FixerUpperMarriage.org/money

What is Money?

  • Money is this powerful, mysterious force that controls and changes your life. It divides people into classes (the haves and the have nots). And nothing makes people more jealous than money.
  • Money is an intoxication. Having it makes you feel powerful, independent, and free. Not having it makes you feel weak, helpless, and bound. It is like an addiction to a powerful drug. It controls you.
  • Money is an abusive master. It manipulates you with fear and hopelessness. It beats you down, stresses you out, and dictates what you can or can’t do.
  • Money is an elusive substance- a mirage in the desert of life. When you find it, it is never really there. It’s a dream that never lives up to reality. It is never enough.
  • Money is a terrible lover who steals your heart and never loves you back. 
  • Money is a god who demands your worship at all costs. It takes your soul but only gives superficial things back.

In a poll of divorced people conducted by MagnifyMoney, 21% of divorcées cite money as the cause of their divorce. Of course, we all know that money problems cause a lot of stress. And that stress can destroy your relationship. How crazy is it, that little pieces of paper can have so much power.

But money only has the power that you give it. There are ways to keep it from hurting your love. Most money problems are self-inflicted but other times things happen, like injury, death in your family, sickness, or job loss. But regardless of how you get into financial hardship, that hardship doesn’t have to mean the end of your love.

“Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.”–Norman Vincent Peale

As a disclaimer, I am not a financial expert or advisor. My focus is on how money impacts your relationship. And as a confession, I am working on these things in my own marriage. So maybe this whole thing is for me! But I think you will definitely find this episode helpful. I will leave the links to any of the resources in the comments below.

1. Talk About Your Budget Together

Don’t Hide Things from Each Other

When you become one, so does your money. Your relationship is built on trust and if you violate that trust, it can deeply harm the love that you have for each other. Husbands and wives should live in a glass house with each other. I am not doing something on the computer that my wife knows nothing about. I don’t have relationships with other people that she is not aware of. There is nothing on my phone that she cannot have access to. 

You should not have a secret savings account or money stashed away somewhere. If you feel the need to do this, there are obviously some bigger issues that you need to work on in your relationship. It is better to confront your spouse with problems than to try to hide things from them. You should not have secret credit cards or accounts that your spouse doesn’t know about. Even if you think that they would be OK with it, you should still be completely open with them because that “OK”, could become a not OK in a hurry when you start having problems.

I can think of two exceptions:

  • If you are saving for a birthday/anniversary surprise. That is a good reason to hide some money!
  • If your spouse is abusive, you may need to hide some money so that you can get away from them. God doesn’t want you to stay in a situation where you are in danger and it may be necessary to come up with a plan to get away from them.

Should You Have Separate Bank Accounts?

This is a controversial topic for sure! And I have heard the arguments from both sides. What you have to remember is that when you get married, you agree to share your lives together and that includes your material possessions. So this is the principle: 

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Mark 10:6-9

God makes you one when you enter into the covenant of marriage. This includes everything, even money. This is why you should talk about money before you get married and not marry someone you can’t trust! You should both know what is going on with debts and finances. Usually, there is one person in the marriage who primarily handles the money, things like paying the bills. But both of you should know what is going on. In our household, I am usually the one paying the bills and I don’t always do a good job of communicating. There have been times when I have not told my wife we were short on money because I did not want her to worry. But that is a mistake because you are a team that is working together to make your marriage work. It can’t work if you are not sharing.

The particulars of the accounts are not as important as the communication and understanding that you should both have. So having separate accounts is really not the issue. You could each have 5 separate accounts as long as you both know about it and have reached an agreement about it. For instance, the spouse who primarily pays the bills may have an account to take care of those things while the other spouse may need to manage an account to pay for things like groceries and household supplies. The key is communicating and agreeing with each other about this beforehand.

So should you have separate bank accounts? You both have to answer this question together. Whatever money either of you earn belongs to both of you and should be treated that way.

Communicate with Each Other

Whatever you do, make sure you communicate that with each other. Talk about what your short term plans and your expectations are. For example, if you think you should have a two-week vacation every year, you should both sit down and talk about ways to make that happen. And you should talk about long term plans, like saving for retirement. Even the small things like how often you will eat out are important things to plan together. It is important to make sure you are both on the same page and that you put the principle of two lives becoming one into your marriage. 

