Guest post // Katie Westenberg is a wife, mom and writer who is passionate about encouraging women to fear God and live brave. Her daily brave involves life in the countryside of the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their four kids. She also enjoys traveling, reading and any adventures that involve friends and family. You can find her at I Choose Brave.
Every married couple argues about it, right? How to spend, where to spend, when to spend – pick your angle. We don’t discriminate; we can always find a way to disagree about it.
It’s a well-researched fact that one way or another most married couples are arguing about money.
In 2014 Time Magazine commissioned a national survey of over 1,000 married people to understand their marriage relationships, particularly as it relates to money management. It is no surprise that 70% of people surveyed listed money as the number one thing they fight about in marriage.
My husband and I will be married 15 years this summer and just for fun, I asked him recently what he thinks we fight about most. As it turns out, we are part of the 70%. Hooray, for being on trend, right?
However, the more we chatted about our marriage and what, in particular, we argue about, the more we realized a) we don’t argue very often and b) there are some very clear times in our marriage when we have not argued about money.
Ultimately, our marriage works best when we are fighting for something, rather than about something.
The times in our marriage where we have had specific goals or have been working toward big dreams have become times of unified vision and far fewer squabbles over money. Buying a home, attacking debt, saving toward major purchases, working to pay off a mortgage, building a home – each of these events in our marriage became a source of common ground and a goal we were both fighting for.
While our marriage isn’t without flaws and my husband will probably always think I have too many pairs of shoes, our disagreements, particularly those related to money, have rarely become major stumbling blocks. We’ve found a way to fight for our finances rather than about them and it has made all the difference.
Here are a few things that have worked well for us:
We’ve Honored God
From day one, we have chosen to tithe a portion of our income to our local church. Being raised by parents who did the same, this was never up for debate and our finances have been blessed because of it. (Malachi 3:10) Being able to give to causes you care about, in any amount, allows your money to reach far beyond your front door and sets a precedent for your children. Give big, because you can’t out-give a big God.
Just before we got married we purchased a duplex, preparing to live in one side while renting out the other half to pay part of the mortgage payment. The duplex wasn’t fancy. It was small and dated. Smaller and more dated than the homes many of our friends were living in. We undershot. But because of that, we had all kinds of freedom in our budget. Freedom to do some traveling. Freedom to save a big portion of our income for a down payment on another house two years later. And freedom to transition to one income when we decided to start a family. Forget what the Jonses’ are doing. Forget what the bank says they will loan you. Undershoot and afford your marriage some freedom from financial stress.
We Set Specific Goals
A couple years after we purchased the duplex, we came across a used and abused older home that was repossessed by the bank. Because we had undershot financially and had saved up some money while living in the duplex, we were able to buy that house through an online auction.
We took out a loan to make some major improvements and set an audacious goal of paying that loan off in a year. We threw all of our disposable income toward that goal and less than a year later we paid off the loan and were nicely settled into a charming home with a very affordable mortgage. From there we sought to knock out the mortgage one chunk at a time. We set specific monthly goals, whittled down unnecessary expenses and even charted out those goals on a paper that hung on our bedroom wall. We were focused, motivated and working together.
The times in our marriage when we have been working together toward a very specific financial goal are the times we have argued the least. We knew exactly what we wanted and we went after it, together.
We Had a Shared Vision
No matter what financial decision we are up against – buying or selling a home, looking for a new car, working toward paying off our mortgage – we seek to keep our long-term vision in perspective. At times this has meant trading what we want now for what we really hope to have down the road. Now 15 years into this, we are beginning to see some of those tradeoffs really add up.
When we built our new home 3 years ago, we made lots of concessions and compromises from the dreams we had in mind, because we were dedicated to our long-term vision. (It’s not easy. I’ll admit, I whined a bit.) While that wasn’t necessarily fun at the time, we now have a great home that we are working to payoff years before the mortgage comes due. We undershot, we’ve set goals, and we’re working toward a shared, long term vision.
We Have Been Blessed
Our ultimate financial goal is to work hard and be good stewards of what we have been given. And we have been blessed. We have never had extraordinary incomes, never inherited a chunk of money or had a large sum gifted to us, we’ve simply been faithful and blessed.
We haven’t done it perfectly and we haven’t done it without a few arguments along the way. It hasn’t always been easy, but we have chosen to do it together. Fighting for our financial goals, rather than about them has made all the difference.
So plan a dinner date. Set some specific goals and a long-term vision and find something you can start fighting for rather than fighting about.