5 Money Moves That Will Strengthen Your Marriage

by Emily Guy Birken · 17 comments

Money can be one of the biggest stressors in a marriage, and fights over money can often lead to divorce. Don’t let your relationship be a casualty of money stress. Here are some money moves that can strengthen any marriage, in addition to helping your bottom line:

1. Get on the same page. People get angry with their spouses when they have unmet expectations. If you expect that your spouse’s big bonus this year will make a nice contribution to a retirement fund, while your spouse is dreaming of blowing the whole enchilada on a vacation to Aruba, it’s likely to cause some friction. So how do you combat the problem of differing expectations? Talk to each other, regularly, about money.

Set aside some time to discuss your goals, both short-term and long-term, including what you’ll do on future vacations, how and where you want to retire, what your career plans are, and how you’ll handle any money emergencies. This may sound like a total buzz kill, but it can actually be fun. In particular, having a conversation about things you enjoy that cost money — my husband and I love to talk about our top 10 travel destinations — can help put you on the same page when it comes to money planning. Since we know that traveling together is one of our goals, my husband and I are in agreement about how to handle day-to-day finances so that we can save up for those goals.

2. Pool your resources. No matter how independent each of you may be when it comes to money, it is important that you regard money as a shared resource, rather than mine/yours. This is especially true if there is an income gap between the spouses. Without some method of sharing money for bills, food, evenings out, childcare, etc, someone is likely to feel resentful about spending “their” money on a shared expense.

This does not mean that every couple needs to have a joint checking account. Each couple will find their own system, whether they share cash in envelopes for expenses, each have their own accounts plus a joint checking account for bills, or put everything together under both names. No matter what system you choose, remember that your resources are for the good of the marriage.

3. But keep some independence. It is important, however, to feel as though you have some financial independence, since no couple will entirely understand each other’s spending habits. For example, if you choose to spend $30 on artisanal beer, and your non-beer-drinking spouse can’t taste the difference between that and Bud Lite, it could lead to a fight if every single penny is pooled. So allow yourself some “me” money that is yours to spend however you choose. Both you and your spouse will be happier knowing that you can treat yourself to small luxuries without it affecting the overall finances.

4. Delegate. In many marriages, one spouse is a money nerd and the other doesn’t bother to balance a checkbook. Even if the differences between your money skills are not that great, there is generally one person who ends up taking over the finances. And that’s often a good thing. When two people are both trying to handle one job, things can be overlooked, done twice, or otherwise mismanaged. So go ahead and delegate bill-paying and money management to the spouse who is better at it or prefers the job. It will ensure that things are done to the satisfaction of the person who is more on top of the finances.

5. Keep the lines of communication open. The problem with delegating, however, is that sometimes the non-money manager spouse feels out of the loop. So even if only one person is handling bills, make sure that both are involved in decision-making, problem-solving, and budgeting. So the non-money manager spouse should feel comfortable asking about finances at any time, and the money manager spouse should always keep all financial information transparent. This is also crucial so that if anything were to ever happen to the manager spouse, finances would not then become an additional source of stress during a sad time.

The Takeaway

Don’t let money get in between you and your sweetheart. It’s better to talk about tough issues and face them together than let them fester and breed resentment.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Eileen says:

    What if your spouse is hiding his money and telling you to go out of the room and he locks the door?

    • Katie K. says:

      If you can’t see the writing on the walls there, you have bigger problems than money on your hands honey. Good luck!

  • Emily Guy Birken says:

    @Anne, you make a great point. My husband is definitely not the money nerd in our relationship, and he might be lost if he ever had to take over my system. That is a worry, but I also know that my system works really well for us, and I’d rather stick with it now and accept that it could potentially be a problem, since that potentiality is pretty unlikely. In a perfect world, he would be more interested/involved in how I handle the money, but for now, we need to make do with delegating.

  • Bethy @ Credit Karma says:

    “Each couple will find their own system” – This is the key to your entire post! My husband and I have shared resources, but we also each have “fun money” (or a “slush fund”) that we can use on whatever we want. And the most important factor is definitely trust. I trust he won’t go blow our rent money on boots (yes, his favorite thing to buy), and he trusts I won’t go overboard when I’m out with the girls. It’s worked pretty well so far.

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter says:

    I would take a bit of an issue with #4 – Delegate.
    I think it’s fine for one person to be in charge of a set group of financial tasks/bills, but that both need to know what’s going on and how to deal with things. The number of times where something unexpected happens – injury, death, divorce, temporary circumstances, and the other spouse is 110% lost and has no idea is sad.
    My spouse and I “specialize” but know that the other person could step in, should it ever be necessary.