2. Prioritize Your Spending

Divide Your Expenses into Lists of Importance

Don’t get me wrong, all your bills are important and the things that you need matter, but narrowing down the things that are the most critical can help you both plan your budget and pay your bills. This is a list that may make sense to you (as Christians our top necessity is giving, more on that later, but I am not including that here.) If you think I should add items, you can leave them in the comment section below.

Fixed Necessities are things that you absolutely have to pay and the cost, for the most part, stays the same.

  1. Housing
  2. Electricity
  3. Water
  4. Phone
  5. Internet (could be depending on your situation)
  6. Life Insurance
  7. Taxes
  8. Car Payment?

Fluctuating Necessities are things that you have to have but the cost of these things can be fluctuating or be somewhat adjusted.

  1. Groceries
  2. Car Insurance
  3. Clothing
  4. Health Insurance
  5. Gas for Car
  6. Debts
  7. Car Payment?

Optional Spending is things that you could do without that can be negotiated.

  1. Entertainment
  2. Phones
  3. Extra clothing
  4. Hobbies
  5. Travel

You have to consider your expenses in levels like this in order to prioritize your spending. If you wanted to include your giving and savings and add all these expenses up, you could compare them to your income. 

Talk about what Expenses Are the Most Important 

Sit down and talk about which of your expenses are the most important to you and come up with a way to spend that keeps you under your income. Whatever works for you is fine but it has to work or you will live in the red. And living in the red is not a good place to live. The stress of trying to pay all your bills and not having the money to do it is overwhelming. It will affect your marriage in the long run.

You may discover that you could live in a smaller place, you could sell your car for a cheaper one, or that you could forgo getting the latest smartphone. These are not easy things to do, but it could take a huge load of the financial stress off of your marriage. 

Understand What Bills You Should Pay First

You should pay all of your bills but it is important to understand that you pay the things that are most important first. You can do without your hobbies, but you cannot do without electricity or housing. If you have debts to pay, you should pay those debts, but you have to understand that your housing is more important than those debts. OK, so it may hurt your credit score which could be a bad thing (or maybe a good thing) but being behind on your rent or house payment is much worse. 

You just can’t look at all your expenses in the same way because they are not all the same. The sooner you understand this in your marriage, the better off you will be.

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

Colossians 3:23-24

3. Use the ROI Method to Analyze Your Spending Choices

I am just arbitrarily naming this method because it seems to make sense. ROI is used in the business and marketing world. It stands for return on investment. So when a company makes decisions for future investments they consider what the return from that investment will be. You can apply this same idea to marriage.

Think of Your Spending as an Investment

Before you spend, think of it as an investment with a potential return. And how that return could influence your relationship. All the returns may not be financial but could be rewarding in other ways. So you ask yourself the question before you spend the money, “is the return going to be worth the spending we are doing.”

Example 1

Let’s say I need a car to drive back and forth to work every day. So I am considering my dream classic car, a 1967 Chevy Camaro. It’s my dream and it’s only about $30,000! I also have to consider maintenance on a car that is that old and safe place for storage. So the return on my investment is a ride to work which is very important. But is the return of having a ride to work worth investing that much? 

Although I would love to have my dream car, it would make more sense to purchase a reliable, reasonably priced used car. So I get the same return on a much smaller investment. 

Example 2

Let’s say that we are renting a house and considering buying a house instead. So we look at buying a large house in an upscale neighborhood that is the absolute maximum loan that we can qualify for. So the return is having a place to stay and perhaps building some equity in a home. 

But purchasing a smaller house that doesn’t max out our income, could offer a better return in the long run. We would have less stress and more disposable income to buy other things that we may need. This could also be a nice return on investment! By the way, less stress in your marriage could mean a better relationship. We have to pay for housing regardless, so we could even continue to rent and save for a downpayment so that we could purchase a nicer house without having to max our income out!

Determine what Expenses are Best for Your Situation

Everyone’s circumstances are different so consider the personal return on your long-term spending before you spend. This can save you a lot of heartaches and give you the peace of mind that you are both spending your money in ways that can give you the best return. 

Personal Example

For example, Insurance doesn’t have much of a return until you need it. Early in our marriage, we wanted to get new phones because it seemed like we had dinosaurs compared to everyone we knew. So when my income increased we were excited to see we had the funds to get them. But we both stopped and considered that I had no life insurance and Amber is a stay at home mom. So we grudgingly made the decision to use that money to purchase a policy for both of us. The return on the investment was the peace of mind of knowing things would be taken care of if something happened to either of us. Whereas the return on the investment of the phones would have been looking cooler and having the latest gadgets! We did eventually get the latest gadget phones though!

