Money may not be able to buy happiness, but managing it correctly can certainly make married life less stressful. Too many marriages die an early death at the hand of financial mismanagement and others stay together but live in misery. What makes this even more difficult to stomach is that applying the basic principles I’ll discuss in this article can prevent this tremendous strain on marriage relationships.

Dan and Sherry lived in a two-story house in an expensive area of town. They made payments on the two brand-new cars parked in their driveway. Both worked very hard at their jobs and many of their meals were eaten at restaurants because neither of them had time or energy leftover to prepare supper at the end of the workday.

Both Dan and Sherry often worked late on job-related projects. Many days the couple saw each other only moments before they collapsed into bed. Because of the physical and mental stress placed on each of them by their careers, the two rarely felt like making love.

When Dan informed Sherry he wanted to divorce her, she was devastated. “We already have two separate lives,” he said. “I don’t even know who you are! We work so hard to fund all this stuff that we never get to work on our relationship.”     

If she wants to save her marriage, Sherry must implement the first and most basic principle when it comes to managing marriage and money. It may sound basic, but it is essential to mending her marriage. That rule, according to Joe Beam (marriage expert and president of Family Dynamics Institute) is “deciding what is most important.”

Sherry must choose between an expensive lifestyle and keeping her husband.

As you might expect, Sherry chose to save her marriage at any cost. She knew she might have to do without things she enjoys, but decided her marriage was worth it.

They realized that paying off their debt would be more difficult if one of them stopped working but decided to take semi-drastic measures in the plan they developed. The plan was to sell their new cars and large house. The cars sold for what Dan and Sherry owed on them. Fortunately, they were able to sell their home for more than they paid for it and used the extra money to buy two used cars. Because they were able to buy the cars outright, monthly car payments became unnecessary. The couple moved into an apartment and started making rental payments that were less than what they were paying each month on the house loan. At this point, they were financially able for Sherry to quit her job.

They decided credit cards would be for emergency situations only. When they needed something, they would pay with cash or check and if they wanted something but couldn’t afford it, they would save their money until it could be paid for with cash.

Dan and Sherry have completed step two — decreasing debt.

Sherry worked to make their home a place for each of them to rest and relax together. She found she enjoyed the days at home and felt much less stress then when she had a job. In addition to the money saved by selling their new cars and their house, they saved money that would have gone to restaurants because Sherry had time to cook regular meals at home. Dan and Sherry’s relationship improved because they spent more quality time together and had only one schedule to work around. Sherry also found she could comfort Dan with the stress of his job because she was less stressed herself.

But they didn’t stop there. After paying off their credit-card debt, they developed a budget that kept them on track so they could save the extra money at the end of each month. With that money, they contributed regularly to their savings account and the investments recommended by their financial advisor. After a few years, they had a sizable sum of money.