Family Finances…And Fights

Thanks for joining us for our Made for Adventure Marriage series.  Be sure to check out the Kid Project’s post on ‘Fighting for your Wife’.  Today, we will be discussing a highly emotional topic: FINANCES!

I can think of no other topic that has caused more arguments in our marriage than money.  Sadly, we’re not alone.  Numerous studies site that money is one of the top reasons that couples fight.  One study done at Utah State University even found that couples who disagree about finances once a week were 30% more likely to get divorced than couples disagreeing about finances a few times a month.  (found here).  Holy scary!  Obviously this is a major problem in most marriages.  Is there something that can be done to avoid it?  Absolutely.

First off, let me give you a little background on our finance situation.  Andrew’s an accountant (who’s in the process of becoming a Financial Planner) so it’s pretty apparent that he knows more about money than I do.  Afterall, with a Master’s degree and endless work experience, he pretty much should be an expert.  Well, with all that experience, comes a lot of money baggage because has all sorts of different ideas and proposals about our spending and savings.  I just want to make it through our budget and move on.  Basically, there are many times that we sit down and talk about money and he starts going off on all sorts of accountant talk, I end up lost and upset, and we go to bed without talking.  Oh, let me step back.  First I cry a little bit (other people make me yell, but Andrew makes me cry), and then we go to bed without talking.  I know – BAD!  Then after going through this cycle for a couple of months, I’d give up and tell him that since he was the accountant, he could just handle our finances all by himself.  Sounds logical, but still a bad idea.

For years, we were stuck in this rut.  Then something happened.  I stopped being so psycho and let go of my emotions for a while.  Because let’s face it – this was something that we had to do together.  I did most of the household spending, while Andrew had his professional expertise.  We agreed that we would sit down every Wednesday night after the kids are in bed and talk about money.  We would track our spending and savings so that each week we knew where we were at.  Honestly, the first few weeks bordered on torture, with some tears mixed in there.  However, now that we are in the habit of doing it, it takes about 20 minutes and then we usually just end up talking the rest of the night.  It’s actually become a time that we both look forward to.

Now we’re no experts (okay, Andrew actually IS one), but here are a few tips that we’ve found help us minimize financial disagreements:

1.  Set up a budget that you can both agree on.  Make it something that will cause you to be responsible, but not so restrictive that it causes you ulcers. A great guideline that we are shooting to get to is a 50% fixed, 30% fun and 20% savings goal.  Right now we are closer to Fixed costs 70%, Wants 15% and Savings 15% mainly because we are plowing a good chuck of extra money towards our house and we pay tithing, which are lumped into that 70%.  One of the best things we did as a couple was to listen to finance books as we were on our trips. For instance, we listened to All Your Worth on a road trip from Colorado to Yosemite, CA and since we were both captive, we were able to discuss money and goals without any pressure of specifics.

2.  Agree on the big things.  Sure, you probably won’t see eye to eye on everything, but make sure that you are on the same page with big things:  Savings, debt management, and retirement goals. When you still have disagreements, use a scale to understand how important certain items are to each other. “Honey, on a 1 – 5 scale, savings is a 4 for me, what is it for you?” That gives you a perspective of how to approach different areas and where the give and take can be. 

3.  Be upfront about big purchases.  Set a price limit on how much you can spend without first discussing it.  For us, we don’t spend anything over $50 without first talking about it even though we still would discuss it when we do our weekly finance night (groceries and trips to the fabric store with my Mom are the exception!).

4.  Reward yourself.  Finances are difficult and emotional to deal with.  Set financial goals with a reward when you reach it.  For us, this is often a weekend away without the kids, a special date, or a fun purchase.  We also have savings goals and rewards associated with those.  When we hit our $10,000 emergency fund goal, we took a three-day vacation, alone.  When we hit our $100,000 savings goal, we’re doing a 2 week float trip down the Grand Canyon. Rewards attached to the goals give you motivation and desire to obtain them.  

Now how does this relate to having an adventure marriage?  Obviously, you can’t have one if you’re constantly fighting.  However, if you’re working towards the same things, adventures become much easier.

