Challenges, Money & Finances

Finances in Marriage: 7 Principles Every Couple Should Consider

Finances are a hot topic in every marriage. It can be insanely stressful, and if we’re not careful we can get caught up in the comparison game.

We certainly don’t know everything about this or have a sliver bullet to fix every financial woe in your marriage. However we have learned a few principles that help us stay focused on the main thing: God. Having right perspective on finances will serve three important purposes in your married life:

  1. Keep God at the center and in control of your life, not money
  2. Keep money in it’s rightful place – a few notches down the priority list
  3. Replace stress with trust and striving with faithfulness, thus adding to your overall marital joy

Here are seven principles we’ve learned about finances. Note, #1 is the longest since it lays the groundwork for the others. Bare with me, I hope it’s worth the read!

1: Stewardship: “We own nothing.

Every other principle herein stems from the biblical idea of stewardship. Stewardship is a concept that has radically changed our lives over the past 5 years. Basically, biblical stewardship is this: everything is God’s (not ours), what we have, we have been given to care for, for God’s glory alone.

Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.

– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I think of it like this: God has entrusted me with a plot of land to care for, I don’t own it, He does. At some point I will give back to Him what is His, and I want to prove I’m a good steward. His love and my salvation do not depend on my stewardship, but mindful stewardship is a natural result of understanding God’s grace and love. I want to give my life and everything in it to Him because I’m compelled by His love.

A man doesn't own his marriage; he is only the steward of his wife's love.As a man, it’s a truly liberating revelation; it takes pressure off of me to provide (i.e. God is our provider), but it also excites me to use wisdom and work hard because I’m caring for the time, money, talent, and relationships He’s given me. Yes, I work diligently (this isn’t an excuse to be lazy), but the reason I work is to steward, not strive for more income. It’s an otherworldly concept, but wisdom of God sometimes looks foolish to the world, eh?

If you’re not familiar with biblical stewardship, there are many good books on it. And here’s a list of verses to start with (crack that Bible!):

  1. Matthew 25:14-30 (Parable of the talents)
  2. Colossians 3:23-24 (Whatever you do, do it as unto God, not unto men.)
  3. Psalm 24 (Everything is God’s)

One author put it very well:

Although God gives us “all things richly to enjoy,” nothing is ours. Nothing really belongs to us. God owns everything; we’re responsible for how we treat it and what we do with it. While we complain about our rights here on earth, the Bible constantly asks, What about your responsibilities? Owners have rights; stewards have responsibilities.

– Bill Peel

With stewardship as our foundation, let’s dive into the other principles we’ve learned.

2: Perspective: “We have everything.”

If you’re reading this blog (i.e. you have internet and a device to view it on, you speak English) it’s likely that you are extremely wealthy compared to the whole world. We’ve all heard the stats: “Billions of people live on less than $2 a day“. It’s hard to take stats like that to heart, because we can’t really fathom what “Billions” of faceless people look like.

But it’s true.

Having a worldwide perspective helps keep financial issues in check. Can’t afford the $40,000 car you want? It’s not such a big deal. Constant gratefulness is a great way to keep your perspective.

3: Seek Unity: “We’re in this together

Seek unity in your marriage.Get on the same page. If you both understand biblical stewardship and respond to wisdom, this won’t be a problem. But if one of you seeks to be a good steward while the other spends haphazardly, you’re in for a bumpy ride.

Get on the same page: God’s page. Learn what God is asking of you and stick to it together.

4: Needs vs Wants vs Consumerism

Make a distinction between your decision motivators:

  1. Need = it’s essential for survival or good stewardship
  2. Want = you would genuinely enjoy something
  3. Consumerism = unwise spending based on impulse or attractive marketing

Knowing what’s motivating you will help you make godly financial decisions.

5: Avoid Excess

Warning: this is a radical idea for most, including myself. But since when was the gospel not radical?

Luxury by definition means excess. Extra. Lavish. I’m not talking about “pauper theology”, but rather stewardship taken seriously. How much should you give away if you make $1M a year? Nobody needs to live on $1M annually. If you have extra, it may be time to give extra; yes, more than 10%, more than 30%, perhaps even more than 90% of your income.

I won’t paint with broad brush strokes: “Everyone over $xxx,xxx should give xx% away”. That’s between you and God. The key is to be utterly, completely, and wholeheartedly satisfied in God and obedient to God. Right perspective on stewardship is critical to not “fooling ourselves” or justifying money management habits that are bad stewardship.

In fact, your gut reaction to this proposition gives you a hint on your true perspective on stewardship. I know I have a heart check even now as I write this. (God, please help me…)

6: Use Cash, Not Credit

Don’t use a credit card, it’s not real money. Also, the airline miles aren’t worth it (I worked in loyalty marketing for a number of years, and trust me, “points” and “miles” are there for companies to make more money.)

Also, avoid loans whenever you can. There’s a reason so many people are in the lending business, because they make money, and lots of it.

Selena and I are still learning about this. We only have debit cards, which we learned to do the hard way. We also have a house with a mortgage (we rent it out), a car loan, and school debts. I can’t definitively say “all loans are bad”, but I can say credit cards are just plain nasty.

Proceed into any loan agreement with stewardship in mind, then make a wise choice based on God’s word.

7: Prioritize to Maximize Joy

Disposable income is good! It’s one way we can experience God’s grace. It’s extra, and it’s there to be enjoyed. When enjoying it, choose the things that matter most to you, not just shiny things marketed well.

g̶e̶t̶ ̶ s̶t̶u̶f̶f̶ ... make memoriesIf you’ve got $300 of “fun money” this month, how do you use it in a purposeful way to maximize long-term enjoyment?

For us, we travel. We love to make memories. I imagine at some point we’ll buy a ski boat or a horse (Sel loves horses), but only when the time is absolutely right. The point here is to spend your disposable cash (after tithe+, after saving) in a way that builds you up purposely as opposed to just adding to life’s consumer clutter.

Question: What other principles do you and your spouse use to make financial decisions?

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