How to make a budget as a couple.
Do you struggle trying to figure out how to get your spouse to budget?? I can relate! I have been there!
About 10 years ago I read the book that changed my life, Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book and I knew it was time to start looking at our finances differently. I decided right then and there that my husband and I would make a budget, and stick to it faithfully.
Later that night I happily told my husband the good news, “We are going to start budgeting and will be able to save so much money!” I announced.
I looked at his face, fully expecting to see the same enthusiasm that I felt……but instead of joy, I saw annoyance.
“Why do we need to budget? We spend less than I make every month” he asked me.
I spent a few minutes explaining to him that a budget could help us save for our future, eliminate some unnecessary spending, and set us up for financial success.
But, he just didn’t have the same vision as I had. Which, in hindsight is understandable. I had accepted him to jump on board with my new found financial knowledge, simply because I was telling him that it was a good idea. I wanted him to feel like I felt, without ever giving him the opportunity to form his own views.
Here’s the thing about relationships: you can not force your spouse to have your same views. That’s not how a marriage works. A marriage is a partnership between two separate people. Each of the partners will, should, have their own opinions, thoughts, goals, and ideas. I’m going to say it again, you can not force your spouse to be something they aren’t.
It took me a few months of talking to him about budgeting before I finally asked, “Can we just try it? Let’s just try it for one month and see how it goes. I think it could really help us!”
Fortunately, he agreed. We sat together one evening and set up a budget. There were frustrations, we have had plenty of mishaps, and we have had to start and restart time and time again. But. A decade later and we still budget. In fact, my husband is the one that 99% of the time reminds me it’s time to discuss the budget.
So what changed? I believe there were two main points that changed my husbands mind about the whole budget thing.
- He saw that a budget did in fact make a difference. My husband needed to decide for himself if he felt that a budget was worthwhile. Once he saw how much more money we did actually save on a budget, he embraced the vision.
- It became a habit. He really didn’t like the idea of having “one more thing” on his to do list. But, after a few months it has become a habit and doesn’t feel like an extra chore, it’s just what we do.
Now, I understand that not all situations go like mine. Some spouses are more willing and others are much less willing to budget together. Here are a few tips to help you when your spouse just doesn’t want to budget.
Communication is so important in a marriage, and finances is no different. Communicate with your spouse why you want to budget and your goals and concerns for your future. Explain to him why this is important to you, and why it is important to you to do together.
In return, listen. Listen to your spouses concerns. Ask him why he doesn’t want to budget, ask him how you can help make it easier for them, and genuinely listen and care about his responses.
2. Make it Fun
Try to make budgeting fun (yes! budgeting can be funnish!). Instead of saying, “Let’s have a budget meeting.” (I mean, that prob sounds fairly boring to anyone, right!?), invite your spouse to something fun, plus a budget meeting!
You could go on a walk, have a picnic, or bring their favorite foods to enjoy while discussing the budget. Make the budget meetings a little less boring and try to make it a fun experience for everyone involved.
2. No blaming
When it comes to the budget you need to work as a team. Avoid putting blame on your spouse. Instead of, “You spent way to much this month!” say phrases like, “We spent to much this month.” Yes! Even if it truly might be your spouse overspending, work as a team and never ever blame. The only thing blaming will bring is contention.
3. Be Willing to Compromise
Compromise is a must when getting on the same page as your spouse with the budget. Maybe you are super frugal and your spouse isn’t, this is totally normal!
Find a way to meet in the middle. Perhaps your spouse wants to get a hair cut and color every month, but you feel that makes the budget to tight. Ask if they would be willing to get a cut and color every 6-8 weeks instead. Give your spouse freedom in their budget, while also making sure the budget is kept.
4. Personal Spending Money
Include personal spending money for both you and your spouse. This spending money gives both of you the freedom to spend how you want, when you want, with completely no guilt or judgement attached to it.
The amount received for personal spending will vary based on your income and expenses. However, you and your spouse should both receive the exact same amount.
I love having this guilt free spending money!
- Related: Budget for Beginners: FAQ
5. Be the Example
Maybe your spouse just doesn’t get it, and that’s OK! The whole idea of budgeting might be a little daunting or strange to them, which is exactly how my husband was. Be an example of living by a successful budget so they can learn from you.
Excitedly show your partner how much money you saved by doing “xyz” that month. Your positive attitude just might rub off and they will want to join in on your success.
6. Celebrate the Wins
Positive reinforcement goes a long ways in marriage, and life in general. When your spouse sticks to the budget, celebrate. Buy them their favorite treat, genuinely praise them, and let them know how proud you are of them.
Everyone likes to feel appreciated and having mini celebrations can help budgeting feel much more bearable.
7. Make a Plan Together
Together is the key word in this. Sit down and discuss your goals for the future and present. Plan how you can reach these goals and make a plan going forward. Allow your spouse to give their opinions about the way the plan and budget will look. It might not be exactly how you think it should be, but remember compromise matters.
When Nothing Works
If you have tried everything you can to get your spouse to budget and it’s just not working, you are not alone. Financial disagreements are common among all couples.
Focus on the things that you can control within your budget. Spend wisely. Budget as best as you can by yourself and do what you can to keep the finances in order. Alone is never fun, but it can be done. Lean on support groups through facebook or family and friends to help give you the support you need.