Our family is experiencing a budget crunch due to the tough economic times. However, we don’t really see eye to eye over what items to cut from the budget. What can we do to come to an agreement?

Tom: As a loving husband and father, I will make any financial sacrifice for the sake of my family.

Caroline: What about the college football satellite package subscription?

Tom: Hold on. Let’s be reasonable!

Caroline: At first glance, this may seem like an economic problem to be solved, but at its heart it is a marriage issue. Once you and your spouse have the right approach to each other and a heart for serving the family first, the financial details will work out a whole lot more smoothly. In studies focusing on the most common causes of divorce, poor communication and financial problems usually appear in the top five. Common sense would tell us that, when the poor communication in a marriage is about finances, the potential for real peril is just ahead.

First, of course, pray together for wise discernment. Ask the Lord to do three things for you: Give each of you a heart for your family’s needs ahead of your own desires, grant you the wisdom to see what is most prudent in your own situation, and grace you with the perseverance it will take to achieve these tough goals.

Tom: After praying, what can you do as a couple? First, just like with any potentially stressful topic, don’t let the discussion revolve around criticism of each other’s latest blunder. Taking negative potshots at each other will only build resentment. Instead, schedule a nice chunk of time when the two of you can talk together without distraction.

Next, before discussing any particular financial decisions, come to an agreement on what your specific goals and priorities are as a couple and as a family. Is it to pay down debt, for example, or to build savings? Once you have this down, be willing to put everything on the table. Nothing should be off-limits — not even the satellite football package.

Caroline: Every hobby, source of entertainment, anything at all that could be considered an optional expense should be given scrutiny. But the key to success is this: Let the one who spends it take the lead in giving it up. In other words, the two of you should be offering up sacrifices for the sake of the other. It’s pretty easy to identify ways you think your spouse is being wasteful and then to suggest that those be cut. The problem is that, even if he agrees to cut something, his heart may not be in the sacrifice. Worse yet, he may harbor resentment that you asked him to get rid of it.

Instead, like in most areas of marriage, lead by example. Offer to give up something more dear to you, and then he may do the same. The chances for success are greater if you can take ownership of the changes in your own spending habits.

Tom: By the way, I did decide to give up the college football package this season, and Caroline never asked me to do it. As a result, I think we both appreciate the other’s consideration.

The McDonalds are

family-life directors for the

Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.