Disclaimer: We are not finance professionals. This is an anecdotal article based on the success we have found in our own marriage. We don’t guarantee any results by taking this advice.
Money issues are the third leading cause of divorce in America.
While money and budgets can be a heavy source of frustration, they don’t have to be!
Budgeting for couples is an essential and empowering aspect of home management that enables married couples to effectively handle their finances while building a solid foundation for their future.
Every married couple will argue about finances at some point in their marriage, but the couples that win out are the ones who consistently keep financial communication on the table regardless of their spending styles.
How you feel about and spend money can be traced back to early childhood experiences. If your parents acted as though you never had enough or that you should buy whatever you want because you can always make more money, well that’s what you’re likely to still believe.
Since each one of our family experiences are unique, it’s most common to bring a very different and sometimes opposite view of money into your marriage. It’s that difference that can cause a lot of problems.
By approaching budgeting as a team and adopting a proactive approach, couples can navigate their financial journey with harmony and confidence. In this article, we’ll help you find your why and give our 10 best tips for budgeting as a couple.
Are we combining our finances or keeping them separate? What are our goals? What is your relationship with money? How should we treat our discretionary spending? How much should we be putting toward retirement? What are the best ways to invest?
Money can be complicated and there are likely dozens of questions spinning around in your head.
Before you even get started creating a budget with your spouse, the key is to establish open and honest communication. You don’t have to know the answers to any of those questions right away, but talking throughout the process will increase your success.
You’ll start creating a budget as a couple by getting a clear understanding of your current financial situation. Take an inventory of your income, expenses, debts and savings. This will provide a solid foundation for creating a budget that reflects your financial reality.
Once you have a clear picture of your finances, it's time to set goals.
Discuss your short-term and long-term financial goals. Are you saving for a down payment on a house, starting a family or planning for retirement? By identifying your goals together, you can create a budget that supports your shared vision.
Having unified goals can also help each partner feel like they have a stake in the process. It’s easier to stick to a budget when you’re both looking forward to the same reward.
Ultimately, budgeting isn’t about restricting yourself but it’s actually about making intentional choices that align with your priorities.
Open communication needs to be top priority
Money-related conflicts are common in relationships, but effective communication can help prevent and resolve these conflicts. By openly discussing financial concerns, fears, and expectations, couples can address potential conflicts before they escalate. Active listening, empathy, and compromise are essential communication skills that enable couples to find common ground and reach mutually satisfactory solutions.
Be transparent about your spending
Transparency in spending cultivates trust within a relationship. When both partners are open and honest about their individual expenses, it eliminates suspicion or doubts about hidden financial activities. Sharing information about purchases, bills, and financial obligations establishes a sense of accountability and shows a commitment to the shared financial goals. Transparency allows couples to work together as a team, fostering a strong financial partnership based on trust, respect, and mutual understanding.
Create a budget
You don’t need to be in a paycheck-to-paycheck scenario to benefit from a budget. Keeping track of your spending can ensure that you’re not living beyond your means, but can also be beneficial for meeting your goals. You might be surprised to find you can save more than you assumed toward your goals! Knowledge is power in this scenario! Use online budgeting tools or mobile apps to make tracking easier and more convenient.
Don’t leave the budgeting to one spouse
While one of you may be in charge of managing the budget on a regular basis, don’t leave the other spouse out completely. It can be beneficial for both of you to have a working knowledge of the budgeting software you’re using as well as having a central location for account login information.
In the event that one spouse becomes unable to maintain the budget for a time or, worst-case, passes away unexpectedly, the other spouse should be able to find all the information they need to take over.
Embrace your differences and find compromise
Generally, one spouse is a saver and one is a spender. Sometimes you see two savers, but rarely do you find two spenders. This is where the money arguments can easily begin!
It’s not realistic to believe that all wants are unnecessary and that every extra penny should be saved. It’s also unrealistic to believe that you should be able to spend your money on everything you want. There must be a balance and you will find that through communication and compromise!
Determine spending limits for discretionary expenses such as dining out, entertainment, and personal purchases AND how much you want to save. By setting boundaries, you can prevent overspending and maintain a healthy balance between enjoying life and saving for the future.
Honor each other’s differences by sticking to what you’ve agreed upon.
Celebrate your progress
Most of your financial goals are likely large and may take a little - or a lot - of time to achieve. Celebrate smaller milestones in your pursuit of them!
Whether you’re paying off debt or saving for a new home, decide on mini-milestones and do something to celebrate them! You might find the larger amount much easier to achieve when you acknowledge your progress on the way.
Build an emergency fund
Unexpected expenses can arise at any time. Set aside a portion of your income each month to build an emergency fund. This will provide a financial safety net and prevent you from relying on credit cards or loans in times of crisis.
Get and stay out of debt
Debt can restrict your freedom and limit your choices. When a significant portion of your income goes towards debt repayment, it reduces your ability to pursue your goals as a couple. Staying out of debt allows you to have more financial flexibility and the freedom to make decisions based on your priorities rather than being tied down by financial obligations.
Debt often also comes with financial stress, which can put a dramatic strain on your marriage. The pressure of mounting debts, interest payments, and the constant worry about meeting financial obligations can lead to anxiety, disagreements, and overall tension within the relationship.
Review and adjust regularly
Have regular money dates! Find time - as distraction free as possible - to discuss your finances.
Throughout your marriage your income will fluctuate, expenses will change and new priorities will arise. If you get into the habit of discussing your money regularly, you’ll be ready when something changes.
Seek professional advice
If you find it challenging to create or stick to a budget, consider seeking help from a financial advisor. They can provide guidance and tailor strategies to your specific needs.
Financial advisors are also excellent at helping you understand the complexities of a large financial portfolio. They’re really just great resources for any of your financial needs, big or small.
Budgeting as a couple doesn’t have to end in disaster! It’s an opportunity to strengthen your financial bond and build a secure future together. With transparent and consistent communication, shared goals and a great strategy, you can navigate your financial journey with confidence and achieve your goals while strengthening your marriage.