Let's talk about money
I remember the first time Thomas and I sat down and actually talked about what was going on in our bank accounts. My palms got super sweaty, we were eating wings and fries, trying to make it causal, and we just straight up talked about right now, how much we had in checking and savings. Lots of "ummm"s and "uhhh" and awkward pauses completed the conversation but at the end of it, I felt this relief. "We're going to be okay" I thought.
We weren't going to be okay necessary because we had a lot of money, in fact we didn't. But, I knew we were going to be okay because the dialogue had been opened up. "Communication is key" you hear that a lot; seriously, it is when it comes to your marital finances, or finances in general.
When money becomes an issue for women, we feel unsafe, unprotected because there is so much unknown. When money becomes an issue for men, they feel uncontrolled, irresponsible which leads to a lack in confidence.
I did some fact digging and here's what I found: finances and the struggle of is the number one cause of divorce in America. You may be thinking, "I'll marry rich so I don't have money issues" and I'm going to be real honest, you can't get away from them, honestly. You'll either have too much or not enough.
Money is always an awkward topic. When friends asked me to go to out to eat and I realized I didn't have cash on deck to do so, I'd sometimes make up another excuse because, let's face it, no one wants to talk about the dolla dolla bills. It's tense, awkward and something we like to keep to ourselves. This can lead to destruction, "what's hidden can never be healed." Handling your money well is Biblical. "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:10. Whether this is spiritual gifts, characteristic gifts or financial gifts, we must steward them well.
So, Thomas and I sought out some guidance on this issue, prayed about it and were actually gifted with an awesome wedding gift. My aunt and uncle gave us all the workbooks, audiobooks and classes for Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.
This is a must take. This is not a sponsored blog, I am not being paid to say this. Actually y'all, this is the best class I've ever taken in my life. It gives you the low down on saving for emergencies, how to invest in your 401K, Roth IRA, how to pay off your student loans or other debt and how to spend smart and how to set up a budget.
Ew, budget. Most of you probably just cringed. Let me clear something up; a budget is actually made for you, not against you. It provides healthy boundaries so that you can live the way that you want to. It gives you the power instead of your debit card. "If you don't tell your money where to go, it'll find a place to go itself." Dave Ramsey said it himself.
We meet in a class with other people in the community also signed up, once a week at a local church in Greenville, South Carolina. Thomas and I take the opportunity for date night and to get out and do something fun.
I love the class so much because not only have you opened up a tense topic in your family, but you've opened up the conversations with strangers in your class. You're able to see that you're not alone in this money thing. Talking about it and being vulnerable about it leads to so much more closeness and intimacy inside your home.
True story: when we first started the class, Thomas and I went one month budget free just to see how much we were use to spending and on what exactly. We'd log into our accounts and check out balances and always be shocked to see a massive decline in what we thought we had. But, if we know what we were spending, why was this a shock? Because there was no planning, no follow up and no idea where our priorities were set.
After that month, we sat down, looked at all the numbers and figured out that "oh my gosh, we spent that much on just coffee??" or "oops, yeah, sorry, I just really had to have that dress and shoes." We talked about priorities, we like to eat well and healthily, we like to have fun and go to concerts, we really don't care much about buying clothes (ehh, sometimes), we don't have kids to support, we really believe in tithing and saving. Once our "non-negotiables" were on the table we built a budget, a friendly guideline so that we don't blow all of our concert money on stupid stuff like "I'll just grab a granola bar" instead of waiting to drive 5 minutes to the house to fix food I already have in the fridge. (I bet you're catching on who's the spender and who's the saver, my bad.)
Here's how we track it. With another awesome money friendly tool we found, Mint. Mint is an app where you link up your bank account (I'm not skeptical but some are) and it tracks every time you swipe your card. When it catches a transaction it allows you to categorize it, in the budget you built, where you want it to go. Sometimes we pay for gas for a business trip for Thomas and it budgets that automatically, but then when he gets reimbursed, we're able to "pay ourselves back" on the app so that the money gets added back to our budget. Say goodbye to all the ins and outs and question marks that are normally left on the budget. That's the reason why it's easy to quit, it gets confusing. But, this app makes so much practical sense and keeps you accountable to every single swipe.
Like I said before, we like to eat healthily and we all know that healthy grocery lists full of produce and fresh meat are expensive lists. But, no fear! Thomas found another app, Flipp. Flipp allows you to put in your zip code and it brings up all the coupons that may be available in your area. You can add your grocery list and it searches for deals in your area so that you can plan your trip accordingly. You can even add your rewards cards to the app so that you don't have to keep up with your bulky wallet, you just scan the app when you want to get those points. This makes grocery shopping fun (for me at least.)
Men, they don't like to walk around a grocery store with ya, honestly. Sometimes, I don't want him there either to be real with ya because he sees that thing he "has to have" that's not on our list and you spend an hour in the grocery store instead of the allotted thirty minutes. I have an app for you kind of people, too. It's called Shopkick. Shopkick is great because it acts almost like a scavenger hunt. You get "kicks" or basically points for walking into a store, scanning a certain item and buying that item. For example, we were in Target and we got 50 kicks for walking in and then we had to find a certain brand of cat food and dog food and scan it to get 100 more kicks. Thomas goes and finds the items to scan and I do the shopping. It's a win-win scenario because each kick adds up to give you money on a gift card. Yes, you read that right. You are going on a scavenger hunt for gift cards. How could you not resist. Hand over the phone to your distracted BFF, boyfriend, husband, or kid and have them earn you money. Work smarter, not harder people.
Doing the money thing is totally possible, you just have to find the resources.
Are you able to still buy the things you want even though you share money with someone?
I get this question at least 3 times a week. I'll admit, I love to online shop, I love the dollar section at Target and I can't go past nail polish without purchasing a new color. Thomas knows this about me. I wouldn't consider it a "struggle" because there's nothing wrong with treating yourself. But, as soon as the "treating yourself" jeopardizes someone else's goal, it's no longer a treat. So, Thomas and I set aside money in our budget called Pocket Money, another Dave Ramsey piece of advice. It's allotted money that is set aside for us as individuals. We both get the same amount and we can spend it on whatever we want, coffee, drinks, nail polish, a new shirt, fishing gear (Thomas), anything we want. And because it's our own money and it's set aside for us as individuals, it alleviates the "you bought something else??" or "what's in the bag?" It actually makes us excited for one another when we buy something because it was agreed upon. Woohoo to freedom.
Marriage and finances should be the ingredients for success because you have someone that can keep you accountable on spending and saving, you also have someone to chat about your fears and failures within the world of finances and also, you have someone to share them with so when you can't make a decision on your own, you don't have to. These are all great "pros" to money + marriage but if you don't actually talk about it, none of these will occur.