The Money Trap

We get by.  Barely.  Well sometimes less than barely.  Between seven kids, choosing to work less so we can homeschool them, and working the type of jobs we do, we struggle.

Now, please don’t hear that as a complaint.  We have all we need.  And much of what we want.  I just mean that our budget is an accountant’s dream.  You end up back at zero pretty much all the time.

We all know that money is one of the things that couples often fight about.  It is the place where power, respect, selfishness, and our fears all meet.  That can be a dangerous mix.  But just because you have very little (or even a lot of) money doesn’t mean you have to let it be the place that sabotages your relationships.  Here are a few simple steps that might help.

  1. Try a cash system.  One of the frustrating money matters for many couples is the opening of the credit card bill.  That is when we discover that we WAY overshot the budget.  And now, because of interest and fees, we have even less for next month.  Instead, at the beginning of the month get your paycheck cashed, and put the money in envelopes labeled with how that money is supposed to be spent.  When the envelope runs out, that’s it.  Of course you have to resist the urge to grab the credit card.
  2. Focus on relationships. Worrying about money produces nothing good.  What if instead you focused your mental and emotional energies on the relationships that matter in your life?  This doesn’t mean avoiding unpleasant topics.  Rather, when you feel yourself beginning to worry, take the kids for a bike ride or go to the park and swing together.  Play with your infant on the living room floor.  Grab your spouse for an impromptu dance session.  You will rediscover that the things you care about the most are actually free.
  3. Set limits on money talk. Budgets and bills and credit cards and payments and salaries can dominate our conversations.  Try setting a limit.  Only talk about finances at set aside moments and for a finite amount of time.  Have a budget meeting, rather than sprinkling monetary concerns into every other conversation.  Financial worries and fiscal concerns will eat up however much time you give them.  So, only give them a little.
  4. Be thankful. This doesn’t mean simply seeing how much you actually have or comparing ourselves to those who have less.  Rather, look at all the ways our relationships bring us joy, help us mature, challenge our faith, and bring us peace.  When I am truly thankful I may begin by focusing on monetary blessings, but very quickly that is overwhelmed by the people who love me and care for me.  A deep session of thankfulness typically leaves us less concerned about stuff and more focused on people.

These are good ideas.  They will help.  But ultimately we have to make a decision about money in our relationships.  Money can be a difficult issue that we work on together.  Or, we can view our partner as the problem.  It is all about how they spend the money, their selfishness, their unwillingness to pitch in.  Just remember, once we view our partner as the opposing team, then we have to win.  And if we win in a war about money against our partner, our relationship loses.

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