For us, goal setting and finances are tightly tied together.  We have big goals and dreams for our family that will require good chunks of money.  Mostly, we want to travel with our kids and let them experience the world and how other people live.  For us, we’ve decided that the easiest way to do that is to have no debt.  Currently, we only have our mortgage.  We’ve paid cash for our cars and have no other debts and we’re going to keep it that way.  Our goal is to have our house paid off within 10 years so that we still have lots of time to travel before Mason goes to college.  Now, this is by no means a simple task.  Andrew makes an okay salary, but nothing big, while I stay home with the kids.  To keep us on track with our savings goals, we have about 10 different online savings accounts.  We have them set up to automatically withdraw money every month, so that it never really becomes part of our regular checking account (where it’s super easy to just spend it).  Here are some of the things we are saving for:  Emergencies, Retirement, Mason’s college, Chloe’s college, home repairs, new(er) cars, Church contributions, gifts, annual payments (like insurance), and vacations.

The account that makes it all worth it is our vacation account.  What’s the point of working like crazy to save for awesome trips if we don’t get to enjoy life along the way.  Now our vacation account is very modest right now.  Most of our trips are spent in a tent, or with family so we end up not needing to spend a lot of money that way.  However, it pays for gas for road trips, ski passes, a National Parks pass, our anniversary trips, and lots of ice cream stops along the way.  This way, we never have to worry about not being able to afford a simple trip.  This is the account that makes having an Adventure Marriage SO. MUCH. EASIER.  

The key here is to decide on the amount and AUTOMATE IT!  The best thing is this virtually eliminates these items from our budget discussions. We may revisit and tweak the amounts every few months, but for the most part, we don’t even think about them until it is time to buy the plane tickets, go on the trip or play.  The great thing is since we planed for it, the money is already there.

Face it, you decide how you spend your money.  Why don’t you decide on what’s most important to you, automate it and then only worry about the smaller things. It’s rewarding when we know that we’ve diligently saving all year and our reward is getting to go out and play together.  Honestly, all of the financial stress seems to leave when we look at how far we’ve gotten with our savings and all that we can do with that.  We’re by no means rich, but by working hard at saving, we are able to eliminate a lot of financial stress and feel free to enjoy life together.

Finances can make your marriage better, and yes, even more adventurous.

If there are any aspects that you struggle with finances that you might want us to discuss further, please leave a comment and we’ll see how we can help.


  • Amelia says:

    Awesome. Our thoughts exactly. And we actually have our “have to talk about it” limit set to $20. Holding each other accountable, rewarding each other, being vigilant with your budget – all really help our marriage too! Way to go against society….and oh the happiness that brings!!! :)
    Thanks for sharing!
    (*And high five for trying to get the house paid of ASAP – we are working on that too as fast as we can!*)

  • Eva says:

    Amen! We’ve begun a paper budget taped to the wall of our bedroom that we subtract from with each and every purchase, just to keep careful track of where we are in different spending areas, then we refer to how much is left before we make additional purchases. That sort of accountability maximizes our savings.

  • I hate money.
    We have to do a cash budget, because all of the budgeting in the world, we are just not disciplined enough to stick to it. Cash helps…

  • Great article! Finances have caused many tears over here too! Our goals- to pay off our house, to stay on budget and live with in our means… and to have fun with the extra money we can save for family adventures! But it isn’t easy. In fact, we recently went to a cash budget to get a handle on the over spending. It is hard, but helps a lot. Cause at the end of the month, if we don’t ahve money left, we have to wait and it is good for us. Thanks for this.

  • Tristen says:

    Great post. We’re debt free too, it does bring so much peace. Although we do sort of wish we were working toward paying off a mortgage but are a little mobile at the moment to buy a house. Do you guys use ING Direct and have multiple accounts there? We’re working still on our 3 month liquid savings account, though thinking about going back to school which pretty much ruins any and all savings goals that we set/work toward. Sheesh. But I have been stashing away pretty much every single extra dollar toward that ING Direct account but need to make new accounts under our main one with actual allocations, rather than one lump sum of money. Interesting, interesting, interesting.

    • bringthekids says:

      We a combination of ING Direct and Emigrant Direct for our different savings accounts. It makes all the difference to have multiple accounts so that we keep our different savings goals separate (you know, so we don’t spend the kids college money remodeling the bathroom…)

  • Cami says:

    This was a great post. We have been working on this and after a couple years of learning how to budget and save we are also on a smooth financial path. Just recently we were going to buy a new car and got rear-ended on the way to the dealership. This accident made us re-think our decision. We ended up paying cash for a car with 50k more miles on it than the car we were planning on buying. This saved us $20k in debt, which we all know is a lot more than just $20k. Our life has been one big adventure, which I love, and it would not be possible without good money management. We control our money, it does not control us and because of this disagreements over money are practically non-existent. I wish more families could catch this financial freedom vision, I think it would mean a lot more happy families staying together…I would really like that.

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