Of all of the benefits that have come into our lives due to our commitment to financial responsibility, one has had more of an impact than any other. In fact, I’d argue that it overshadows all of the other ones.
What’s that benefit? From what I can tell, Sarah and I have not had a single money argument in more than five years.
We don’t argue about debts. We don’t argue about each other’s spending. We don’t argue about each other’s little splurges. We just don’t argue about money any more.
During the early years of our marriage, money fights were fairly frequent. We’d say nothing about our finances for months, but then one of us would discover a problem and we’d argue viciously. Sometimes, those arguments would persist for days.
When we started turning our finances around, two vital things changed that made the arguments melt away.
One, we simply got our heads above water. We weren’t struggling on a daily basis to survive financially. The stress of being unsure what was going to happen next with our finances slowly went away.
Two, we started talking regularly about our finances. Rather than just saying nothing and letting uncertainly and mistrust build up until it exploded, we started having regular financial discussions.
At first, we set them aside rather formally, having money talks every week, then every month. Now, they just integrate into our regular conversations pretty smoothly.
If there’s a purchase that needs to be made, we talk about it. If one of us (or both of us) is considering a big splurge, we talk about it. If one of us notices an issue with a bill, we talk about it. If one of us is second-guessing a goal we have shared, we talk about it.
That last item alludes to another big part of our money conversations. We talk about goals. We talk about where we want to be in a few years and in twenty years, too. We have a basic framework of our family vacations planned out for the next decade or so and we know how to save for them. We’re in agreement with our plans to move to a country house in the future and we know what kind of land we’re looking for (right now, we’re just watching the real estate market).
This isn’t to say that we don’t have disagreements. We do. However, they’re far less frequent than they once were and, honestly, they mostly revolve around parenting issues and household tasks at this point. Money basically doesn’t come up as a disagreement point.
The biggest benefit of our money changes is that our marriage is stronger than it ever has been. Sarah is not just my wife. She’s my best friend. Having a strong relationship with her trumps almost everything else going on in my life. Getting our finances in order has helped that relationship tremendously.
If there’s one piece of advice that I can give to married couples everywhere, it’s that their relationship will be a lot stronger if they can get their finances in a strong place, share their goals, and start working together to achieve them. Doing that quickly turns money from a source of argument into a strong foundation of the relationship.