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10 marriage and money mistakes

It’s an old joke: “I got married to Mr. or Miss Right — I just didn’t realize her first name was ‘Always!’” When it comes to managing money, we bring ideas from our pre-married life that may have worked for ourselves. But often we need to abandon these ideas to make money work in a marriage.

Here are 10 money statements to avoid in your marriage.

1. “You take care of the kids, and I’ll take care of the money.”

Spouses often specialize in some marriage roles like cooking or repairs, but managing money should not be one of them. Having one spouse maintain total control of the spending is a recipe for disaster. You should have a monthly meeting to set up a mutually agreed upon spending plan.

2. “Look honey, a new iPad. I really deserved and needed this, so I bought it.”

A spouse can wreck the family budget by making big impulse purchases without consulting the other. Pick a dollar amount and agree not to spend more than this on any purchase without talking about it together, first. For newlyweds, it might be as low as $100. For couples with more income, it might be $300. You decide, but stick to your number. Give each other some mad money pocket cash each payday. Use these funds to reward yourself without blowing the budget.

3. “You spend too much on your hobby.”

No one likes to be told they need to put limits on what they love to do. Rather than act as a whiner, build some monthly spending into the budget that you both agree on. Marriage counselor John Lund tells a story about his coin-collecting hobby. If he needs more money to buy a coin, he finds a way to earn some extra money. Then, he uses half for his coin purchase and contributes the other half to the family budget. This is a win-win.

4. “Just give me an allowance, and you take care of the bills.”

This is a big copout. Maybe your parents did this, or maybe you don’t feel comfortable with math and budgeting. That is no excuse to dump your family finances totally on the shoulders of your spouse. It’s OK if your spouse reconciles the checkbook or pays the bills, but you need to participate each month on the spending plans.

5. “I love holding hands with you. When I let go, you go shopping.”

Whether it is collecting shoes or power tools, some of us just can’t pass up a deal, even if it means spending money we can’t afford. A better way to curb impulse shopping is to use a cash envelope system. For example, if you have $200 cash to spend on clothing until the next payday, you put a ceiling on what you can spend. People are generally more careful spending with cash compared to using plastic.

6. “Let’s keep separate checking accounts and split the bills” or “It’s my paycheck so I’ll spend it like I want.”

If you are married but your money is not, you might be asking for trouble. There may be reasons to have a separate account (with both of you as signers) for a family business. But when you unite in matrimony, your bank accounts should do the same. Not combining finances might reveal trust, control and maturity problems that will not help a marriage.

7. “I signed up for a new store charge card and saved 20 percent!”

Stores don’t offer charge cards to lose money. You may think you are getting a deal by charging your purchase, but you could end up paying interest payments that exceed what you saved. Stick with the cash envelope, and you will focus on buying what you really need instead of buying "deals."

8. “We’re barely making ends meet. We can’t afford life insurance.”

No one likes to spend money and see nothing in return, but you can’t think that way when it comes to life insurance, especially if you have young kids. If you are in good health, a simple term life policy for $500,000 may cost as little as the price of a home delivered pizza each month.

9. “We need a credit card for unexpected emergencies.”

You may not know what will happen, but you are going to have a car repair, or a broken appliance or a trip to the emergency room. Life happens. While a credit card is a better option for emergencies than a payday loan, the best option is to set up an emergency savings fund. Start with an attainable fund of $500 to $1,000 and build it up to three to six months of expenses.

10. "Oh, you bought that TV we can't afford?! Fine, I'm calling the flooring company to get our hardwood floors, then."

You don’t undo one mistake by making another one. If you and your spouse both have large purchases you want to make, talk about it in your monthly budget discussion and come up with a plan. Set aside some funds each month to save for these goals.

Most marriages don’t have a money problem; they have a communications problem. Spending always grows when your income grows. But if you work together towards shared financial goals, you can avoid breaking the budget or saying things you will later regret.



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