If You Disagree on Spending… (Part 2)

In the last Normal Marriage Post, we began looking at a topic that can be so problematic in marriage it ranks right up there with sex and communication. The topic was money.

In the last post, we looked at the two issues that make money and spending so difficult in marriage: money deficiencies and spousal differences. (If you haven’t read that post, take a second to check it out.)

In this post, we want to get practical.  Whether your problem is too little money or too many differences, what can you do to make things better in the area of money and spending? How can you solve conflicts over money?

In order to solve our money conflicts, we must know how to solve conflicts in general.

SOLVING CONFLICTS IN GENERAL

Don’t do this…

When there is a conflict in marriage, a spouse will usually default to one of two positions:

  • They will apply pressure to get their spouse to cave.
  • They will fold and let the other spouse have their way.

Neither of these is a good way to solve a conflict in marriage. It makes one person a winner who feels superior and the other person a loser who feels dominated.

Do this…

A better way to handle conflict in marriage is to look for a plan where…

  • Both spouses get some of what they want.
  • Neither spouse gets everything they want.

Some call this compromise. I prefer to call it a plan. And when it comes to how a couple spends their money, you need a plan.

THE PLAN

Every marriage is different; with different circumstances, different resources, different desires, and different personalities. So it’s impossible, in a brief post, to give you a specific and detailed plan on how to spend your money.

But there are three general principles to help you develop a plan for spending your money. The three principles are:

1. Establish your percentages.

A good start for a spending plan is to aim for these percentages…

  • 10% – Savings. This begins with saving for emergencies but moves on to saving for retirement and saving for personal goals.
  • 10% – Giving. Generosity is its own reward. It not only helps others, but it breaks selfish anxiety within us that keeps us chained to our stuff. You’ll be surprised how generosity does more to increase what you have than decrease what you have.
  • 80% – Living. First, this includes the fixed expenses that you currently have little control over…like: mortgage, rent, utilities, car payments, insurance, etc. Secondly, this includes discretionary spending over which you have more control…like eating out, vacations, entertainment, etc.

Reaching these percentages and goals may not be possible at first, but commit yourselves to do whatever you have to do to move toward these initial targets.

2. Create your proposal.

This is where we need to talk about the dreaded and dirty word “B” word…budget. Many of you winced, flinched, and maybe even threw up in your mouth a little when you read the word “budget.” To you, a budget feels as constricting as living with your parents. I get it. I felt the same way. But exchanging the word “budget” for the word “plan.” A budget is simply a plan that you make to help you get where you want to be.

My wife and I started budgeting, back when we were in grad school. I mentioned in the last post how difficult those years were for us financially. One day, while we were in a mad panic to figure out how we would pay the car insurance, I had a revelation.

I thought, “What’s wrong with me? I know car insurance comes around every six months. This is a simple math problem! I take the amount of the car payment, divide it by six, and that’s the amount of money we have to put away each month to cover the car insurance. So we started with just the car insurance. But the first time the car insurance came due and we weren’t running around in a panic, I thought, “This feels great! I wonder what else we can do this with.” And little by little, item by item, we developed a budget.

Now you don’t have to do this item by item as we did. You can create a complete spending plan all at once. And to help you with this, check out this worksheet I use when counseling couples.

3. Maintain your persistence.

Persistence may be the most important principle of all.

Things will not go smoothly at first. In the beginning…

  • You may not have enough money to fund every budget category.
  • Unexpected and unplanned expenses may come up.
  • There might be expenses you planned but haven’t had enough time to build up the necessary reserves.
  • Some of your categories will have to go unfunded, while you get other things paid off.

There will be times in the first 6-12 months of trying to implement your spending plan that you will feel it’s not working and want to give up. But if you will persist for 12-18 months, you will see things gradually start to come in line. When it comes to implementing your spending plan, persistence is your biggest ally.

We said in the last post that if you disagree on spending…it’s normal. But you still have to do something with it. So…

If you disagree on spending…make a plan and stick with it.

This doesn’t come easy for everyone. It didn’t for my wife and me. But I guarantee you can do it. Follow this basic plan. Seek out others who can help you with this. Take a class. Do whatever you have to not only agree on your spending but to align your spending habits to reach your goals.

Deuteronomy 10 – The importance of Being Persistent and Consistent.

When I was younger, I used to think that success was dependent upon talent, or skill, or wealth, or connectedness. I thought those who were successful merely had the right stuff and/or were in the right place at the right time.

There’s no doubt that these things are helpful, but the older I get, the more I’ve come to believe that success is much more about being persistent and consistent. Persistence and consistency are the two inseparable keys to success…both temporally and spiritually. In his book by the same name, Eugene Peterson called it “a long obedience in the same direction.”

Read moreDeuteronomy 10 – The importance of Being Persistent and Consistent.

Numbers 15 – Keep It Up!

It’s a good feeling to finally reach a goal.  The sense of accomplishment and achievement you get from reaching a goal is intoxicating.

But then what? What do you do after you’ve reached your goal? Do you sit back and just enjoy the fruit of your labor?

God answers that question for the Israelites in Numbers chapter 15. In this chapter, God refers to what is to happen after they enter the Promised Land. (Num. 15:2)

What is it that they are to do? Continue to do all that they’ve been told to do already. In other words…KEEP IT UP!

A team that wins a championship will not be able to keep their title if they don’t continue to work, train, and practice. A house that has been repaired and remodeled will not stay that way, without continued maintenance and up-keep. In the story of the tortoise and the hare, the hare lost because after he had achieved his large lead on the tortoise, he didn’t keep it up.

This is true of the Christian life. Although we never really “arrive,” there are times when we reach new levels in our faith and our relationship with God. These times feel wonderful to our soul. But, if we allow ourselves to slack off and coast, we will lose the very thing we worked to achieve.

Romans 12:11 tells us to never be lacking in zeal, but to keep our spiritual fervor. In other words, whether the goal is in the distance or under your feet, keep passionately following the ways and commands of God. This will smooth out the roller coaster ups and downs of life that come from us starting, stoping, and starting again with God.

Bull Riding and Marriage

I often tell people that marriage can be like a bull ride. Here’s what I mean by that…

In the beginning, when the bull rider gets on the bull, they look good, feel confident, and are surrounded by a lot of supporters. Those supporters speak words of encouragement, slap them on the back, and tell them, “You can do this!”

All this is like a bride and groom on their wedding day.

Read moreBull Riding and Marriage