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Marriage is hard. And money makes it harder. This is true if you follow the status quo. But if you’re at all familiar with Mapped Out Money, you know that Nick and I think this idea is fundamentally flawed.
We believe money is a tool. A tool to achieve your dreams, a tool to make your life easier, a tool to improve your marriage, and ultimately, a tool to help you and your spouse live your adventure together.
But somehow in most relationships, money becomes a tool more in the sense of a crowbar… it digs itself in between you and your spouse and slowly pries you apart (while chipping off pieces of your spirit in the process).
Mawwiage Is What Bwings Us Togevah Today
During our first year of marriage, our money definitely acted like a crowbar. Whether it was arguing over buying a $20 necklace in the Bahamas on our honeymoon or cursing each other in hushed undertones in the Wal-Mart toilet paper aisle (because I will NOT use sandpaper to wipe my toosh!), money was always prying us apart.
While we still have a TON to learn (make sure you really get the emphasis on that ton), we are way better at managing our money as a team than we used to be.
So as the less enthusiastic budgeter in our household, I wanted to share the foundation that helped Nick and I get on the same page with money.
Figure Out Your Why
Nick and I talk about this a lot. And we really do believe this is the foundation for success in just about every area of life.
You have to sit down with your spouse and figure out why you even care to manage your money well. You don’t want well-managed money just so your bank account number will grow.
Because I hate to be the one to tell you this, but that bank account won’t go with you when you’re pushin’ up daisies…when your metabolic processes are of interest only to historians… when you’ve hopped the twig… when you’ve shuffled off this mortal coil… ok, enough Monty Python. I think you get the point.
Your money is a tool to help you live an adventure and leave a legacy… you just have to figure out what you want your adventure to look like and what you want your legacy to be.
You’ve Gotta Have Empathy
If you’ve read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, then you’re familiar with the concept of empathy in the business sense. But it also applies to marriage.
Full disclosure: I haven’t read this book. But Nick gave me the cliff-notes version. And if you’ve ever heard Nick’s cliff-notes explanation of something, you know that I’m fully qualified to discuss this book at length in a Harvard classroom. But anyway, back to empathy.
You have to figure out what makes your spouse care about money. Nick has always loved budgeting, investing, and any and all things related to money (except spending). Me, I like the spending. But Nick figured out pretty quickly how to get me excited about formulating a money plan… PETS.
Pets, Pets, and More Pets
We had one cat (The One, The Only… Walter Cronkat) when we got married. But I was dying to get a dog. Around the second year of our marriage, Nick realized that he could use this want to bring us together with money.
We sat down and discussed, in detail, the expenses of a dog. And I mean IN DETAIL. Nick made me realize just how expensive it is to have a dog. Not in a way that crushed my dreams, but in a way that gave us a goal to work towards together.
We knew there were certain breed traits we wanted in a dog, and we wanted to feed her high-quality food. We also wanted to pay for pet insurance to guard against any arguments that might arise due to a catastrophic illness or accident.
So we started a dog savings account. We put a little bit into it every month. And sometimes I’d even stick my spending money for the month in that account (which TJ Maxx knows is a big deal for me).
A year later, we had enough saved up and enough in our budget to pay for ongoing expenses associated with a dog… so we got sweet, little Scout.
Keeping Nick Happy While Spending On Pets
In Capital Gaines, Chip Gaines talks about life as a game of tug-of-war. He says life became easier for him and Jo when they stopped pulling on opposite ends of the rope against each other and started pulling on the same end of the rope together.
That’s exactly the transition that Nick and I experienced as we worked toward getting a dog. Nick figured out that saving for, and eventually spending money on, pets was a great motivator for me. And I figured out that Nick was happy to spend money on pets as long as we were meeting our long-term financial goals and sticking to our budget.
It’s About More Than Just Pets
Fast forward to now, and we have a happy little family of 2 cats and 2 dogs (AKA The True Zoo). While pets seem like a small example in the grand scheme of life, the strategy we used to plan and save for a dog helped us get on the same page with all aspects of money.
We realized the most important step to achieving anything in marriage… figure out what your spouse wants, figure out what you want, then figure out how to mesh those wants together and achieve your goals.
In other words, empathize with your spouse to develop a money plan that works for BOTH of you.
A Grander Why
After working together to get a dog, our why for our life and money started growing grander. Nick was restless at his engineering job, and I was set to graduate from Physical Therapy school in a year.
We started dreaming of full-time travel. We knew we didn’t want to move apartments every few months (like many travel PTs do). And we also knew we didn’t want to neglect saving for the future during this time.
So we began planning for Nick to leave his engineering job to focus on his freelance work and Mapped Out Money (which he worked on tirelessly while I was in PT school). And my future job as a travel PT provided the perfect transition into life on the road. But how could we avoid moving apartments every 3-4 months? Ding, ding, ding! Full-time RV life!
It’s a Continuous Process
We began saving for an Airstream and a truck, sold furniture out of our apartment, moved in with our parents while I finished school and Nick worked his final months as an engineer, and just kept chugging along toward this full-time travel goal. When I graduated, we were ready to hit the road!
But since then, our why has continued to evolve. Now we’re planning for things like owning rental property, saving a down payment for a house near family, saving for adoption, and building a life with enough flexibility and income to allow us to adopt a child with special needs.
These are just a few of the things driving every decision Nick and I make. And ultimately, these are the things putting us on the same page with money.
Don’t try to convince a resistant spouse to sit down and budget. Ask your spouse to sit down and talk about what you both want and how you can make those things a reality.
Just remember to hold your plans loosely. Because sometimes God has something else in store for you entirely. As Paula Pant (and Dwight D. Eisenhower) would say, “Planning is everything, but plans are nothing.”
Once you know what you’re working towards, motivation to establish and stick to a budget comes naturally. And if God throws you something outside the plan, you’ll be prepared to pivot appropriately.
Remember, money is a tool. Your money plan decides whether that tool is a crowbar prying you and your spouse apart, or a clamp holding you together.
More To Come
Our next post will be a follow-up to this article. It’ll include actionable steps to keep you and your spouse on the same page once you’ve established your foundation. So keep an eye out to make your mawwiage (and your money) bettaw!
As always, thanks so much for reading! Please reach out in the comments or through our contact page if there’s anything Nick and I can do to better serve you.