It’s been said for many years that one of the biggest issues couples have is finances. It might be that it is scarce, it might be about how to spend it, or it might even be not talking about it. Whether we like it or not, money plays a huge role in our lives and potentially our happiness. This can be even more pressing as the holiday season approaches and we begin to think about purchasing gifts. Fiscal downturns are a way of life these days, and they can affect couples at every financial level. Fortunately, there are ways to safeguard your marriage against the economy.
Money causes stress: Most of us rely on every cent of our paycheck, and any reduction in pay can cause some families great financial strain. Losing a job, having your hours cut back, or price hikes in food and fuel can significantly affect a couple’s budget. When people stress over money, they can sometimes take out their frustration on their spouse over little problems that don’t have anything to do with finances.
The Solution: Build up a savings account bit by bit. There are numerous excuses not to have money in savings, but it’s a simple backup plan that can make life much easier. Most financial experts advise having a savings balance equal to three to six months’ worth of income. It may seem like a lot, but you’ll be glad you have it if or when you need it.
Saving vs. Spending: Many times, one spouse is a better saver than the other. This sounds like it isn’t so bad; after all, the saver can keep the spender in check, right? But the spender often feels resentment toward the saver for not allowing them to get what they want. The saver, in turn, feels that all of their hard-earned savings are being whittled away by unnecessary purchases.
The Solution: Wherever possible, agree on a budget. You’ve heard people talk about doing it, but now is the time to actually work out an action plan for your money. The most important budgeting factors in this situation are how much to put in savings each month (or out of each paycheck) and how much one spouse is allowed to spend without consulting the other. This allows the thrifty spouse to see the balance continue to go up on the savings account and gives the spender a little bit of purchasing freedom.
What We Want vs. What We Need: Most of us are natural consumers, wanting a little bit of everything that our modern times have to offer. Sure, most people have cable television, internet access, and the latest smart phones with data plans. But do you actually need those things? The compulsion to keep up with our friends and with the times is a strong one. Unfortunately, it costs money.
The Solution: Try going without, even if your financial situation doesn’t demand it. You might be surprised how well you fare when you scale back, and it could put some extra money in your pocket. This doesn’t just apply to technology and media, either. Think more carefully about how much you spend on groceries or clothes and where you might be able to cut corners. Living a little bit more simply can expand your wallet and reduce your stress.
Don’t wait for the economy to catch up with you before you start planning for the worst. It might seem like negative thinking to imagine what would happen if your husband lost his job or your wife got her hours cut, but there’s a great amount of emotional security in knowing that the two of you will still be able to take care of each other. Piling up your savings, planning your finances, and reducing your expenses are a great start.