April 14, 2015

How to Get on the Same Page Financially as a Husband & Wife Team

Being that this is tax week and all, this seems like a really appropriate topic to tackle! We just had our final meeting with our accountant (with a complicated set up like ours with multiple corporations for both the photography business and the Black Tie Media Group, as well as a lot of sub-entities with our teaching, online resources, and actual photography….it takes several meetings to get all that right! :) And one of the things that we were spending a lot of time talking about in this last one were our financial goals for this year…and how we have some pretty BIG audacious ones when it comes to our mortgage and student loans. Anyway, the point of all that is that it got us talking about how we really feel like we’re totally on the same page when it comes to our finances now…and how that wasn’t always the case!


*Photo Credit: Jose Villa

I’m just going to put it out there, when we first met I would say that both Justin & I were spenders. But him much less so than me. Like I blogged about yesterday, I came from very little. And through the years of doing all of our mentoring for other photographers & small business creatives, I’ve come to realize that when people grow up very poor like I did it either turns them into super-savers because they never want to end up back there….or super-spenders because they feel like being able to buy things equals the good life! I totally get it! That second one was me to a tee. I pretty much only had yard sale or super cheap clothes growing up, so spending money on clothes became my good life. I only had half a roof and a trailer growing up, so buying nice things and decorating our house became my good life. And all of that equated to me being a spender. And Justin being a bit of a spender himself, he had his own things (like cameras!) that he loved to spend money on.

Somewhere along the line though, that started to change. And it changed with Justin first. All of a sudden, he started becoming a super saver and making all these spread sheets to track our spending. Meanwhile, I was still living in spending land! So there was this period of time when we just weren’t on the same page when it came to our money. And it caused a lot of tense conversations in the middle of Target, I can tell you that! :)

But the crazy thing is that in this last year or two, I would now officially for the first time in my life consider myself a saver. And on our drive home from the accountant, Justin was saying how he had seen such a huge HEART change in me over the past few years that he was really proud of. That it wasn’t just something I was doing to go along with for him, but that something had actually changed on how I view money now. And it’s really true. It’s been a whole shift in my thinking and my goals and what matters most now. And it’s been amazing! So how did we go about getting on the same page financially and what changed? And what do we recommend for spouses, partners or friends who are running a business together to do to get on the same financial page? I think it’s a lot of things, but these would probably be the top 6!

1. Figure out WHY you’re a saver or a spender. When you can articulate to your spouse/partner/friend why you are one of those things or the other (i.e. I grew up poor and watched my friends always have more, so to me spending is the good life) then I think you can understand where the other one is coming from a lot more. It also helps you understand yourself & your own motivations more. And I think understanding that is the first step in getting better at how you approach money.

2. Remember that either extreme can be a problem. Obviously it’s not a good idea to go on crazy spending sprees all the time…but you also don’t want to turn into such a fearful saver that you forget to live and have fun some of the time. As with everything, balance is key.

3. Come up with shared common goals. Rather than thinking of it as one of you saying no to a shopping trip to J.Crew, try to think of it as both of you saying yes to that loan you want to pay off or that kitchen you want to pay cash for.

4. Have a secret handshake. I’m totally serious here. For those tough Target moments or in the middle of a group of friends at dinner when you don’t want to have a whole tense, awkward conversation about spending, have a secret code word or handshake you can do to remind you both to get on the same page. I’m not going to tell you ours, because then it wouldn’t be a secret anymore! :) But let’s just say it involves a pretty epic fist bump!

5. Contentment. The second you decide to be happy & grateful with what you already have, that’s the same instant that those “buying because it makes me feel happy” moments will get diffused. We all know those shopping highs never last anyway, and the more you buy the more you want. The next time you feel the urge to buy, go take a walk through your house and check out all the cool stuff you already have! See if you can make a game of it….how long can you go without buying something new!

6. Remember it’s not yours. For us, when we really start to wrap our heads around the idea that every good thing we have has truly been a gift to us from God (even the talents & ability to do the hard work that make us money are still all from Him), then we start to take a lot better care of it. I know that this won’t apply to everybody & that’s totally fine! So another way to think about it, is to think of what you want to leave behind for your kid. Somehow realizing & remembering that we are just stewards of these things that we get to hold onto only temporarily, makes it a lot easier to take better care of them than when we think of them as our own!