    • Katie K. says:

      Did you stop reading the article at #4? It seems so. If you were to read on to #5 you would see that they addressed this very thing. I really don’t see anything to take issue with there.

      • Anne @ Unique Gifter says:

        Point 5, as it reads, says being involved in decision making, budgeting and problem-solving. That’s a fair bit different from knowing the passwords and logins for online accounts, what is where and how it hands-on works. “Honey I’m in the hospital and can’t talk, you need to pay our insurance premiums” but you don’t even know where to start is the problem with delegating.

  • camperman1 says:

    I’ve tried both ways….pooling and separate financials…and trust me, a marriage will last longer if you pool resources, communicate about finances, and budget and plan how you spend, together. Although I tend to keep the records and prepare the budgets, I want my wife to know how every penny is spent, and how likely it is for our goals to be achieved. As a result, she feels so much more a part of our financial side of our marriage and oftens has great advice on what to spend and what not to spend. She is a whiz at finding specials, too!!! We’ve saved an untold amount of money by being watchful for deals. As we love to travel, we do without many things to save up for these special events. There would be considerably fewer divorces and stronger marriages if couples followed these examples.

  • Emily Guy Birken says:

    @frugalportland and @Tricia, I have certainly seen keeping finances separate work for many couples. The concern is what will happen financially if something bad were to befall one of the spouses. With completely separate finances, will it be possible for the other spouse to pay the bills s/he is not usually in charge of in the case of illness or death? Having some method of pooling information about finances will really a spouse in a time of stress, even if otherwise money is kept completely separate.

  • Tricia L says:

    Just like frugalportland’s parents me and my husband keep our finances almost completely separate. We both choose what bills to pay and occasionally pool our money to pay off the larger things.
    We rarely fight over money but I see us fighting often if we pooled them. Some friends and family have judged us harshly and even one person said that’s not a real marriage. A marriage is what works for each couple in my book. In the Middle East all the women keep there own money by legal right and occasionally give there husbands a hand if money is tight. This has been working for thousands of years. Financial rules in marriage have been done every which way since the beginning of so following societal norms is not necessary.

  • frugalportland says:

    My parents keep their finances just about 100% separate. The way I talked about their finances when I was in college, people just assumed that they were divorced. It’s a funny example to set, but I never once saw them fight about money, so maybe they were on to something.

  • Sean H says:

    A lot of these can be seen during the dating phase!! Keep your eye on the other’s spending habits…It’ll give you a good idea

  • Jean says:

    It is definitely important to have a good honest understanding about financial decisions in order to maintain a good relationship. Never hide any part of your income or expenditures from each other and be open and frank about everything financially related.

    Pooling your resources is a very good point. Say your spouse needs to get his or her dream business off the ground and needs a good amount of capital. Discuss the ideas properly and if it is a worthwhile one, invest in it as one.


  • Marbella says:

    A study in Sweden showed why people separate; At first place came money problems by 40%, in second place was cheating by 32%, etc. It is important to talk to each other and have a good finance relationship also.

  • Kurt says:

    My wife and I hold an annual “summit meeting” (we call it, for fun) near the start of each year. Besides reviewing the past year, we take stock of where we are, re-discuss and re-set short, medium, and long-term goals, and outline a broad plan for the upcoming year with respect to vacations, home improvements, and other large expenditures. Works for us!

  • The Frugallery says:

    When my husband and I combined our finances, a book that really helped us get on the same page was Your Money Or Your Life. It talks a lot about developing mutual goals and setting priorities/examining values. A must read for every couple!

  • KM says:

    We usually shop together and discuss prices and the cheapest/most value options. My husband used to just grab whatever looked good, but after me teaching him the difference, he now weighs things in his head and knows when something is too expensive for what it is. Sometimes we splurge on things we want (nothing too expensive though), but we always have to agree on it. If I am really resistant about his purchase, he won’t get it (usually it’s more about the effect on his health from buying crappy food though, not about money). It has taken me a while to learn to live with him spending on items that I would never think of buying, but it has really helped us as a couple.

    We also have a list of goals on our whiteboard that include more expensive purchases and those have to be agreed upon together, like the recent purchase of a monitor for me because the TV I was using as a monitor was hurting my eyes. Communication and discussions are definitely key in finances.

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