Budgeting as a couple is something I’ve struggled with and it took me a long time to do well. I’m nearly 8 years into marriage and still getting better on the budget side. Early on when I started I simply didn’t have a vision. I’ve since learned some tips on budgeting for couples
I got tripped up by every little stumble or trip along our journey. Now I realize that the trips and stumbled are going to happen. Whether they be overspending on Christmas or not thinking of everything we should have on our budget.
Now my mindset is that we need to get better than the month before. There are so many parts to finances that we just need to be able to say we are better than we were before.
My wife and I have both come a long way when it comes to our finances. Me being the saver and her being the spender have kind of met in the middle. I think this was for the best. In this post I want to give some tips to budgeting for couples all from personal experience.
Start with a shared vision for your life
I’ve previously discussed the importance of setting a vision for your life and even how to put a plan together to attack it. This same mindset is very valuable when it comes your finances. Early on in our marriage the reason I was budgeting was because I wanted to save money. Thats it. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it and never thought I should explain this to my wife.
As we continued along the journey I started putting together a vision for what I wanted our life to look like in the future. I’m not going to lie, my wife and I are chasing something pretty sweet. I think about this often. Its what keeps me going.
Explain the entire budget, when they want
I blame it on my engineering mind but I’ve got a spreadsheet, plan and system for everything. I know our expenses cold. Guess who doesn’t? My wife.
Frankly I’m glad. There is only room in our relationship for one engineer. What I’ve learned is that my wife doesn’t really care about the budget in its entirety a whole lot. She cares about what effects her life that month.
Utilities? Don’t care. Retirement savings? Don’t care.
Grocery budget? Yes please. Budget for the kids? Yup.
Narrow the focus down to what effects your spouse. Offer to explain everything in detail whenever they want. Don’t make a date night out of discussing finances. Don’t make it some special thing. Make it quick. Efficient.
When you’ve got a busy life and two kids, trust me, wasting a date night on discussing finances will never be on your radar. While important, budgeting as a couple doesn’t trump everything in life.
Give status reports
I keep thinking back to my old self and wish I could talk to him. Tell them a thing or two and speed up progress. This of course would cover a lot of things but would also include budgeting as a couple.
Old me used to track our expenses, total everything up at the end of the month, and get frustrated because we over spent.
Guess what I wasn’t doing? Watching the totals as I updated them and communicating areas to watch to my wife. Guess what happens when you tell your wife that we need to watch our spending in a certain area?
She watches it. Amazing right?
I realized (much later than I should have) that I need to keep her in the loop as I realize something needs to be watched a little more closely. Can’t spend anymore on the kids, I’ll request. She says, “Ok shouldn’t be a problem.” Jaw drops.
Be patient and focus on the long term
Your finances are a long, long journey. Guess whats going to happen on this journey? You are going to trip, stumble, fall down. Guess what else?
You are going to get up. If you keep getting up you will succeed.
Going into this journey you’ve got to realize that if you over spend one month or don’t plan ahead as well as you should, its ok. Work with your spouse to do a little better the next month.
Didn’t save as much as you would have liked this month? Its going to be ok. You’ve got to keep your focus on the long term. Think about where you’re going and the progress you’ve made.
Never forget its a journey you are going on together. Budgeting as a couple is certainly a part of this but is not an end-all-be-all.
Keep things simple
Just had a bad month and frustrated with your progress? Keep the next month simple.
Had a month where you over spent on the kids? Next month talk to your spouse and explain to them what happened. Talk about watching that area closely next month.
Narrow your focus. Realize that one bad month won’t ruin you. Groceries an issue one month (I’ve been here)? Focus on going once a week and sticking to a dollar amount.
Keep it simple.
Money is a tool. Keep it that way
Finances aren’t the most important thing in life. I realize you know that deep down but its easily forgotten. In the day-to-day of tracking expenses and setting budgets its easy to forget that life is about, well life.
Keep the focus of your life on your family, enjoying life and let money be a tool to help you enjoy it more. Plan for the future. Plan for that Disney trip. Life can still be great if you don’t have a vacation home, go to Disney World every year and jet set around the world.
You know why?
Because if you’ve got your loved ones and they have their health, you’ve got everything you’ll ever truly need.
What do you think?
I’ve said it a hundred times by now but life is a long journey. Be patient. I’m only 8 years into this journey. What am I missing? Is there a tip you could provide?
What will the future me wish I would know today? I know its a long list. Let me know!