As always, we hope that helped! And here’s to not just building wealth, but building a legacy. The kind that can be a game changer in our families for generations to come.


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  1. Jil

    “not just building wealth, but building a legacy. The kind that can be a game changer in our families for generations to come.” amazing and inspiring!!

  2. sharon elizabeth

    ahh! yes! i’m totally in the same boat — grew up in a trailer and i remember my mom selling jewelry just to put food on the table… one of our homes even had a dirt floor.. i totally get it… and now… i HATE being stressed about money — and it takes a lot for me to stress… i am a mix between a saver and a spender… i spend money on ‘experiences’ and ‘food’ — and i like to save and pay things off… i will say — one area that i struggle with is food… because a big meal was a BIG deal when i was little… i ALWAYS fix way too much food — get anxiety when i go to a friends house… ‘they may not have enough food.. i’ll go hungry’.. the fear of being hungry is very real for me… i’m in the process of trying to look at food as FUEL.. so that i don’t over-eat… or get anxious!!!

    ahh so crazy how our childhoods really DO shape who we are today!!! wouldn’t change it for the world =) love ya!

  3. Jessica Fairchild

    Thank you SO much for sharing this! Honestly this is exactly what we are going through right now and it’s so helpful to have your wisdom from personal experience! Thanks for your willingness to be open and share! Love you guys!!

  4. Caitlin

    I loved every line of this. Mike is a spender because he never could be growing up, and we have been very good at rationalizing purchases together in the past. We have become savers since D was born though, but it’s been a hard transition. I have turned into Justin and now track our spending in spread sheets and have a pay down plan for the cards and hopefully one day the big awful student loan. But being on the same page has been a game changer. Loved this so much. And the reminder that these are just things “..that we get to hold onto only temporarily..” Thank you. Beautifully said.

  5. Rachel

    Thanks for this Mary. I’m not a business owner, but this really spoke to personal finances for me. A good reminder to not view finances as a point of contention but to really get to the root and support eachother with it (if that makes any sense…).

    Thanks for being transparent!!

  6. Maureen Pell

    This is such a great piece of advice wether you are just getting married or like me and have been together for 11 years. I am the saver and my huaband is the spender and although I try to reel in him from time to time he seems to escape me or we wind up in a fight. I plan on using this as a good conversation piece about finances. When I do spend money its on things for the home, unlike my husdand. Thanks for the share!!

  7. Rici

    Love it, especially the secret handshake part. Thank you, you two!!!!

  8. Brittany

    So helpful! My husband has just decided to join me full time. With two littles at home it’s a whole bunch of stressful!

  9. Brittany Brooke

    I love the “have a secret handshake!”
    My husband and I high five each other and shout “Team (our last name)” And I’m not ashamed to admit we’ve high five-d in grocery stores, Targets and outlet malls. :) Cheers for being on the same team, in all aspects of married life! <3

  10. Patience Thompson

    Love this! Thank you for sharing it is great to hear that we are going through things that others have and to hear your points on how to move past the bump and on to bigger and better things.

  11. sandra fazzino

    I wish more people spoke openly about money and financial planning. This was a good read. Thank you! Both my husband and I grew up in a lower middle class household. His parents were huge savers and have managed to give my husband every opportunity and eventually were still able to invest in realestate and plan for their retirement well. My parents on the other hand managed their money horribly. In fact, my dad became homeless for a short period, and my mom can not afford to fly out to visit me cross country. I followed their lead. There were days deep into my 20’s where I was lucky if I had $1 in my bank account. As scary as that was at the time, I counted my blessings for the food in my fridge, my job, my health, etc. Eventually, though, I realized a change was necessary, and took on a 2nd job to get my finances in better order, read books, asked for financial guidance from a mentor. It worked. Before marrying my husband, we devised a financial plan and continue to stick to it until today. It’s given me/us so much satisfaction, and we have never once argued about money – something that amazes me. We have our financial house in total order, we have absolutely no debt, complete security and well being, and I’m now passing those values down to my 16 year old brother. Financial wisdom is as important as breathing air in my opinion. It gains one serenity, confidence, and liberty. I urge everyone to be unabashedly honest about their finances and put a plan into action. It’s the most rewarding feeling. And frankly, if I may, I am disgusted with consumerism. It makes me sick. We need none of it! And I’m just as guilty stepping out to buy my Emperor’s Cloud Tea from Starbucks, don’t get me wrong! xo

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