There’s more to money than a stack of paper bills showcasing our nation’s presidents. How we spend our paycheck reveals our values, fears and dreams. Talking about money is emotional and vulnerable. For a lot of people, it’s like politics: You don’t bring it up at the dinner table.
That might work if you’re single and managing your money is entirely up to you. But when you get married, it’s time to sing a different tune. As soon as you tie the knot, your “me” becomes “we.” And while that comes with a lot of good stuff, it presents some new challenges, too.
In a recent study, 75% of people surveyed said financial infidelity negatively impacted their relationships. A few worked through the issues and grew closer—which is great! But even more said it resulted in arguments and broken trust . . . and even led to separation and divorce.
It’s time to shrink some of those statistics. Here are three big safeguards to put in place that will keep money secrets out of your marriage.
1. Schedule monthly budget meetings.
Spend the first few minutes of your budget meetings dreaming about the future. You might be tempted to dive right into the spreadsheets, but this is important—don’t skip it. Couples working together to reach the same goals are more likely to succeed than those yanking each other in opposite directions all the time.
Even if one of you is more interested in the budget than the other, you both need to be involved in deciding where the paycheck goes. You won’t win with money on accident. You have to be intentional and deliberate—even when it’s tough. But never fear, budgeting as a team will get easier. It’ll even bring you closer as a couple.
Related: 4 Ways to Resolve Budget FIghts
2. Give yourselves some fun money.
Once you’ve figured out your fixed monthly expenses, work together to budget some fun money for each of you. This is money that can be spent guilt-free. Maybe you want to buy new shoes and your spouse wants to buy a new video game. You have the freedom to spend your fun money on whatever you want.
Once you pick a number, establish some ground rules. For example, what happens if one of you overspends in a month? Maybe you decide to subtract the overspent money from next month’s budget. Or you might realize you need to adjust your numbers. Either way, setting clear rules from the beginning is your best bet. Just make sure you both agree on the rules.
3. Pick your magic number.
Pretend for a minute that your marriage is a business. Everything is going great . . . until you find out your business partner spent $1,500 on new office furniture without talking to you first. Ouch.
It isn’t that you’re the boss and your spouse needs to ask permission to spend money. But you are a team, and you should treat each other with courtesy and respect. Be proactive and pick a magic number—together. It may be $50, $100 or $300. But if either of you wants to purchase something that costs more than that, make it a rule that you’ll discuss it with the other person first. You’ll be amazed to see how this changes your conversations about major purchases.
Marriage is still a lot of work. You’re going to butt heads and disagree from time to time. But working as a team and following these three steps will set you up for success—and help you both keep money secrets out of your marriage.