When we were first married, my husband and I, like many young couples, had opposite expectations for many things. When our first anniversary rolled around, he wanted to go camping but I wanted to go to Malibu. When buying items for our first Christmas, he grabbed the colored Christmas lights and I grabbed the white. And, my personal favorite: sickness for him means three days in bed, stocking up on boxed soup with freeze-dried noodles, and vitamin supplements every three hours. For me it’s a a couple of Day-Quil and ibuprofen.
But the mack daddy, the main event, the biggest difference came when we started working on our finances together. We weren’t quite ready for this one.
Chick-fil-A and Bulk Beef
I have yet to find someone who enjoys saving money more than my husband. Not only does he buy 10 pounds of ground beef at a time to save four dollars a month, but he also prices out the freezer bags for this beef to determine which is a half cent cheaper. He recently sat through a four-hour sales pitch to get a $50 gift card, but it did come with a free breakfast so in his mind he got $55.
I’m the free spirit in our family. I make sure we slow down, travel a bit, and have a little fun. I’m not a big spender, but I have been known to frequent Chick-fil-A multiple times a week, and may or may not fall for that red clearance sticker at Target.
Needless to say, our expectations collided when we first got married. I once bought a Butterfinger from a vending machine and Matt declared, “You could have bought four for the price of that one!” (I was eight months pregnant.)
But, because of God’s grace, through arguments, compromise, and prayer, we’ve learned that our differences (in more than just finances!) are an important and very effective means of grace and sanctification in our lives. Today, I’m so thankful for my husband’s perspective on money. And let me tell you, I would not have said that seven years ago.
Communication and Compromise
I’d venture to guess James was thinking a lot about married people when he wrote, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).
Admittedly, this is difficult for me when our ideals are not the same. But James goes on to say that acting outside of these standards produces a sinful attitude (1:20–21), which, for me, became increasingly clear when my husband and I started talking about money.
But the change came when we started listening, were slow to speak, and slow to anger. When my husband and I put down our defensive attitudes, humbly admitted our motivations and desires—whether serious or petty, we saw Christ work in our hearts.
I explained to him how the financial details overwhelmed and induced anxiety for me, so we began to schedule our monthly budget meetings so that I could prepare and be ready for the details. When I ventured into our finances alongside Matt, saw the numbers (hang with me, free spirits!), and let him explain to me his desire for our future, my heart began to soften toward him and I began to understand him.
I had it in my mind that Matt was the gatekeeper of our funds and he determined how much we spent on each area of our finances—whether it be groceries, entertainment, eating out, everything. But when we finally began to sit down and communicate, we found that we were actually much closer to being on the same page than I ever would have thought.
Counting His Interests More Important Than My Own
In his letter to the believers at Philippi, Paul tells us to be imitators of Christ’s humility. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:3–4). Paul goes on to remind us of what Christ has done for us—ending with the gut punch—“even death on the cross” (2:8).
Whoa there, Paul.
We are to imitate what Christ did for us—even to death—and sacrifice what we desire for what those around us desire. This is big and broad, but so very important. How does this apply when you want to order something other than water and he doesn’t even want to eat out? When you both want things that aren’t necessarily bad?
Don’t lose me here, but I think it looks an awful lot like being willing to give up that Coca Cola.
As Paul writes, we have to apply Christ’s example of sacrifice to both the big (giving up our lives), and the small (other people’s interests).
This can be so hard, but is so important. The good news is, we aren’t alone.
We Need Jesus
Compromise and sacrifice are not natural for our sin-ridden hearts. I don’t need to tell anyone that putting aside what we want for the sake of others is not easy. We certainly need Him to help us give up the sin that takes root in our hearts. But we also need Him to help us give up the small things, the not-so-sinful desires. The desire for a little more sleep, the extra few dollars for a cup of coffee, or to pay a little more for organic bananas. These things aren’t inherently bad, but putting others’ interests ahead of our own may mean giving up something that isn’t bad.
We must drink of Christ’s well daily, to recognize “the power at work within us” (Eph 3:20). To be filled up with Him, so that when the need to sacrifice comes up, we can give out what Christ so generously has put in.
And thankfully, if your husband is also seeking to be filled with Christ, oftentimes the compromise isn’t just compromise, but a way to love and serve each other in small ways. So often now, my husband insists on ordering the overpriced guacamole, just because he knows it’s another way he can show love to me.
A Few Practical Steps
When our hearts are right, working together on finances is much easier. My husband and I haven’t figured it all out, and still work on this each month, but here are a few practical steps that have helped us in our journey.
- Go over the budget together each month. This is crucial for us, and where most of our communication happens. Admittedly, I dread it, but I’ve seen the innumerable benefits, so we make it happen. If you don’t have a budget in place, it’s still so important to communicate often about finances. Share your worries, your expectations, your ideas.
- Read a finance book together. Once again, not my thing, but Dave Ramsey’s book has helped us better understand each other’s needs and desires when it comes to money, and how they actually complement each other.
- Be transparent. Share your heart when it comes to finances, and resist the temptation to hide things. Are you inwardly freaking out about your low income? Do you need to understand how retirement works, but are afraid of looking silly? Do you want to eat out with your coworkers because you simply enjoy the social interaction, but feel like this will seem petty to your spouse? Being open to one another’s insecurities about finances can open doors for trust and assurance between both of you.
Rachel Dee lives in Dayton, Tennessee, and is most passionate about being a wife to her scholar-husband Matt and a momma to their one-year-old fella, Jack. She works as a Resident Director at Bryan College where she strives to create a gospel-centered community among the girls who live around her, and also stays up way past her bedtime. She enjoys being outside with her little family, learning photography, writing, and learning more about her Savior. You can follow her on Instagram, too.