By Chris Hogan, Focus On Family (August 11, 2017)
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When you got married, you probably were given advice on how to make that union successful. Whether it was from your mom or your Uncle Steve, the people around you wanted to see your marriage deepen and grow. I do, too.
Since I didn't attend your wedding and offer my tidbit of wisdom, here it is: You need to prepare a written budget every month--before the month begins!
I know that may not sound as important as other marriage advice you've received, but ongoing communication about money and how you spend it can ultimately make the difference between a second honeymoon and a broken home.
Schedule time to talk
When you talk about your monthly schedules, include at least a half an hour for "budget committee meetings." Now, you might be thinking that sounds a little formal. But let me ask you this: How successful would a business be if it never had budget meetings? It would go under! Operating your finances together without a budget could mean financial disaster.
We need to think of our home in the same way we think about a business. Have you considered that you and your spouse are actually the CEOs of your own little operation? And the truth is that your family is one of the most important operations in your life. Toward the end of each month, sit down with your calendars (or phones) and carve out time to develop and review the next month's budget. Repeat that process every month, and by the time you hit month six of budgeting, it will probably feel like second nature.
Don't make your spouse do it alone
Budgeting has to be a two-person process or it won't work for a married couple. It's a collaborative effort, like two people rowing a boat together. You both need to head in the same direction or you'll find yourselves going in circles.
When my wife and I got serious about our finances, we started meeting together every Sunday. We'd go over our budget for the upcoming week, review the bills that were coming due and discuss the week ahead.
If you're new to budgeting, I'd recommend that you and your spouse begin by meeting once a week to develop the skill of budgeting and build momentum for your financial goals. Once you and your husband or wife are confident about where your money is going each month, you can cut back to meeting just once a month.
Give yourself enough time
I tell couples to set aside 30 minutes for these budget meetings, but you may want more time than that, especially in the beginning. I've found that reserving 30 minutes together gives a couple time and space to engage in the topic of family finances without just flying through the budget quickly. You'll want to really communicate. Even if you've been married for a long time, you may not know the emotional backstory to your spouse's approach to money.
In my years of coaching couples, I've discovered that money fights are rarely about green pieces of paper. Something deeper is usually boiling beneath the surface, so give yourselves enough time to listen to each other — without interruption.
After several years of practicing the budget committee meeting, my wife and I can now knock out the financial conversation pretty quickly and move on to other important family business. We take the time to ask each other: What's going on? Where are you traveling this week? What's happening with the kids? What special events are coming up? Who is struggling in school?
After awhile, you just might find that budgeting is less about dollar signs and bottom lines, and more about reconnecting and making sure you and your husband or wife are on the same page. That's when you know you're set up to keep moving together in the right direction.
By Gary Chapman
I was speaking at a church in Spokane, Washington, when I first heard Julia sing. After the service, I commended her for the excellent way she sang. "I'll have to give my husband credit for that," she said.
"How's that?" I asked.
"Six years ago, I expressed the desire to take voice lessons. It's something I have always wanted to do. We had been married four years and had two preschool children. When I shared the idea with my husband, he said, 'Go for it. I'll be glad to keep the children. You have such a beautiful voice; you need to develop the talent God has given you.' "
"That's quite a husband you have," I said.
"He's the absolute greatest," Julia responded.
Encourage your spouseOne of the most effective ways to help your spouse is to offer encouraging words. The word encourage means "to inspire courage." All of us have areas in which we feel insecure and lack courage, and that lack of courage often hinders us from accomplishing the positive things that we would like to do. The latent potential within your spouse may await your encouraging words.
When we receive positive words, we are encouraged to continue pursuing our dreams. When a man fails to get a promotion at work, he may feel that he is a failure. But when his wife says, "You're still No. 1 in my book," he has the courage to work through his disappointment and continue.
Perhaps your spouse has untapped potential in one or more areas of life. That potential may be awaiting your encouraging words. Perhaps your wife needs to enroll in a course to develop her potential. Maybe your husband needs to meet some people who have succeeded in his area of interest who can give him insight on the next step to take. Your words may supply the necessary courage to take that first step. Most of us have more potential than we will ever develop. The thing that holds us back is often lack of courage. A loving spouse can supply that all-important catalyst.
Support Your Spouse
Julia's husband not only gave her encouraging words, he also took supportive action, which is another way of helping your spouse to succeed. He was not only willing to keep the children once a week while Julia took voice lessons, he was also willing to use the family finances to help her accomplish her dream. One of the most common complaints I have encountered in my counseling office has been the husbands and wives who say, "My spouse is not supportive." They sometimes add, "I feel like he [she] works against me rather than for me."
I must admit that sometimes this "lack of support" is another way of saying, "My spouse will not go along with all my crazy ideas." There are people who are dreamers but never attach their dreams to reality. They jump into a business venture and lose thousands of dollars, then can't understand why their spouse is not ready to jump into the next venture with them.
There are, however, ways of being supportive even if your mate is an unrealistic dreamer. I'm not suggesting that you blindly support your spouse in an endeavor that you think is destined for failure. However, you might say something like this: "More than anything, I want to see you succeed in life. I'm encouraged that you have dreams. At the same time, I don't want to see you fail again. Therefore, I'm going to be very supportive of you in this idea, but I'm going to request that you talk with a banker or someone who could give you good information about this venture before you jump into it. I know that if you continue to try business ventures that fail, you will eventually get discouraged. I don't want that to happen. I want you to succeed, so let's get all the wisdom we can up front. Then let's jump together or let's decide not to jump at all." In such a statement, you are expressing your desire to be supportive in the most responsible manner.
Supportive actions often spell the difference between success and failure. When your wife expresses a desire to join a weight-loss program, don't say what one husband said: "We can't afford that. Why don't you just stop eating?" Such a nonsupportive attitude not only sabotaged her dream but also hurt the marriage. Helping your spouse succeed requires time, energy, effort and perhaps sacrifice on your part.
I am forever indebted to my wife for supporting me when I went back to graduate school. She took care of our young daughter while I worked part time and went to school. We lived on a shoestring. For three years, she never bought a pair of shoes or a new dress for herself. Her sacrificial actions made it possible for me to complete graduate school. I would like to think that whatever success I have experienced brings her a great deal of satisfaction, knowing that she is largely responsible for my successes.
What desires has your spouse expressed? What supportive actions would it require on your part to see those dreams become realities? Why not express your willingness to support your spouse, both with encouragement and with supportive action? Few things may give you greater joy than seeing your spouse reach his or her potential for God and for good.
God has something to say to us (more than we want to hear it)! That's why there is always a WORD!