Money can be a really sensitive subject. Our views about it are shaped by the way we were raised, the things we observe, our own experiences, and how much (or how little) we have. It invokes feelings of security, insecurity, anxiety, happiness, stress, fear, and jealousy. It’s one of the major sources of marital disagreements. To remove some of the emotion and personal feelings around the way you view finances, here are three money attitudes you can adopt today – regardless of whether you’re in a time of financial difficulty or a season of abundance.
Money is a tool. Money is not good. Money is not evil. It is simply a tool. Money is no more evil than a hammer. If a hammer is used to whack someone in the head it can be pretty damaging, but in and of itself, it’s just a tool – and a pretty useful one at that. It’s a tool that can be used to bless other people, purchase basic needs for your family, and maybe even achieve some of your dreams.
An unhealthy perspective about what money is affects how you handle it. If you view money as restricting, you might avoid effectively managing it. If you view it as a source of happiness your pursuit of it might take over your life. If you view it as stressful, it might be difficult to communicate with your spouse about it. Money is not stressful; the lack of it can be.
Money is just a tool. Yes, it is an important one. You can’t buy food for your family with hammers. You need money to do that. But step back and evaluate what characteristics you have been assigning to money – and whether that attitude is hindering your ability to effectively use this powerful tool.
Joint money management is part of a healthy marital relationship. There might be one person in a couple that is more detail-oriented, future-oriented, or just plain better at budgeting. I feel you. I’m that person in my house. However, while one person might excel at the visioning and mechanics of the family’s finances, it is still a two person job.
Marriage is a journey toward one-ness – including the family’s finances. When one person “takes care” of their spouse by taking sole responsibility for the family’s finances – through exclusion and uninvolvement – it creates dependency rather than partnership. It can even cause the marital relationship to resemble more of a parent-child relationship in this area. While the motivation is well-intentioned and noble, the result can be harmful. Can one person care for the other by taking on the tasks of paying the bills, balancing the checkbook, and drafting a budget? Absolutely. But the lesser-involved spouse still needs to be fully informed of the financial situation and take equal responsibility for the health of the family’s finances.
Similarly, if a couple maintains separate finances within their marriage they are cheating themselves out of the benefits of working together in unity toward common goals. Not only is joint financial management an exercise in financial discipline, but it’s also an exercise in marital communication, compromise, and teamwork toward your goals and dreams. It’s hard work that moves you towards one-ness.
Change your language to reflect responsibility. “We can’t afford it.” How many times have you thought or said that when pondering a purchase? I challenge you to ban that phrase from your family’s vocabulary. “We can’t afford it” is language that implies your finances are controlling you. Instead, try this: “It’s not in the budget.” This shows that you are managing your money, and not the other way around.
Certainly, some budgets are leaner than others. And “tropical beach vacation” may not be in the budget because “feed my kids” was your priority. But that’s a very respectable decision and one you should own. YOU made that decision to prioritize your money. Your money didn’t make that decision for you.
This language also teaches your kids that life is about choices – sometimes tough ones. Additionally, “we can’t afford it” can be a source of embarrassment or even shame for kids (and adults, too!). Crafting a budget allows you to prioritize your spending according to your family’s values and then take ownership for your decisions. The budget is constructed by your family’s values – NOT your family’s worth. You’re not passing over a purchase because you can’t afford it or because you’re not good enough to own it. You’re not buying it because you chose to prioritize your money for something else that you decided was more important. You decided that it wasn’t in the budget.
No matter your balance in the bank, remember that it does not equal your worth. Money does not equal happiness, but it does equal CHOICE. Choosing how to spend it allows you to live more authentically and more in line with your family’s values. Money is a tool and can even bring you closer to your spouse; implementing small changes in your attitude and language can remove some of the wild emotions behind it and make those money matters easier to work through – together.