Marriage and family finances: Seven tips for sharing the load
It's important that both spouses are involved in handling the family finances.
Keeping your spouse involved in the management of finances can be a tough thing to do. In most situations, there is a nerd (as Dave Ramsey often puts it) in the family who likes doing the numbers stuff. The nerd pays the bills, manages the spending or cash flow, looks for great deals and works on cool spreadsheets.
Even though the nerd is doing all of these things, there is still another money manager in the family. It’s the nerd’s spouse. Now the spouse might not be as involved in day to day management. In many cases the spouse doesn’t have knowledge of how much money is in the bank account. Perhaps the spouse just knows how much he or she can spend on entertainment or clothes for the month and maybe a few other budget categories.
But, this is a dangerous approach to family finances. What if something happened to the family CFO? Would the spouse know how to step in and manage everything? And we are all considered financial stewards in God’s eyes. So, both spouses are responsible for managing resources that have been entrusted to their care by God. If one spouse isn’t involved, how can he or she be managing God’s resources wisely?
The answer lies in a few ideas to get the cool person, not the nerd or family CFO, involved in the family finances. The spouse doesn’t have to necessarily be involved in the day to day finances at the level of detail as the nerd, but should have knowledge of the resources and how they’re being used. So, if you are the nerd, consider these tips to get your spouse more involved in the management of family finances. He or she will appreciate it if done for the solid reasons I just mentioned.
1. Budget together every month
One of the most important things spouses can do together is budget their money together each month. Even though you have fixed spending in place, there are still planning decisions to be made each month for discretionary spending.
2. Provide a weekly status report
While the monthly meeting is important, so is a weekly meeting about money. All this requires is a review of spending for the major budget categories and a discussion around any new significant expenses required for the month. I like to think of it as a status meeting. If you want to take it to the next step, you can write down the balances of the major budget categories for your spouse so he or she knows the overall state of the spending plan.
3. Let your spouse tithe
One spouse may often pay the bills, tithe online, or even write out a check for tithing. Let the other spouse do this important task. Then, either give together online or take your check to church. I can’t stress enough the important of both spouses being involved in prayerful giving each month.
4. Let your spouse pay some of the bills
So along the same lines as above, perhaps your spouse can pay some of the monthly bills. Don’t overload the person who doesn’t normally do this work for the family, but giving them a few key bills to manage is a great way to involve the person and for them to fulfill being a good financial steward.
5. Let your spouse budget or manage areas within the budget such as grocery spending
Along with paying bills, this is another great way. Let your spouse perform the management of an entire budget area. For example, my wife is in charge of clothing for the children, she often buys the gifts for birthday parties and for other miscellaneous needs. She is responsible for knowing how much money has been allocated to those areas and for managing within those sub budgets or categories.
6. Provide visibility to your personal finance software
Turn over a copy of the keys to full viewing and access to the personal finance software. The spouse should be able to log into the account, find the budget and review spending against the budget categories. Looking a checking account balance is not nearly as helpful or as important as being able to know the budget balance by category.
7. Seek your spouse’s input
Finally, a great way to involve your spouse is to ask them questions and seek their input about financial decisions. You’re in dangerous territory if you’re managing the money on an island by yourself without financial counsel or advice from your spouse. If you’re a male, don’t make this mistake. Women have a great sense of intuition and often gifted with discernment. These are important qualities and characteristics you need on your family money management team.
What ideas do you have to involve your spouse in the management of family finances?
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