My husband and I have taught PreCana for over 15 years. We cover many subjects with our engaged couples: sexuality, addiction and finances, and yet we are constantly surprised by the lack of conversation and planning our couples have completed regarding financial concerns in marriage. With financial issues listed as one of the top causes of divorce, it seems that we should not be afraid to dig into this topic.
Finances can be managed by understanding three main ideas: attitude, budget and charity. We call these the ABCs of Finances.
People often (mistakenly) believe that the amount of money, or lack thereof, is the problem in their relationship. This is really not the case. Attitudes about money and feelings associated with it play a much bigger role. In fact, if a couple does not communicate effectively (their ideas associated with money) their marriage may suffer even when they start to earn a higher income.
My husband and I are a good example of coming into marriage with very different ideas about money. My husband grew up in an upper middle class family, in which his dad worked several jobs so that they had whatever they needed when they needed it. He lived in the same house for most of his life and never really questioned the financial stability of his family. I lived in a family in which we struggled financially. Due to divorce, several moves and a large family, we knew that there was never an abundance of financial security. I often joke with my husband that for me, “being rich is when the pantry is full.”
Both situations developed strengths and weakness in how we view and manage money. I have always been very frugal and admittedly fearful about losing the security of resources. It’s hard for me to spend, even at the grocery store, without feeling a little sick to my stomach. My attitudes have helped me to be very good at saving, but almost paranoid about spending money (even when necessary). It can become a stumbling block for me. My husband had the opposite issue; he didn’t save well, but he also recognized the value of using money as a tool to enjoy life. We needed to communicate our feelings around our resources in order to be on the same page in managing them. A trip to the sacrament of reconciliation can also help us if we have become aware that our attitudes about money have become sinful in anyway.
Many people give up on a budget when they realize their outgo is more than their income. That is because they are starting on the wrong side of the equation. Before a budget can be discussed, an individual or couple must know where they are spending money. We suggest keeping a strict journal of spending for a month. EVERYTHING must be recorded! Each cup of coffee, run into the grocery store for milk and toll on the thruway must be written down. Once the spending habits are identified, it is much easier to see how we can budget. Be sure to consider long- and short-term financial goals and once-a-year expenses that are often left out of budgets.
Identify the strengths within the couple. My husband jokes that he was very good at planning our bill-paying system. He would make pie charts and organize all our spending. The problem was he was so busy planning he forgot to actually pay the bills. I am much better at keeping track of our finances, so after a few years of failing at the traditional roles (he thought it was the man’s job and so did I), we put finances in my hands and we have been pretty good at managing things ever since. Programs such as Dave Ramsey’s can also assist a couple in developing a good budget.
God cannot be outdone in generosity. The idea of giving, especially when we are feeling financially stretched, is challenging. However, when we remember that someone is always struggling more than we are, it becomes easier to be generous. We can also give not just of our treasure, but of our time and talent.
When we only look at our own needs, it can cause us to put money ahead of the needs of others and true stewardship of resources. Financial security can own our hearts and be near occasion of sin for us. In our marriage, we found that it was easier to be generous and trust God when we had nothing, then when we accumulated some limited wealth. The closer we got to college for the kids and retirement for ourselves, the harder it was to be generous with what God had given us. We found peace by reminding ourselves that God had provided in the lean times and would do so again if necessary. We discussed our fears honestly and found ways to give up small things in order to redirect that money to tithing to our church or other forms of charity.
Following these ABCs can help put us on a path to spiritual and financial growth.
Copyright 2016 Mary Lou Rosien