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Common Cents

Q: "My spouse controls the finances. Whenever he wants something, there always seems to be money for it. But if I want something, we seem to be 'short.' What can I do to make this more equitable?"

A: The person not handling the checkbook or paying the bills is always at a disadvantage. If you haven't taken an active role in your finances, you're on the road to disaster. Start now! Communicating about finances is a must for married couples.

Together, set a time once or twice a month to review your finances, budget, and bills. Make sure this meeting is in a neutral environment—never discuss money during dinner or in the bedroom.

When reviewing, both of you need to discuss which bills take priority and also how much money is left at the end of the month. That money is what you have for the extras.

Then it's time to be pro-active. Suggest setting up a weekly allowance for each of you. The main account should be a joint one you use for paying bills. You and your spouse can each open a separate account for your own spending. Deposit your allowance in that account and use it for purchases you'd make.

Sometimes a spouse likes the feeling of power and control over the money and will deny sharing it. Or they make you feel guilty for asking for things. Obviously this is wrong and can put a strain on the relationship. If that's the case, it isn't a money problem, but a "control" problem. It probably surfaces in other areas. So it would be advantageous to get outside help to determine the root of the problem.

Materialism In Marriage

A recent study finds that materialism isn't a good match for marriage. When spouses place high value on material possessions, they're more likely to experience financial problems, which in turn put a strain on their marital happiness.

The study showed that materialistic couples had a 40 percent higher risk of having financial problems that would affect their marriage.

"For years there has been an emphasis on learning proper saving and budgeting techniques to avoid marital conflict over financial issues," says Jason Carroll, lead researcher of the Brigham Young University study. "But our study found that financial problems have as much to do with how we think about money as they do with how we spend money."

Make a commitment with each other not to focus on what you don't have, but to concentrate on what you can give to help others. When our life is over, no one will remember our material items. They'll remember our good deeds in reaching out to those in need.

How Much House Do We Need?

Thinking of buying a new house? Here are a few things to consider.

  1. You're not just paying mortgage. You also need to pay for furnishings, window coverings, lawn maintenance, utilities, and insurance.
  2. Cathedral ceilings are great … heat catchers. You may prefer the look, but not the heating bill—knowing most of the heat is rising to your ceiling, while you're sitting in a parka and fleece pants in the winter.
  3. Keep in mind those property taxes. You may end up eating Spaghettios in your new restaurant-scale kitchen, because your grocery, entertainment, and clothing budgets go toward paying taxes.
  4. Big houses are a lot of work. Yes, the 4,000 square foot home has everything you've ever wanted. But who will clean it?

Deborah McNaughton, author of Rich and Thin: Slim Down, Shrink Debt, & Turn Calories into Cash (to be released June 2007), is a credit expert. Hal McNaughton is a certified financial planner. They've been married 36 years. www.financialvictory.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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