This past week my husband, Eric, and I celebrated 15 years of marriage! Saying that out loud makes me feel really old. But I’m grateful for the ups and the downs.

Marriage isn’t easy. It’s no secret that the #1 cause of conflict in marriages is MONEY. Like most couples, over the years, my husband and I have had MANY arguments about money. And even after 15 years we still don’t agree on all things money.

But we’ve made a lot of progress. In celebration of our anniversary, I want to share a few lessons that I’ve learned over the years about marriage and money.

4 Money Lessons From 15-Years of Marriage

Lesson #1: Don’t wait for your spouse to get on board with the plan

One of the biggest factors in your financial success is time. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many people (mostly women), not take steps to improve their finances because their spouse isn’t excited about saving or getting out of debt. It can be scary to step out on your own, without your spouse’s support, but sometimes it’s necessary. It could be two months or two years before he or she gets on board, don’t waste precious time waiting.

When I first heard about the FIRE movement (Financial Independence Retire Early), I was ready to sell my house and move to a lower cost of living area so that I could save more money and retire faster.

However, hubs was NOT having it. I was disappointed and deflated and frankly pissed off for a while. I could’ve used hubby’s lack of excitement as an excuse to give up on my financial journey.

But instead, I chose to move forward without him.

Blog Post: Debt Freedom, Financial Freedom, and FIRE…What’s the Difference?

I’m usually not the tough love coach, but when I encounter people who want to give up because their spouse isn’t supportive this is my response…Stop making excuses, instead, make adjustments. For me, I obviously couldn’t sell the house and move to a lower cost of living without Eric being on board, but I could do other things. So I worked towards hitting some other financial goals on my own.

Pro Tip: When you can’t lower expenses, it’s time to increase income so that you can hit your financial goals faster.

Lesson #2: Instead of nagging, lead by example

Throughout the majority of my marriage, I’ve been guilty of nagging and finger-wagging when I disapproved of my husband’s spending habits or failure to stick to the budget. I spent too much time doing this and it only led to more conflict and resentment. I’m really hard-headed sometimes, but eventually I got it, and decided to just lead by example. And guess what…this strategy was much more effective.

A few months ago I created a video entitled, ” How I Saved $28,000 in 2018″. I mentioned the video on Instagram and within 20 minutes my husband called me from work and said, “How’d you do that”? Really, dude? His reaction was hilarious to me because I’m always talking about retirement and saving money at home. But seeing is believing. That 10 mins. video motivated him more than my years of ‘finger wagging’ ever could.

Lesson #3: Even if your spouse isn’t a money nerd, he or she needs to be involved.

Although Eric and I never had a discussion at the beginning in our marriage about who would manage the money, it was always an unspoken assumption (by both of us) that I would do the heavy lifting in this area. But as our family grew and life got busy, I became resentful that I was the only one interested in the money stuff.

And what I recently realized was that I was doing myself, Eric, and our kids, a disservice by giving my husband ‘a pass’ when it came to dealing with money matters.

But by relieving my husband of the responsibility to dealing with the money I was robbing him of a critical ‘adulting’ skill. Even if it isn’t fun, it’s necessary for both parties to be familiar with household money management.

This became abundantly clear to both myself and my husband in 2016 when I had to go on in-hospital bed rest at 25 weeks while I was pregnant with our 3rd child.

I was a physical and emotional mess and couldn’t worry about sending off the mortgage or writing checks for the bills. But my husband had NO idea how to do these things. Because he had never had to do it before. And it scared both of us. From that point on, we both realized a change was necessary.

Lesson #4: Craft a shared vision for your future together. 

In the past, whenever I broached the subject of the budget or cutting expenses, I could see my husband’s eyes glaze over with each passing moment. So, instead of talking about the budget directly, I now prefer to discuss money through the lens of shared goals and vision.

Why, you ask? Because inevitably, discussing your future will lead back to a discussion about money. For my husband (and many men), they are more excited about the ‘why‘ behind the budget. Budgeting alone doesn’t move them. For example, Eric and I both love to travel, so if I say…we can travel more if we scale back on the budget here…He’s much more likely to respond and get on board with the budget changes.

Final Thoughts

  • Whether you’ve been married 5 months or 15 years, it’s never too late to communicate better with your spouse about money.
  • If you’re unmarried but in a serious relationship, it’s important to discuss finances early on
  • Establish your own money norms within your relationship
  • Two heads are always better than one, but be comfortable walking alone until your spouse catches up

If you’re married, what is the biggest marriage and money lesson you’ve learned?