How To Manage Money And Marriage In The Military

in Make by Lacey Langford, AFC®

Money can invoke a boatload of emotions. Joy. Fear. Envy. Anxiety. Excitement. It’s a real rollercoaster in life. But managing money in the military is like riding one of those rollercoasters at the top of a skyscraper. It definitely takes the ride up a notch. And for better or worse, you’re on that crazy ride of emotions with your spouse. When you’re married and managing money, there are going to be some fun times and some “what have I done times?” Today’s What the Heck Wednesday is How To Manage Money And Marriage In The Military. Money and marriage can be tricky. How do you juggle the relationship rollercoaster + money + military service to have financial success? Spoiler alert! It’s not magic or something that falls in your lap. It’s multiple little steps that get you there but it comes down to planning, communication, and behavior.

Money & Marriage Planning

The most essential part of managing money and marriage successfully is planning for it.

money and marriage Let that quote sink in because it is true. Money planning keeps you both on the same page and helps you reach your financial goals. Your family financial plan doesn’t necessarily have to be typed out and bound (unless you want that), but there needs to be a few key elements of planning to help you work as a dynamic money duo.

1. Discussion

Begin your planning by starting a conversation about money.  What are both of your thoughts on saving money? How will you spend money? Who will pay bills? Will we have kids? Will one of us stay home and for how long? Private school? Loaning family money? What kind of vacations do you want? Discussing these topics and more will help you both understand your wants and needs. It will help avoid surprises and problems later.

2. Budgeting

Don’t let the word budget freak you out. All budgeting is, is a financial layout. You’re laying out your income which is the money you’re earning and expenses, the money you’re spending. To plan your finances, you need a clear understanding of the money you’re working with. I have a whole article on budgeting that I link it the description below.

3. Performance Review

You need to know how your money is working. It’s also important to stay current and connected when it comes to your joint finances. Every month, review your money plans to make sure things are still on track. Did you reach your savings goal? Maybe you’ve paid down more debt and want to take a vacation, or you have new savings goals. Discuss your finances to make adjustments to your plan. Financial situations change and you need to adapt to them as needed. Related Content: Why Military Couples Should Live Off One Income


Communicate, Communicate. In good times and bad times, communicating about your money is essential for financial success. It may not be something you look forward to but nonetheless, it has to be done. Especially if you’re going through hard financial times. Not discussing an issue leaves room for anger and resentment to build up. It won’t just disappear if you ignore it—rather, the resentment will grow and grow until it bursts. These are major issues that need to be discussed openly and honestly to avoid fights about finances and life plans later. Here are three things you need to handle to keep good financial communication flowing in your marriage.

1. Trust and Secrets

One part of communicating with your spouse is often an unsaid communication. It’s trust and it’s a foundation of a relationship. Without trust, it’s hard to build and keep a financial future together. Keeping secrets about money is devastating to a relationship and the quickest way to destroy trust.  Once you lose trust, it’s hard to get back. The moment you join your finances with another person, you’re in it. You’re answering to someone other than yourself about your money because now it’s our money. Not mentioning the extra money you’ve been spending on clothes or Xbox games instead of paying bills isn’t good.  Be honest and transparent about your family finances, it will avoid breaking trust or help you earn it back.

2. Schedule Communication Time

Make it a date. Set up a time and place for you and your spouse to talk household shop. Your scheduled comm time will give you the opportunity to talk about all the financial goals you’re working on plus it’s a chance to air out the money things that are ticking you off. You can also discuss your personal and family financial goals. Having a talk and making plans together helps keep you on the same page and stops resentment from building up.

3. Communication Before Marriage

For those not yet married. Once you’ve decided to marry, you’re most likely going to share money with them. At that point, it’s time to share credit reports before you commit your life to them. We’ve all heard the horror stories of Service members marrying someone they’ve only known a week. They’re not an urban legend. It, unfortunately, happens often with horrible financial ramifications. I’ve dealt with many cases of Service members losing all their money and having their credit destroyed during a deployment. By their own spouse nonetheless. Each person should know what they’re getting into financially before they get married. Not only will you have a clear picture of the other’s financial situation, but it will also be a money conversation starter. Hopefully, neither have any serious money problems but if so, this is an opportunity to discuss how to solve the problem ahead of time.


