The way that worked best for us was to divide those items into two groups. I took responsibility for the expenses that were somewhat automatic with respect to the amount and date due — for example, monthly mortgage, life insurance premiums, utilities, and tuition payments. These were typically paid by check.

Susie took those categories where purchasing decisions were involved — birthdays, clothing, household items and repairs — and we set aside an amount in an envelope for each one. These were handled like the weekly envelope system except she didn't need to carry them with her.

5. Be disciplined in staying within your agreed upon limits. The reason you need to closely monitor your spending is so you will know if you're on target or whether mid-course adjustments are needed. This gives you a certain degree of flexibility. If you spend more than you expected in one area, you can cut back in another.

For example, an unexpected dental bill of $200 may have to come out of your "recreation" envelope if the "medical" envelope is already empty. Or, you might prefer to take $20 out of ten different envelopes to spread the shortfall around and lessen the impact on any one category.

6. Be mutually supportive. Susie was great! She wasn't critical or complaining in any way. In fact, she continually reminded me that God was our source of supply, and we would just need to do the best we could while waiting on Him to send a solution. Her positive attitude was a tremendous encouragement to me as we "tightened our belt."

It was key to have her cooperation. If you and your spouse aren't of one mind as to the importance of developing and living out this kind of lifestyle, conflicts will arise frequently! So focus on working together toward a common goal of improving your overall financial situation.

Austin C. Pryor, Jr., founder of Sound Mind Investing and author of the Sound Mind Investing Handbook, is an American financial writer, speaker, and radio personality whose work focuses on investment counseling from an evangelical Christian point of view.

Publication Date: June 15, 2012