How to Create a Budget With Your Spouse
Budgeting alone can be difficult, but combing two personalities into one budget takes the difficultly to another level. Often times opposites attract, so there’s a good chance you and your spouse have different ways of handling money. Realize that disagreements are normal and the sweet spot is finding a way for your differences to compliment each other.
It’s so important to operate as a team in marriage (financially, or in any category). If you’re not working on your financial goals together, you’re not going to have success. Money fights are one of the leading causes of divorce. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, some spouses just aren’t talking about money with each other at all. When couples learn to work together on their finances they will find unity in their marriage. You learn to create shared visions and goals from your individual goals.
This is why it’s important for both spouses to be involved in creating the monthly budget. One spouse may have a more natural gift for crunching numbers and staying organized, but decision-making should be done by both spouses.
Understand your roles.
In marriage, we typically find that there are two personality types represented and that is the Nerd and the Free Spirit (stay with me if you think you and your spouse are the same type). The Nerd is the person who is more interested in crunching numbers, staying organized, truly enjoys creating the monthly budget, and feels like they are taking care of their loved ones by doing so. The Free Spirit is more laid back, doesn’t care much about the numbers, and is more focused on living life with their family than being in control. Learning how these two personality types complement each other and work together is key to creating a budget as a couple.
Our family really began to enjoy budgeting as whole when we embraced these roles and stopped trying to force both of us to do everything. We each have strengths to bring to the table, and family budget meetings go much more smoothly when we each get to use these strengths.
Rules for the Nerd: Keep budget meetings brief, there’s no need to present an entire profit and loss statement for the year, just stay on topic with the monthly budget and keep it concise. Listen to your spouse, the free spirit is often the one that reduces money stress and keeps you both motivated throughout this process.
Rules for the Free Spirit: You must show up to the meeting (on time) and be present. Contribute your opinions and never say anything like “it’s whatever you think,” so you must actually play a part in decision making.
Remember that although there are two types, or two extremes, each person could fall anywhere on the spectrum between the two. If you feel like you and your spouse both have the same personality type, you can still follow these same tips for budgeting with your spouse but it will take a little more effort to define your roles. If you are both Free Spirits, dig deep and decide which one of you is more towards the Nerd end of the spectrum. If you just absolutely feel like neither of you can be enough of a Nerd to make it work, then you need to consider hiring someone (or maybe finding a volunteer) to help you create your budget each month and hold you accountable. If you are both Nerds, first see if one of you would more enjoy creating the budget than the other. If you still feel like you both are at the same level of nerdiness, decide which one of you is the spender and which one is the saver and let the saver be the one to crunch the numbers every month.
You can read my post about The Spender vs. The Saver if you want to dig even deeper into finding your roles.
Set financial goals together.
When you learn to work as a team in your marriage, you will become unstoppable. If you’re trying to work separately and you’re setting different goals, you’re probably killing each other’s progress, or at least delaying it. When you work together towards the same goals, you can both contribute, encourage each other, and take responsibility. You’re going to reach your goals so much faster, together.
You have to sit down and talk with your spouse to know what these goals need to be. Our family follow’s Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps and so some of our overall financial goals are already in an easy to follow format. But we still have to discuss the details of these goals like when we hope to achieve the next one, how much money we need to work on that goal each month, etc. And beyond that, there are still other goals to be discussed like saving for a vacation or a car. We decide these things together so we can make sure both of our interests are heard. When you’re working to have a strong marriage, you will genuinely want to see your spouse get the things they want and that makes it so much easier to figure out what goals you need to be working on currently and what’s down the line.
Learn to compromise.
You can pay off debt, you can save for a down payment on a house, you can buy a car with cash, you can create a nice retirement fund…you can do all these things. But you won’t be able to do them all at once. And you won’t be able to do them all while buying everything you lay your eyes on. You will make sacrifices to reach the goals you want to achieve, and likewise, you will have to make compromises.
You have to be on the same page and you both have to be honest with each other about how you want to spend money. If your spouse would really like to save for a down payment on a house, but you would really like to save some cash for a splurge vacation, you may need to compromise. Take a smaller vacation or postpone the vacation until after you buy a house. If you’re truly working together, you will be able to do this and even though it may be harder at first, it will get easier.
If you’re struggling to get your spouse on board with paying off all your debt or getting on a budget, you will need to master the art of compromising early on. If your spouse is reluctant to your new found money makeover, you will only sabotage it if you take away their Netflix subscription, gym membership, and personal spending money. Don’t make your spouse out to be the villain. Do not try to win every battle. You’re fighting a war against debt together, so sometimes you may have to take one for the team. But the financial freedom you will experience when you find financial intimacy with your spouse will be worth all the compromises and sacrifices.
The most important thing to remember is: YOU ARE A TEAM. There will be times during this financial journey that you will know, ahem, think you are right. There will be times when you feel like your priorities are more important. But please remember, that no matter how important this financial journey is, your marriage is most important. Do not make your spouse feel like crap just to have your way with the budget. That includes not making them feel bad for not wanting to budget or making them feel guilty for spending money and piling up debt. You will get so much farther in life if you work as a team, so regardless of how things have been the past, make every effort to work together starting now. When you start working together on your finances, your bond of marriage will be strengthened in so many other areas and it will thrive.