Thinking about your spending as an investment will change not only the way you spend but the impact of your spending on your marriage relationship.

The Investment and Return Is Not Always Money

Some things in life are worth more than money. The return on your investment could be an education for your children or a more stable marriage. Moving may be tough financially, but if moving puts you near a church that would help your family, that sounds like a good investment. 

And the investment could be your time. So by investing more time in your marriage or family will produce a return that is worth far more than money. You just have to consider the best way to impact your relationship because that is the most important investment and will give you the most meaningful return.

4. Limit Your Credit Accounts

This is a big one. Debt is a massive problem for couples today. According to the latest findings from Northwestern Mutual’s 2020 Planning & Progress Study among Americans who carry debt, the average amount of debt excluding mortgages is $26,621 and 33% of their income goes to paying it off.  

Credit Accounts Are Like Snakes

OK, so you can probably tell that I have learned this one from experience! If you cannot afford something, it is so tempting to make payments on it. And the “easy” payments cause you to not look at the actual amount spent. Then to make matters worse, you usually have to pay high interest, so you are paying even more for that thing you are buying. 

Example

Let’s say I am shopping for a laptop on BestBuy.com which is a large online electronics retailer. I find one for $1499.99 at BestBuy. This is way out of my price range since I only had $400.00 to purchase one. But I see that I can get it for $83.34 per month for 18 months. This seems a little more manageable. Then I realized that I can get an even better model for only $91.67 per month.  So initially, I planned on spending $400.00 for a new laptop but I am now thinking of spending $1649.99 instead. It’s even worse if you use a credit card because you are paying interest on top of that!

You can get yourself in a mess by making monthly credit payments on the things you buy. Because all those “little” payments that you can afford, add up to a bigger payment that you can’t. If you use credit or credit cards you have to treat them like the snakes that they are. Be careful! Buy things based on their total cost and pay them off sooner rather than just on schedule. This keeps you above water financially and keeps you out of stress.

You Are a Servant to Your Lenders

The Bible says a lot about money. This is one principle about debt:

The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

Proverbs 22:7

You are becoming a servant to the debt that you incur. Because you are indebted to someone or some company you are giving up control of little parts of your life to them. In my humble opinion, a house is a good thing to be in debt for as long as your payments are 25 to 30 percent of your monthly net income. Just because the bank says that you qualify for more, doesn’t mean that you should spend more. Again, I am not a financial counselor, just a regular person like you. I also live in a rural area, so if you live in a major city, the housing may be a much bigger percentage. But I am talking about how debt impacts your relationship. As long as you don’t owe more on your house than it’s worth, I see it as a good thing.

You also have to balance out your wants and your needs. So I was shopping for a laptop to use to help homeschool my kids even though the $1649.99 model was something I may want, I found one on sale for about $300.00 instead. Spoiler alert! It works just fine and we don’t have to make payments on it! It’s OK to get things you want if you can afford it, but you have to find the balance of your wants in relation to your needs.

Things to Consider Before You Buy Something on Credit

  1. What is the actual total cost of this item?
  2. How much will I be paying in interest?
  3. Want are my wants in relation to my actual needs?

5. Live Within Your Means

It seems like an obvious thing but living within your means can be one of the hardest things to do. And figuring out and accepting what those “means” are can be the biggest challenge.

What Are Your Means?

It means living where you can afford to live, driving what you can afford to drive, and buying only those things that you can afford to buy. Everyone’s situation is different but this concept is really simple. It’s almost too simple. But if it is so simple, why do people struggle with it so much? It’s just so tempting to keep buying things that you want or need without thinking about whether or not you can afford it.

Why Don’t We Live Within Our Means?

This is where the rubber meets the road. Lurching behind your desire to live above your means is this root problem that is so basic that God addressed it in the Ten Commandments- Thou shalt not covet. Covetousness is rooted in jealousy. It means that you want something that someone else has so much that you are filled with envy. So when someone else gets something that you don’t have, instead of being happy for them, you are eaten up with jealousy. You then do whatever you have to get what they have or something better. I think that most debts are rooted in the wickedness of covetousness.

