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Ask Chuck: Help! My wife is stressed out!

Ask Chuck your money question

Unsplash/Towfiqu barbhuiya
Unsplash/Towfiqu barbhuiya

Dear Chuck,

My wife is really organized, but I am not. When it comes to finances, she gets stressed if we go over budget a little here or there. How do I help her chill out?  

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Stressed-Out Wife 

Dear Stressed-Out Wife,  

It might surprise you, but I think you may be placing the blame for her stress on the wrong person. Having an organized wife is a blessing, not a problem! But like you, I once lived with a “no big deal” attitude about living on a budget. I think I can help resolve this.  

Let me make a case for changing your mind about how best to help reduce her stress.  

Stewards are managers

Did you know that one of the most frequently mentioned habits of high achievers is organization? Whether one keeps a “To-Do List” or devotes certain hours to weekly planning, developing habits of organization is crucial to stewardship. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a steward as

“one employed in a large household or estate to manage domestic concerns (such as the supervision of servants, collection of rents, and keeping of accounts).”

 In other words, the essence of being a steward is to manage well. 

Costs of financial disorganization

Unorganized people lose hundreds and thousands of dollars on fees, interest, and unopened checks. Take a look at a partial list of consequences: 

  • Bank fees: late fees, overdrafts, insufficient funds, wire transfers, ATM fees (out of network)
  • Credit card penalties
  • Missed deadlines
  • Damaged credit score
  • Undetected errors on bank statements, credit card bills, and credit reports
  • Tax penalties and interest; missed deductions
  • Lost or misplaced gift cards, coupons, checks, or receipts 
  • Missed appointment fees; high travel fees – Failing to plan ahead 
  • Last-minute shopping and high shipping costs – Failing to plan ahead
  • Auto-renewals for subscriptions or memberships (sign up and forget to cancel)
  • Wasting food – Failing to use by the expiration date
  • Paying more to move – Not decluttering
  • Money lost in investments – Not keeping watch over them
  • Making hurried mistakes – Waiting until the last minute
  • Late to appointments
  • Diminished productivity 
  • Arguing with loved ones

In addition, unorganized people often suffer the emotional toll of stress, guilt, depression, anxiety, frustration, and embarrassment which eventually lead to relationship issues. In your case, you are not stressed about it because you have the luxury of your wife doing all she can to keep the wheels on the bus going round and round. 

Benefits of financial organization

Faithfulness as God’s steward requires financial organization, and many benefits flow from this: 

  • Systems in place
  • Deadlines met consistently
  • Improved efficiency and productivity
  • Improved morale and confidence 
  • Minimized frustration 
  • Improved finances 
  • Freedom!

Tips to develop organizational habits

When the pain in our finances got very intense, it captured my attention. My organized, picky, careful wife needed me to get organized, too, and start helping us live within our means. I had to learn to get more organized to help her get more chill! Here are some tips to help the unorganized make the leap to the other side.  

Prioritize your tasks, take small steps, set a timer, and remove distractions (phone, TV, etc.) Work when you are most productive, then reward yourself after a set time. Develop daily, weekly, monthly, and annual routines.

  • Filing system: Use a digital or paper filing system, something you will actually use. Assign zones to your desk using proper tools and containers. Buy a safe or fireproof box for important documents.
  • Financial accounts: Check your credit score. Monitor bank and credit card statements. File receipts to document billing disputes. Keep a tax file of the necessary paperwork to maximize deductions and reduce taxable income. Automate bill paying, and pay others one day/week. Deal with problems. Keep a tax file and a password file, and make sure you and your spouse know where important items are kept.
  • Gift cards or certificates: Note expiration dates, file, use, sell, or give away. 
  • Mail: Go through it weekly, if not every day; shred what you don’t need, and sort the rest. 
  • Food: Plan your menu to avoid wasting expired food items. Organize your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer to first use items close to expiring. 
  • Shopping: Keep a list to avoid buying duplicates or having to make multiple trips. 
  • Declutter: Avoid the cost of storage units, lost paperwork, and too much stuff.  
  • Ask for help: Enlist the help of a trusted individual who can encourage and assist you in the journey. 

Never slack off

“A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”(Proverbs 10:4 ESV) This verse makes it clear that the diligent—those committed to following through to complete their responsibilities—are rewarded. Those who simply avoid the vital task of getting organized will suffer. 

I hope this helps. It sounds like you have what I call a Proverbs 31 wife. Be grateful, and honor her by doing your part to keep your finances on track.  

Another useful tool I recommend is Squeeze—a trusted Crown partner. The company shops household bills to bring you the lowest rates and best deals. Savings are quick and can last a lifetime. Sign up for free, and squeeze your first bill in under five minutes. 

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Economic Evidence for God?. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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