Mixing love and money is tricky. In fact, a recent study conducted by Dave Ramsey and Ramsey Solutions found that money is the second leading cause of divorce. Infidelity is number one. The study concluded that debt, communication, and attitudes about money and spending habits keep couples broke and disgruntled.
Money challenges are the ultimate team-building activities for couples. When done correctly, they can expose areas of pain and fear, open or improve lines of communication, and help you become a more disciplined unit.
Whether you are newly married, been together for a while, or are on the cusp of divorce, engaging in a financial challenge — as a couple — could improve or even save your marriage. The challenges themselves aren’t magic. You have to commit and do the work. They can, however, assist you in revamping how you view and handle finances as a pair.
Here are a few money challenges that every couple should try. (See also: 4 Ways Couples Can Tackle Money Goals Together)
1. One Income Challenge
The One Income Challenge is a doozy. This isn’t the type of challenge you wake up one morning and just begin. No, this one takes preparation and planning — which is what makes it such a great challenge for couples. The goal is to get your overhead and bills so low that you can live off just one income for at least one or two months. That doesn’t mean that you only spend from one persons’ paycheck — the goal is simply to save the sum of what one of you brings in monthly.
This challenge will not only save you a ton of money, but will also fling open the doors of communication. You have to talk during this challenge to ensure things are paid on time and both parties know exactly what they are allowed to spend. It really takes a concerted effort to do this. It will also allow you to see what you could accomplish if you could reduce your overhead and live off one income long term.
Becoming a one-income household is also something you could aspire to in the future. So, if you can’t live on one income today, make it your goal to be there this time next year or in two years. Even if you never reach your goal, you’re still way further than you were before you started. Your wallet and your marriage will benefit from your efforts. (See also: How to Go From Two Incomes to One)
2. The Cash Only or No Credit Challenge
The Cash Only Challenge is less extreme than the One Income Challenge, but it’s still very difficult — especially for those who rely heavily on credit. During this challenge, you only spend cash for everything that is not drafted automatically or requires you to pay online. The goal is to pay with cash as much as possible for the duration of the challenge.
The reasoning behind this challenge is that paying with cash causes you to plan and to think about purchases before you actually buy something. With cash you can only spend what you have. Overspending is not an option. Paying with cash will also help you track expenses easier and it will develop your discipline muscle. If you allocate $250 for groceries but spend $75 on shoes, you only have $175 left for groceries. Once the cash is gone — it’s gone.
A great way to modify this challenge for those who are wary of carrying cash is to only use your debit cards. Take all of your credit cards (your spouse’s too) and put them in a drawer. Only spend what you actually have in your bank account. This modification lowers the degree of difficulty, but it still remains challenging. (See also: 5 Money Conversations Every Couple Should Have)
3. The 50/50 Challenge
I read about this challenge on CoupleMoney.com and I fell in love with the concept. The concept of the 50/50 Challenge is twofold: spend less and earn more. You and your spouse should work to reduce your monthly cost of living expenses while simultaneously figuring out ways to earn more money during the challenge.
This challenge will not only do wonders for your savings, but it is also the ultimate team-building exercise. You learn where you can cut and how you can bring in more during lean times. Together, you and your spouse can set savings and earnings goals and find creative ways to cut costs and earn a little extra. You can organize a yard sale, sell stuff online, or get side gigs. The possibilities are endless. (See also: 14 Best Side Jobs For Fast Cash)
4. No Shopping Challenge
The No Shopping Challenge is a pretty popular money challenge. The goal is for you and your spouse to eliminate any unnecessary spending. During this challenge, you buy only the basics. This means forgoing luxuries such as dining out, getting your hair done, and anything else that is not an absolute necessity. You take your budget down to its bare bones.
A twist that my husband and I like to add is to write down every single thing we are spending money on for the month. So, in lieu of writing “groceries,” we would actually add the entire grocery list to our list of expenses. And if we forget to list something, we do without it for the month. This really improves communication and ensures that you are working together and planning every dollar you spend.
You can modify, rework, and mix and match any of these challenges to fit your particular situation and lifestyle. The goal is not to follow a challenge verbatim — the goal is to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone and changes your perspective about money and marriage. (See also: 8 Steps to a Blissful Matri-Money)