Each person’s financial behavior has ramifications for your joint finances. Good financial habits have a positive effect on your money. On the flip side, bad financial behaviors will have negative effects on your family finances. Identifying both of your financial behaviors (good and bad) can help you communicate and plan better. Keep the good habits like spending less than you make and saving but make adjustments to remove or improve your bad financial habits. Here are three bad financial habits and ways you can improve them.

1.Extreme Financial Behavior

When we think of bad financial behavior, we think of a spendthrift, someone who spends money like there’s no tomorrow. Being married to someone like that is stressful, to say the least. It makes it difficult to plan, pay bills on time, and count on that person financially. On the opposite side, some save money like they’re going to live to be 1,000—it’s painful for them to spend money. Being in a relationship with someone with extreme financial behavior leads to problems because both types of behavior cause a constant state of anxiety about money. On the one hand, you’re praying your credit card isn’t rejected because it’s maxed out and on the other, you’re worried your spouse will berate you for buying a pack of gum. So what do you do? It may be time to call in an expert. You aren’t going to suddenly make that person change. Speaking with a financial counselor, coach, or even therapist can help work through extreme financial behavior. A financial expert not only brings the expertise but is also a neutral third-party and, therefore, will bring a fresh perspective to the problem. They aren’t there to dredge up the past, but they do want to focus on a better financial future for you. Related: Preparing Your Family For Leaving the Military

2. Financial Mentors

Like it or not, the way you’re raised with money plays a major role in the way you handle your finances now. If your parents never managed their money and fought about it every payday, or if they micromanaged every penny they made, it affects how you manage money. Either way, your past financial mentors (like it or not) play a part in your money management now. It can be difficult to be in a relationship with someone who was raised differently than you were with money. Maybe you were raised to live on less than you earn and to save a lot but you’re married to a spendthrift who likes to spend and grew up in a household where it was normal to have the power cut off because the bill wasn’t paid. So what do you do? Look at your past experiences with money management but don’t dwell on it. Identify negative behaviors your repeating and make a plan to change the habit. Use helpful tools like budgets, automatic bill pay, or savings to develop new healthy habits.

3. The “I Deserve It” Excuse

I coined this excuse after seeing it so often. When people want something and know they shouldn’t spend the money, they use this excuse to justify spending money they don’t have. They simply say, “I deserve this” to permit themselves to buy that thing they want. It’s particularly common during deployments. The deployed spouse says, “I’m sacrificing every day, not spending any money, I’m away from my family—I deserve to buy (fill in the blank).” Their spouse at home says, “I’m here alone taking care of the house, the kids, family—I deserve to buy (fill in the blank).” With both spouses buying more than they should, spending gets out of control, and the fighting begins. They want to know why the other is spending on things that they either don’t need or can’t afford. So what do you do? Instead of using the “I deserve it” excuse, compromise. It may sound simple, but we sometimes forget to meet our mates halfway. Yes, you may feel like setting aside money for hunting trips is a waste, but if it’s your husband’s money goal, then compromise here, and hopefully, it will be returned on things he finds pointless, like mani-pedis. I’ll be honest, sometimes compromise sucks but it’s for the greater good of the relationship so give it a shot. Money in relationships can be a touchy subject. When money difficulties develop, they seep into every aspect of your relationship and become hot buttons. This can make it difficult to fix problems because you’d prefer to avoid the guaranteed argument that’ll come from even bringing up the word “money.” It becomes Voldemort around your house…the subject that must not be named (yes, I love Harry Potter!) That’s why working with your spouse to manage money isn’t something that is done every 5 years. It takes time and practice. Planning, communication, and a little behavior change will go a long way to help you reach financial success together. Go, team!