Money + Marriage: How to tackle the topic as a team

We spoke with nationally recognized financial expert Lauren Lyons Cole about how to talk about money in your marriage

Money + Marriage: How to tackle the topic as a team

Money can be tricky ground to cover in a marriage.


Gone are the days when you can online shop to your heart’s content ? or splurge on an expensive girlfriends-only vacay with no one to answer to but yourself (and your bank account.)

Nope. When you’re married you’re at the stage in life where any financial decision you make will not only impact yourself, but your family as well. And that can be a tough pill to swallow.

And this generation of new moms has a lot on their plate. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it’s estimated that outstanding student loan debt in America has hit the $1 trillion mark. Student loans have now taken the second highest debt spot in our country, behind mortgages and slightly ahead of credit cards. Now throw in that first big family trip to Disney you’ve been dreaming of planning, the bigger house you’re saving for, and your little one’s childcare cost...needless to say, we have a lot on our financial plates.

Debt, savings, and budgeting are sitting there waiting for you to cut right into them...not at your husband. So how do you talk about that financial plate you share with your partner?

We chatted with Certified Financial Planner and nationally-recognized financial expert Lauren Lyons Cole about how you can come up with a realistic budget for your family and the best tools to do so as a team.

When dealing with debt in a marriage, or a specific savings goal, many experts recommend having a budget. What are your tips for creating a realistic budget together?

Typically, spenders and savers end up married to each other, which can lead to a lot of tension around money. It’s relatively easy to create a budget, but it’s a lot harder to stick to it. One of the best things you can do, surprisingly, is leave room for both partners to have some “fun money.” If the budget is tight, that could be as little as $10 or $20 a month each.

Are there any budgeting tools you recommend to help you stick to your budget?

I love Mint! Sweep is another good app. And many people have success with You Need A Budget.

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Can you talk a bit about communication between a couple in regards to sticking to the budget? How often should you check in with one another about numbers? How often should you talk about how it’s going for each of you realistically and emotionally?

It’s always helpful to try to understand each other, rather than judge each other. Money is an emotional topic, so it’s important to be patient when discussing it. If money is particularly tight, checking in daily or weekly may be necessary. Otherwise, monthly or quarterly would be fine. The important thing is to remember to set aside time to focus on your money together, as much as you might not want to. Plan to reward yourselves after with something you both enjoy (that is within the budget).

It’s always helpful to try to understand each other, rather than judge each other.

When most couples today bring student loan debt into a marriage, and maybe even their own credit card debt, etc. — how do you decide what to tackle first? It can be overwhelming.

Debt can be very overwhelming, and most people do not like having it hang over them. Before coming up with a debt repayment plan, you really have to get a good handle on your budget. That way you’ll know where you can cut back so you can put more toward your student loans or credit card debt. Keeping up momentum is the biggest challenge, and different people respond to different motivators. Slow and steady might work well for one family, where speed might be better for another. Keep trying things until something sticks. If you haven’t been successful with one strategy, try another.

What advice do you have for the mother who goes to Target and spends $150 each time even though she usually only needs to buy diapers? (Asking for a friend...)

This is so normal! It happens to everyone. In fact, Americans spend about $200 a month on impulse purchases, which adds up to $2,400 a year. That’s enough for a fun family vacation! I think setting a fun savings goal can help curtail those purchases. It’s easy to overspend if you can afford it and don’t really have a reason not to. But if you’re saving up for something exciting, like a new car or a trip together, it makes it easier to cut back.

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