There are a lot of people who are driven to have what everyone else has or to have better than what the people they personally know have. There is nothing wrong with having things, but there is something wrong with trying to have things that you can’t afford. As a Christian, life is about using the resources that God has given you in a way that honors Him. You can read some of the details about this principle in Matthew 25:14-30.

What About Things You Can’t Control

Some debts come from things like medical bills or job loss. Health problems are tough because you rack up medical bills and you have no way of working to pay them off. If this happens you just do the best that you can. If you write to some hospitals, they may have some assistance available. Most will work out payment plans. It just takes some time to work through those things. Just keep in mind that you prioritize from the lists above and pay off these debts as you can. If you take money from your basic living expenses to pay for these other debts, you will get yourself in a mess.

Once you have your spending priorities right you can start paying off debts. Paying off debts, especially credit cards can be the best investment you could make in your relationship. If you are living in debt right now, you will feel completely different not having to carry this load around. You really are a servant to your debts until you are free from them.

6. Save for Large Purchases

This is a different way of buying things than you may be used to. Save up with the goal of buying the things that you want. So when you purchase them, they are yours- you don’t have to make credit payments on them. I know people who are great at saving money. They put money in the bank and just let it accumulate. Others are like me and just have trouble saving. Maybe you have some creative ideas about saving, You are welcome to leave them in the comments under this post. 

But one way of saving that we have been successful at is saving with a goal in mind of purchasing something. So instead of getting something on credit, you save until you can pay cash for it. Since we have been married we have been able to do this with all our vehicles. At times, we have had to wait for those vehicles. So we have had to drive older cars and fix what is wrong with them, especially at first. But overtime you upgrade until you have newer vehicles. Right now we drive a car that is a couple of years old and has very low mileage. The awesome thing is, that we own it. 

You can do this with all your larger purchases. Save up until you have enough to just buy it outright. This way, you don’t have the stress in your marriage of having to make payments that you may not be able to afford. The hardest part is the waiting, but the waiting also brings the greatest reward! If you can’t do this right now, you can make it your goal of working to live this way. I understand that sometimes you may be in a situation where you need to use credit. But just so that you understand that the more debt that you carry, the more stress you are putting on your marriage. 

7. Don’t Let Money Be Your Measuring Stick of Success

The Deception of Comparing Yourself to Others

It is tempting to compare yourself to other people. To look at the things that other people have or to hear them talk about how much they make, then to try to compare your circumstances to yours is not wise. The truth is, you don’t know their circumstances so there is really no way to make that comparison. People keep blinds in front of their lives and they only open up enough to let you see what they want you to see. Especially with social media, people only post their highpoints! But they have low points just like you!

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

II Corinthians 10:12

One of my favorite writers is Mark Twain. He was a colorful author of American literature. One of his famous quotes is “Comparison is the death of joy.” I have personally found this to be true. If you measure your worth with others, you are making a huge mistake. And this is a mistake that a lot of couples make. To have a competitive house, to put your kids in a competitive school, driving a competitive, or even having competitive clothes are all a waste of your resources. Life is not a competition to see who can have the most stuff! It’s perfectly OK if someone you know has something that you don’t. The irony is by not getting caught up in having what others have, you can have something they don’t!

Success in Life Means More than Money

When people get older they have these epiphany moments when they realize that their marriage and family are what really mattered. People spend a lifetime measuring success by comparing themselves to other people, then one day they realize that none of that mattered. But you don’t have to be that way, you can learn the value of being together and having each other. That is what makes you successful, having a good relationship with each other.

A Contented Heart and a Satisfied Mind Is the Most Important Thing

The Apostle Paul was an incredible Christian who wrote 13, maybe even 14 (Hebrews), books of the Bible. He struggled through doubters, persecution, and imprisonment on his journey for Christ. This is what he said that he learned:

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

Philippians 4:11-12

As a Christian, you have to learn how to handle having extra and not having enough. That means learning to be content with where you are in life. Contentment means that you are satisfied with the means that God has given you.

The measuring stick for your success should be your contentment.

8. Use Available Resources

There are a lot of resources available about finances. We have struggled with budgeting but I believe that is the best way to manage your money. One thing that we had success with for a while is the envelope system. My wife kept envelopes in her purse with cash in them. Each envelope was labeled for things like, “eating out”, “groceries”, or “gas”. We both agreed on how much cash to put into each envelope. So this way we could see how much money we had left throughout the week for things like eating out or groceries. This worked for us until some circumstances changed. Although right now, in the COVID-19 pandemic some businesses are not taking cash. Which seems strange to me since most places still touch your card?! 

