Have you ever felt like money is one thing that you and your spouse will never be able to see eye to eye on? Do you feel like your relationship with your husband feels more like a dad dolling out an allowance than a partner and teammate making financial decisions together? Perhaps you are the one who feels like your spouse does not share or carry any of the emotional weight of handling all of the finances.
The year was 2012. It was New Year’s Day shortly after midnight, and my husband and I were laying in bed talking about what was in store for the New Year. We had two little girls and I had just racked up $4,000 in credit card debt to buy Christmas gifts.
Tony had read The Total Money Makeover a couple of months earlier and I refused to read it. I feared that this would mean bad things for my relationship with Target. Tony would read the book and laugh out loud, yelling “Anna, you are going to hate this!”
Side note: This is one way to not get your spouse on board. As the spouse who was absolutely not willing to start any sort of plan, I have all kinds of tips for what to do and not to do to “win over” your spouse. More on that in another post.
It was that New Year’s night that I “surrendered” and agreed to actually reading the book and giving it a fair try. More than financial peace, I wanted peace in my marriage. I didn’t want to keep hiding purchases or feel like we made too much money to feel this broke forever.
Besides the fact that my husband and I paid off $36,000 in debt in 13 months (for some perspective — that was roughly half of our income that year) and our financial lives were cleaned up, I want to share with you what it did in our marriage.
We became partners
We had a shared goal we were working toward together. I stopped seeing Tony as the obstacle from spending what I wanted when I wanted. Instead, we had weekly budget meetings where we went through our income and bills. We both had a say in every budget line item.
We started dreaming together
We would go over the status of our retirement accounts and kids’ college savings and look at the big picture. We still do this today. We talk about our savings plans for home improvement projects and vacations all of the time. This is my favorite part of our budget meetings.
Our ideals and values as a couple became very clear
An “ideal” is something we say or think should be important, but a “value” is something we are actually willing to sacrifice for right now. We value date nights and time spent together, but that expense (babysitters for four kids are expensive, friends!) means we have to cut somewhere else in our entertainment budget. That might mean less golf for Tony or not getting my nails done at the salon. When you can see in black and white where your money is going, it becomes quite clear what your priorities are.
We stopped fighting and holding on to resentment
Because we both had an equal say in every single financial decision that we set in our budget meetings, I was not hiding Target bags under my bed anymore. Tony knew that what I bought was already budgeted for and paid for with cash. We also both have a set amount of cash we get for just ourselves. Tony doesn’t roll his eyes at my daily drive through coffees because he knows it comes out of my personal cash.
We felt like we had been given a raise.
Because each dollar was allocated, I did not need to feel guilty every single time I bought clothes for the girls or a candle from Target. I felt like I actually had more money to work with. My mindset shifted from a place of scarcity to one of abundance. Instead of “I should not buy this because we probably don’t have the money” I was able to say to myself “I have $100 cash in my wallet set aside specifically for this purchase”.
You may notice that no where here did I say this is easy. It wasn’t easy. Living on a tight budget with two little girls and a baby on the way was not easy. I dare say we found ways to make it fun and it was absolutely worth it. We love sharing in other people’s successes and debt free journeys. I have many friends who text me regularly sharing their progress, asking questions and some just asking for extra encouragement not to give up. This keeps us going in our continued debt-free journey to pay off our house. More of this in my next post.
Even if you don’t feel like this plan is for you (I might disagree because I believe everyone can be successful with this plan regardless of how little or how much you make), I highly encourage you to find some plan that you and your spouse can agree on. I truly believe that this has given Tony and I the tools to better relationships with money and each other. Because of the peace we have in this area of our lives, we have unity and trust in our marriage that was not there the first couple of years in our relationship.
Have you heard of The Total Money Makeover?
Are you and your spouse on the same page financially?
Have you tried this plan or another and failed miserably initially (like us)?