How to Stop Money From Destroying Your Marriage

by Kailey Hagen | Updated May 10, 2022 - First published on May 9, 2020

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A young couple smiling and chatting while sitting on a brick ledge in front of green bushes.

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Follow these financial tips to keep your marriage blissful.

Follow these financial tips to keep your marriage blissful.

It's surprisingly common: Seven in 10 people said they've committed at least one act of "financial infidelity," according to The Ascent's recent survey. Marrying someone isn't just a commitment to not see other people -- it's an agreement to tackle all of life together, including your finances. But for some couples, the strain of managing money together proves to be too much. They argue over purchases and hide things from  each other, and eventually, it all falls apart.

There are never guarantees a marriage will work, but you can increase the odds of maintaining a healthy relationship with your spouse -- and your money -- if you follow these four tips.

1. Choose a money management system that works for both of you

There are three basic ways couples can manage their money. They can merge everything into joint bank accounts; they can keep money in separate accounts and agree who will pay which bills; or they can keep joint accounts for household expenses and separate accounts for personal expenses. One strategy isn't necessarily better than the other.

Joint accounts give both spouses access to funds whenever they need them, but this can spark arguments if you and your spouse don't agree on how your money should be spent. Separate accounts eliminate that problem, but can lead to secrecy about how one or both spouses are managing money.

Talk with your spouse about the best way to manage your finances, and listen to their arguments if there's a difference of opinion. If you decide to keep your accounts separate, decide who will pay for what so you both know how to budget appropriately. If you're keeping joint accounts, decide whether you need mutual agreement before making large purchases. Some couples set a limit -- you can buy anything under the limit without talking to your spouse, but if you want to buy something more expensive, both of you have to approve.

2. Don't hide your debt

Debt can be stressful in a marriage, especially if it's high-interest debt like credit card debt, or debt that you're behind on. Not only will this result in late fees, it could also ruin your credit, which might make it more difficult for you to secure loans together in the future. 

Be honest with your partner about any debt you're carrying, and agree on a repayment plan. Make a list of all your debts and record their balances, interest rates, and minimum payments. You must make the minimum payment on all of your debts every month to avoid penalties. Beyond that, you should focus on one debt at a time. Start with the debt with the highest interest rate first if you're trying to pay the least amount of money overall. When that's paid off, move onto the debt with the next-highest interest rate, and so on.

Consider a balance transfer card if you have credit card debt. This will temporarily stop your balance from growing, so your payments all go toward reducing your principal balance. A personal loan is another option. Interest rates aren't always the most affordable on these loans, especially if you don't have great credit, but they can give you a regular monthly payment and the assurance that your balance won't keep growing. 

3. Prioritize your savings goals together

You might have a different list of financial priorities than your spouse's. You'll progress more quickly if you're both on the same page about what you want to do with your savings every month. Make a list of your goals and your spouse's, and rank them in terms of importance. Choose a handful to start with and decide how much money to put toward each every month, and where you're going to store the savings. Keep in mind that the more goals you're saving for simultaneously, the slower the progress you'll make toward each.

You might save for some goals together, and others separately -- maybe a home together, and new vehicles separately. You might also choose to save for a goal separately if it's for something you want, like a new smartphone, that doesn't necessarily benefit your spouse.

4. Keep the lines of communication open

The most important thing is keeping lines of communication about money open with your spouse. You might not get your new budget exactly right the first time, and that's okay. Talk it over with one another, and make adjustments as needed. Keeping each other in the loop will ensure that your spouse doesn't feel blindsided by any changes you make, or like you're hiding something from them. 

Even if everything is going smoothly, you should still check in with each other at least once per year to make sure you're still on the same page and to plan for any upcoming life changes or large expenses. These little check-ins can build trust and reduce arguments about how your money is managed. And that, of course, can make married life a lot smoother.

Having Trouble Budgeting? Check out The Ascent's Honeydue review. Honeydue is designed for couples who need to budget.

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