There are lots of software that do something similar to what we did then. There are a lot that do budgeting for you. Recently, I have been listening to a podcast called YNAB which is short for You Need a Budget. They also have an app that we have been wanting to try.

My wife and I read the book Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, it comes with a nice workbook that I would definitely recommend. We were able to pay off some debts with it and the principles that we learned have helped us stay out of financial trouble. He also has a popular podcast and radio call-in show.

I have also had people recommend Crown Financial Ministries to me. They look at everything from a Christian perspective, which is great. It was founded by the late Larry Burkett who hosted a radio show called Money Matters and authors many books about finance. 

You may also find resources in your circle of family or friends. I personally know some people who are good at handling finances and are willing to offer advice or encouragement. My father-in-law actually purchased the book Total Money Makeover for us when we were first married and it has been very helpful to us. So you may have some resources closer than you think!

Do you have any resources you would like to recommend? Just leave a comment below! I am sure that everyone would appreciate your sharing.

9. Give Yourself Some “Free” Money

Sometimes you can get so determined to save money or pay off debts that you just lock yourself in this money prison and you can’t spend a penny on yourself. Something similar happens when you get married and start sharing finances. Before you were married you just bought whatever you wanted but now you have to consider the needs and wants of your spouse. Then once you have children, there is a whole new set of financial considerations.

This is why I am recommending that both husbands and wives have a set amount to spend on themselves. Just to be able to buy whatever you want. Maybe you want to have a hobby or you want to save to buy something for yourself. We have these prepaid cards and a set amount goes into each one through direct deposit. This way we each have some separate personal spending money. It’s not the same thing as having secret money but it’s just money to do or buy whatever you want without having to feel guilty about it. 

I am sure there are other ways of doing this. The main thing is that you both talk about your spending and what the expectations are for both of you.

10. Give Liberally

This is what being a Christian is really about- giving. So I believe that giving should come directly from your income. The Bible uses the word increase. So as you are paid (increase) or as your financial resources increase you give a portion of that back to God.

How Much Should You Give?

For thousands of years, Christians have used a tenth or tithe as a standard of giving. So that is 10 percent of your income. You can find this principle throughout the Old Testament particularly in the book of Malachi.

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Malachi 3:10

The tithe is a standard. It’s like a baseline for your giving. The actual word is not mentioned in the New Testament but it is implied as a standard of giving.

And in the New Testament, the people of the Church were known for their giving. 

But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

II Corinthians 9:6-8

If you are stingy with your giving, expect God to be stingy in blessing you. Just saying! If you are not in a place where you can give the standard of a tithe, it should be your goal to get to that point. You can also give things besides money, like giving your time. So you should be generous with giving your money and your time. 

Who Should You Give to?

Give to a Local Church

There are plenty of people who are asking for money today. I am not discrediting any of them. But the model from the Bible is to give through a local church. You find a church that is doctrinally sound and get involved with giving. As a Christian, when you join a church you pool your resources together and help take the Gospel to people who are not Christians. God designed the local church to be supported by the giving of the people who are members. The church needs a building for ministry and most ministries cost money to operate, that is where your generous giving steps in. You are giving that money back to God by willingly investing in His Church.

Give to People in Need

Christians should be known for loving and giving to other people. In II Corinthians chapter 8 the churches that were in Macedonia took up collections for other Christians who needed money for ministry. They gave this money while they were suffering and in poverty. So we should all be willing to give of what we have, even if it is a small amount. Christians should have a reputation for giving.

11. Remember Where Your Money Really Comes From

Sometimes we all think that we are providing for our own needs by working a job. But this is not the case. Who gave you the ability to work? Ultimately, God is your provider. He is the one who provides for you. He may use your job to do that, but He is the one taking care of you. So you have to trust Him with your life and your needs. This is a hard but necessary reality for every Christian to understand.

Podcast music by Dan Lebowitz

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Jason R Parham
1 year ago
Last edited 1 year ago by Jason Parham
Rebekah
1 year ago

Appreciated this lesson! We have loved the free budgeting app EveryDollar by Dave Ramsey. It’s really simple and visually.