This Is What Keeps a Marriage Strong
The Rule: We Keep Track of Everything We Spend
Carrie Rocha, 36 \ Marco Rocha, 46 \ Minneapolis \ Married 8 years
Carrie says: "About six years ago we were more than $50,000 in debt and we were always arguing about money. I remember one time Marco went on a business trip to Mexico and he came home with over $400 in gifts for me. It was hard for me to appreciate the thoughtfulness because I was so upset that he spent the money! So we started tracking all of our expenses as a way to get a handle on how much our life was costing us so we could make a budget. We made little changes -- for example, Marco gave up his slick-looking $50-a-month cell phone for an older model that cost $9 per month. I know he doesn't like his phone, but his willingness to switch spoke volumes to me about his love for and commitment to me and our family. Today we've completely paid off our credit card debt, and ever since we've started tracking our spending, we've not had a big argument about money."
Marco says: "I'm the type of person who will spend money without thinking about it. Now I know that those little purchases can add up. The spreadsheets have helped keep me accountable in our finances and our marriage. Now when I'm shopping, instead of buying on impulse, I think about the dreams Carrie and I have: to send our kids to college and maybe move to Brazil and retire one day. It's not worth giving up those things for an impulse purchase."
The therapist says: "Couples often get into trouble because they fight over what items they're buying and lose perspective of the bigger picture, which is: What is it that we really need? What's most important in our household?" says psychiatrist Scott Haltzman, MD, author of The Secrets of Happily Married Women. "Marco and Carrie made a decision about what was most important to them and then created a plan to achieve their goals. It helps them work as a team rather than against each other. A spreadsheet might not work for everyone, but the point is creating some financial accountability and getting on the same page about how to spend your money."