It just occurred to me that my husband and I haven't fought about money in almost three years. When we first combined finances, I was convinced that we would never find a way past those late night explosive arguments about who spent what and why. Like everything in my life, changes happened in small baby steps headed in the right direction. To celebrate our three years of living money fight free, I thought I would share what we've learned over the years.
1. Have a Meeting
Managing your finances is an ongoing event. It doesn't matter how amazingly you get everything sorted and organized. If you don't revisit it every few days, you are setting yourself up to fail. The easiest way to accomplish this is having a set day to pay bills and balance your budget. If one of you likes doing the budget (likely the one whose reading this now!), that person can pay bills and balance the budget on their own during the day. At night, both of you sit down for a 20 minute meeting where you present a quick overview of how the week's spending was, how the budget is working out, any weaknesses you would like to identify and possible solutions.
For the initial meeting, take all of your projected income for the upcoming month and divide the money into categories. Include all of the bills that need to be paid, and extra expenses like clothing, haircuts, home decor, groceries, fuel, entertainment etc. Assign each dollar of income to a category. The bill payer can do this on his/her own and then pass it to the budget hater, who can make changes. You may be surprised at the outcome. At last night's meeting, my budget hater insisted on increasing my blog expenses. This is your basic budget, meet every week on the same day.
2. Assign Responsibility, Incorporate Checks and Balances
In our family, it's my job to pay the bills on Monday, and to advise my husband, Mr. BB, if anything would be paid late for any reason (like, if there is a bill dispute or I'm waiting to hear back from a company). It's Mr. BB's job to ensure that I'm doing my job. The bill companies are set up to contact him if something is late, and he has access to our savings and checking via online. We're both pretty truthful, awesome people so this likely isn't necessary, but I still think it's important. I want someone checking up on me to ensure that something crazy doesn't happen. I believe that it protects our family, and increases our security. Prior to this, I could have spent our savings on miniature donkeys, and never paid the mortgage and Mr. BB would have had no idea.
Sadly, I know of several families that have lost the house, filed for bankruptcy, and lost their job because someone had a hidden drug problem, spending or gambling addiction. I don't drink, and never spend more than $50 in a casino, but this a super easy way to ensure that never happens and lets your partner rest easy that everything is being taken care of like it should be.
3. Get On The Same Team
You fight because you have different goals. You're upset that he gets to spend $500 on hunting gear and you have to explain yourself for a measly $20 spent on a completely reasonable herringbone pencil skirt that will last you for years! I get it, I know how that feels. The basic component of every conflict that you have in a marriage is compromise. You're exchanging your individual goals for new combined goals. You may want to have a huge savings, investments, live debt free, and not buy a house until you can pay cash. He may want to buy a mansion on his VA Loan as an "investment," use credit cards "to build good credit," and vacation three times a year in expensive places because "YOLO: You only live once!" Sit down together and decide on goals that you'll work towards. Every situation has a solution.
In the above situation: I would suggest that the couple work toward a home loan of a larger house than planned but still manageable, a vacation every year, and aim to be debt free. Financially, that's not the "right" answer. You and your partner aren't a business though. You're a family and his opinion is equally important. Neither of you are "right," find a happy medium that you can both live with. Write those goals down and keep them with your finances, discuss them often.
4. Monitor Your Progress
Nothing brings a team together quite like winning. If you chart your progress to reach your goal, you'll feel more and more like a team. As your situation improves and you can see your system working, it will reinforce that you guys are now a successful team. The more you feel like a team, the easier this will be and the more "on board" the budget hater will be to the idea of saving money.
I'm different from other budgeters, because I don't necessarily want you to sock your money away in an investment fund and retire rich (although, that really would be the best bet – so if I could convince you both of that, then let's pretend I did tell you that). I want you to live the most amazing life possible while you're here. I want you to tour the Amazon, and safari in Africa. I want you to take your little rugrats to Disney World, and bring your parents to visit their homeland. I want you to have an 83-inch TV with surround sound in your living room, and a sail boat. I want you to learn how to fly a plane, and then buy a plane. Whatever your passions are in life, I want you to have those things. I want you to stay focused on the things that you want, and eliminate spending money on the things that don't matter to you. Because I can't envision being on my death bed and saying "You know what the best part of life was? All those Big Macs … They were amazing."
Your budget is reflective of you as a couple. I want you to plan accordingly for the future, but I'm not asking you to deprive yourself of everything you ever wanted in favor of a fat savings account. I'm just asking you to sit down and decide what's important as a couple. