GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)--Newly married couples should be able to accomplish more in harmony in every way than they ever could accomplish separately -- and that certainly includes the way finances are handled. So, it's important that both wife and husband understand that it's not to be "my" money and "your" money; it needs to be seen as "our" money.
Financial adjustments for newlyweds are seldom easy, because both have been accustomed to making money decisions on their own -- and probably feel they're pretty good at it. So here are some suggestions. Let's call them financial tips for newlyweds.
Although many people have credit card problems, the real problem isn't the credit card. The problem lies in the misuse of credit cards. Contrary to popular belief, credit cards are not essential, but they can be a great convenience. And if newlyweds will agree, the following simple guidelines will help avoid difficulties.
- Never use credit cards to buy anything that is not in your budget for the month. Obviously, that means you should have a budget.
- Pay your credit cards off every month -- no exceptions.
- The first month you're unable to pay the balances on your credit cards, destroy them.
Yes, it's simplistic and it works. Commit yourselves to do this and it's unlikely that you'll ever have credit card trouble.
God usually puts opposites together. So, whoever is the better bookkeeper should keep the books. However, both husband and wife must develop their financial plans together.
If financial problems should arise, especially with things like delinquent bills, the husband should take charge and work out arrangements with creditors. He is the biblical authority in the home and is to bear the emotional pressures of creditor harassment. "Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her" (Ephesians 5:25).
There are several common problem areas to watch for:
- Don't become extreme or legalistic with financial matters -- and don't try to control the other spouse's spending.
- Maintain the discipline necessary to stay on your budget -- the spending plan -- together. Think about how you'll spend your money before you have problems; it's not nearly as depressing as trying to deal with it afterward when you're trying to climb out of a financial hole.
- Beware of the "more-money-in, more-money-out" syndrome. Don't spend more simply because you have more, especially if the extra money is temporary income or income generated by the wife, because this kind of money: 1) could be needed if you and your spouse becomes pregnant, 2) might evaporate if you're laid off, 3) could be lost through a job transfer, or 4) or could be needed through a variety of other fill-in-the-blank circumstances.
- Don't include the wife's income in your monthly budget. Instead, use that money for savings and one-time purchases such as a car or a down payment on a house.
- Don't think that "a little debt won't hurt." Generally, "little debts" come from things like a "needed" vacation that's more expensive than you can afford or gifts or a car you had to have. If you develop a cycle of debt it grows quickly, and you'll find yourself borrowing more just to make payments on the money you borrowed.
- Don't use automatic overdrafts of your checking account -- by design they become bank loans and can run into thousands of dollars before you realize it.
- Avoid ATMs if possible. This may be a bit like talking to a hurricane, because ATM use is so prevalent. However, if you fail to log ATM withdrawals in your checkbook, you'll end up writing bad checks. Also, it's easy to develop the habit of using cash withdrawals to buffer your budget when you've overspent your original allocations.
- Be absolutely committed to balance your checkbook monthly -- to the penny. It's not difficult to do and banks have convenient forms that show you how to do it.
- Don't become discouraged if your budget doesn't work the first month you try it. Developing a realistic spending plan takes time. Habits change slowly, especially the spending habits of two people who will have to operate as one.
Entrust your finances to God and His principles and He will be faithful to provide for your needs. An operating budget -- a financial plan -- is a sign that you want to employ God's biblical wisdom in your finances.
Keep in mind that everything you have belongs to the Lord. As newlyweds, you own nothing in the long-term sense. You are just managers of what God has provided for you. He blessed your lives by bringing the two of you together, so now honor Him in all that you do as you live your lives as one.
To summarize the tips: Start your marriage on a sound basis by trusting God and His Word. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7).
Howard Dayton is co-founder of Crown Financial Ministries and the current host of Crown's radio program, "Money Matters." Dayton and the late Larry Burkett joined forces in 2000 when Crown Ministries, led by Dayton, merged with Christian Financial Concepts, led by Burkett. The new organization became Crown Financial Ministries, on the web at www.crown.org.
Copyright (c) 2008 Baptist Press. Used with permission. All rights reserved.