Money and Marriage

“Marry a woman more frugal then you,” is great advice from one of my favorite books, The Millionaire Next bread-winnerDoor.

As some guys will tell you, it’s a lot easier said then done.  For those guys that have married a frugal woman, money is usually not a problem in their marriage.  With my clients, when the woman handles the bill paying there is NEVER an issue with over spending.  Of course, that is also sometimes true when the man handles those chores in the marriage.  My dad’s advice to me was “It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich girl as a poor one”.  I didn’t listen to that (or at least my heart didn’t), but marrying a frugal woman was a huge financial bonus for our marriage.

If one spouse grew up with an “entitled” environment and the other spouse didn’t, that could lead to serious marital issues.  If your parent’s bought you a car for your sixteenth birthday or you never had to work as a teenager or help pay for things during college and your spouse had the opposite experience, you could imagine how having these different experiences could influence how you feel about money.  I grew up not “wanting” anything, but my mother knew where every penny went.  She shopped with a grocery list for the week’s meals and sewed patches on my blue jeans when there was a hole in the knee.  She is my main influence regarding my frugal ways.  My wife was one of eight children, her father died when she was only eight years old and with a strong mother, the family somehow survived and thrived.  As you could imagine, there was not any extra money to be spent.  I blog about our family vacations driving in the 2004 mini van with 150,000 miles not because we can’t afford to fly, but because of the values we wish to teach our kids.  How might they feel if and when they have kids and can’t afford to fly their family places?  I want them to remember how great driving vacations can be and not to feel inferior to their neighbors if they always choose to fly on vacation.  I take the money I saved from the plane tickets and save for their college, a much better use in my opinion.

The most common situation I come across is that when my clients were first married they made a HUGE mistake in buying their first home based on their joint income.  The financial problems begin when they decide to have a child.  Children are very expensive and the added cost of either daycare or the loss of income when a parent quits work to raise their child full-time create a financial squeeze that can be very stressful.  Parents will go into “survival mode” when this pinch comes and usually get by, but are unable to save any money toward future goals.


As the working spouse earns more money there are so many new things to spend money on for the child, therefore,  saving still gets the short end of the stick.  Usually a baby brother or sister is not too far behind and that means it’s time to move into a bigger home to accommodate the growing family.  More overhead, still not much money left over to save.  Babies have to be dressed “cute”, and be in all the best programs to keep up with the other kids in the neighborhood.  By the time I see them as new prospective client’s, these spending habits have led them to have with little savings other than a 401k, leaving them way behind for college and retirement savings goals.

If one spouse is more frugal than the other, they may argue about how to save or if they can afford to save.  Men and women often have a completely different value system.  A big screen HD TV or a new washer/dryer? This can also get in the way of a happy marriage.  Lastly, the working spouse may feel guilty about the time spent away from the family and the non-working spouse may feel entitled to spend anyway they want in the name of being a good parent.

This can manifest every month when the credit card bill(s) shows up in the mail.  In many cases, this is the most stressful day of the month for the working spouse paying that bill.  Believe it or not, the typical man (or breadwinner) will not tell his spouse how much this stresses him out or ask that they cut back.  From my experience, when the bill payer is the non-working spouse, the couple’s spending is kept in check and they are usually very successful financially.

Ultimately, your money should be guarded much more closely than it is for most people.  We are all bombarded everyday with more ads and opportunities to part with our money than we could have ever dreamed about growing up.  Every time you say “yes” to a purchase or impulsive buy, you are saying “no” to funding your significant financial dreams.

The solution is to meet with your spouse (and financial advisor) and discuss your most important goals and dreams in your life.  Once those are agreed upon, examine if you are on pace to meet them or what money needs to be directed toward them to make them happen.  This is a powerful exercise and should give you the willpower to say “no” to impulsive, marginal purchases and redirect that money to the most important goals in your marriage.


Related Posts:

10 Ways Budgeting Saved My Marriage

3 Ways to Slow Down Your Personal Spending

Spend Money or Save It?- Daily Decisions



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