivates audiences all over the world, through passion, humor, leadership, and wisdom. He is the Discipleship Pastor at Bayside Church in Roseville, CA. He has led seminars in China, Europe, Canada, Mexico, and all over the United States. He has taught at several Christian Universities and Seminaries (BIOLA University, William Jessup University, Western Seminary). He is on the faculty of Principles to Live By, an organization committed to teaching God’s principles in a life-giving way.

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