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First Comes Love, Then Comes Money

Ever wonder what the “secrets” are behind happily married couples’ personal finance tactics? It’s no secret that while we do choose our spouse, we don’t choose each other’s personal financial background, habits, attitudes, money personalities, or ability/inability to balance a monthly budget. Financial harmony in marriage isn’t automatic. Below are six research-based, money management strategies used by couples in great marriages (Skogrand, Johnson, Horrocks, & DeFrain, 2010). As you read, consider which tip you could implement now.

Strategy 1: One Spouse Handles the Finances, Budgets, or Pays the Bills

This first tip may not work for everyone, however; when one spouse makes sure all the bills are paid, it’s less likely for financial obligations to fall between the cracks. A positive side effect of one spouse managing day-to-day spending? Communication with the non-managing spouse is required to stay on the same page.

EXPERT TIP: To simplify your monthly money management tasks, decide together which bills to pay manually and which to set up automatic payments for each month.

Strategy 2: Have a plan

Couples in great marriages reported having a financial plan that they decided on together. They didn’t ignore their finances from month to month or year to year. For example, a plan to get out of x amount of debt by the end of the year or to save x amount of money in an emergency fund as quickly as possible.

EXPERT TIP: Go out for a quarterly “money date” to create, review, and take steps to stay on track with your financial plan together.

Strategy 3: Little or No Debt

Couples specifically stated they had little or no debt or were paying off debt quickly. The quickest way to pay off debt is to make “power payments” otherwise known as the “snowball method”.

EXPERT TIP: is a free program developed by finance experts at Utah State University Extension that will take the debt payment information you enter and create a payment plan using power payments. When followed, the power payment strategy will help you knock out your debt as fast as possible.

Strategy 4: Live Within Means

The majority of the happily married couples surveyed said they did not buy what they could not pay for. They were frugal. They lived within their means. We might each define
what “living within our means” looks like a bit differently. The important thing is that we don’t regularly supplement our spending with credit cards.

EXPERT TIP: Together, choose a category in your monthly budget i.e. eating out, entertainment, clothing, etc. and review your spending for the past 30 days. Are you surprised by what you spent? Should you consider adjusting your spending in this category for the following month?

Strategy 5: Communicate about Money

Not surprising that these couples reported talking about money together. What was surprising? Some of them had never argued about money and others were currently
having money disagreements. What’s the take-home message? Even couples in great marriages disagree about money! They have the communication skills necessary to work through their disagreements.

EXPERT TIP: Regular date nights can help you reconnect and strengthen your communication skills. See for the USU Extension-sponsored date nights near you.

Strategy 6: Trust

What does financial trust look like? Being open about purchases, not spending extravagantly on credit cards, not making major financial decisions without the other spouse. Couples in great marriages shared financial trust. Examine financial trust in your marriage.

EXPERT TIP: Express gratitude to your spouse for something they do that helps you trust them financially. Together these strategies can sharpen our skills and strengthen our financial relationship.

Research and information provided by Amanda Christensen

Amanda is an Extension Associate Professor at Utah State University. She has authored fact sheets, grants, national award-winning curriculum, T.V. & radio segments related to personal finance throughout her career. She runs the Utah Money Moms blog and social media platforms. Her favorite things include her husband of 7 years, her 2-year-old son, Yellowstone National Park, the Utah Jazz, andthe Hale Center Theatre. Connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @UtahMoneyMoms.


Check out for more personal finance topics and follow along on your favorite social media platform @utahmoneymoms.


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