How Do You Handle Money in Marriage?

Gary Chapman
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As we pursue oneness in marriage, it’s important to remember that when we’re starting out—and thereafter—it is no longer “my money” and “your money” but rather “our money.” In the same manner, it is no longer “my debts” and “your debts” but rather “our debts.” If you are to marry someone who owes $20,000 in student debt and you owe $50 on your Visa card, at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, you are collectively in debt $20,050. When you accept each other as a partner, you accept each other’s liabilities as well as each other’s assets.

Shared Finances

A full disclosure of assets and liabilities should be made before marriage by both partners. It is not wrong to enter marriage with debts, but you ought to know what those debts are, and you ought to agree upon a plan and schedule of repayment. Since they are going to be “our” debts, then “we” need to discuss and agree upon a plan of action.

When it comes to finances, you must move toward oneness.

I have known couples who failed to discuss this area sufficiently before marriage and awakened after the wedding to realize that together they had a debt so large that already they felt a financial noose around their necks. What a tragedy to begin marriage with such a handicap. In my opinion, a large debt without a realistic means of repayment is sufficient cause to postpone the marriage. Financial irresponsibility before marriage is an indicator of financial irresponsibility after marriage. Most couples have some debts when they come to marriage, such as student loans, and a full disclosure by each will allow them to face marriage realistically.

Your assets, too, are now joint assets. She may have $6,000 in a savings account and he may have only $80, but when they choose marriage “they” have $6,080. If you do not feel comfortable with this “oneness,” then you are not ready for marriage. Have we not established that the very motif of marriage is oneness? When it comes to finances, you must move toward oneness.

There may be cases where, because of very large estates, the couple may be wise to retain individual ownership of certain properties or assets for tax purposes, but for most of us, the principle of oneness implies joint savings accounts, checking accounts, property ownership, and so on. We are one, and so we want to express our oneness in finances as well as in other areas of life.

Since it is “our” money, then “we” ought to agree upon how it will be spent. Full and open discussion should precede any financial decision, and agreement should be the goal of all discussion. Remember, you are partners, not competitors. Marriage is enhanced by agreement in financial matters.

Agree On Purchases

One practical principle that can prevent much tragedy is an agreement on the part of both partners that neither will make a major purchase without consulting the other. The purpose of consulting is to reach agreement regarding the purchase. The term “major purchase” should be clearly defined with a dollar value. For example, the couple might agree that neither would ever buy anything that cost more than fifty dollars without such agreement. It is true that many flat-screen TVs would still be in the showroom if couples followed this principle, but it is also true that many couples would be far happier. Oneness between marriage partners is more important than any material purchase.

Pattern of Spending

Further, a couple needs to agree upon a pattern for their spending. The word budget frightens many couples, but in reality, all couples have a budget. A budget is simply a plan for handling money. Many couples do not have a written budget, and many do not have a very effective budget, but all couples have a plan. So the question is not, “Should we have a budget?” but rather, “How can we improve our budget?” “We already have a plan, but could we have a better plan?”

Marriage is enhanced by agreement in financial matters.

Budgeting need not be a burdensome bookkeeping procedure of recording every penny spent. Rather, a budget is a financial plan— simply an application of reason and willpower to the management of your income. You have the choice as to how your money will be spent. It is far better to make that decision based on reason in an open discussion with your mate than based on emotion when you stand in front of the salesclerk.

Be a Good Steward

Could there be a better way to utilize the resources you have? As a steward, it is your responsibility to find out. Why should you continue doing things the same way year after year, when a little time and thought could generate improvement? If anyone should feel motivated to make the most of financial resources, it is the Christian. As a believer, you are under divine orders, and all that you possess has been entrusted to you by God, to whom you must give an account (Matt. 25:14–30). Improved financial planning is not only for your benefit but also for that of the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33).

For Further Reading:

The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted

by Gary Chapman

Respected marriage counselor Gary Chapman looks at the key issues that will help you build the marriage you’ve always wanted, answering...

book cover for The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted