Counting Pennies

In some marriages, “counting pennies” means being very frugal and saving every penny you get. But in other marriages, “counting pennies” means turning over sofa cushions to find enough change to get the bills paid.

I looked back over the last year of blog posts and realized I have not written any posts on marriage and money management. Maybe that’s because, unlike other areas of marriage that come fairly easy, money management is an area of marriage that’s never really come natural to me. (My wife is the financial strength in our marriage.)

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve always been able to pay our bills, meet our obligations, and even save some money, but it just doesn’t come as natural as other things.

I remember where we really started to learn about managing money. I had quit my job with a major oil company and moved my family to Ft. Worth, TX to start grad school. It was quite an adjustment, not having the regular, generous income and benefits we were use to. It seemed like every time the car insurance would come due, we were turning over cushions and counting pennies to pay it. Then, once we paid it, we forgot about it until the next time it rolled around. Then the frantic scrounging would start again.

One day, frustrated with this on-going cycle, I thought to myself, “What’s wrong with me? I’m a smart guy. I have a college education. I know this bill is due every 6 months. It’s simple math. I divide the amount of the bill by 6 and that’s how much I need to put away each month to pay that bill. It’s not rocket science!”

So we started with the car insurance. Each month we put aside a little money in an envelop for our car insurance. In 6 months when the bill was due, we simply put the money in the bank and wrote a check. No stress. No worry. No drama. It was wonderful. Little by little, we started incorporating other items into our envelope system, and gradually we got our finances in order.

As you can see, I’m by no means an expert on money management, but I know that you cannot ignore money management and have a strong marriage. Finances are as important to marriage as communication, conflict resolution, and sex. You have to pay attention to your finances and handle them well.

So here are 4 simple, easy-to-understand money management principles that will help you count your pennies and make your marriage better…

  • Don’t spend more than you make. Too many people let easy credit lure them into spending more money than they make. This can put undue stress on your marriage and be a breeding ground for a lot of conflict. Don’t spend more than you make. In fact, you need to spend less than you make so that you’ll have some margin for the unexpected.
  • Don’t spend money now that you will need later. The reason we used to have trouble paying our car insurance was that we were spending money that felt like extra money, but it was actually money we needed 6 month down the road. Think ahead. Plan for the future and don’t spend money now that you will need later.
  • Don’t spend money without a plan. One way to make sure you’re not spending money now that you will need later is to develop and follow a plan for how you’re going to use your money. Yes, this is called a budget. Many people cringe at the word “budget.” They look at it as something that’s punitive and keeps them from getting what they want. When in reality, a spending plan will actually help you get what you want and keep you out of trouble.
  • Don’t spend all your money on yourself. This may seem counterintuitive, but generosity actually helps your money management. It keeps you from becoming totally selfish and self-focused, and it leads you to learn to live on less so that you can give to the needs of others.

You can have great communication and conflict resolution skills. You can have a great friendship and great sexual intimacy. But if you don’t manage your finances well, your marriage will not endure the strain. So count your pennies and follow the 4 principles above. If you do, you’ll not only be counting your pennies, you’ll be counting your blessings.

Share your story about marriage and counting pennies. We can learn from each other.

Copyright © 2015 Bret Legg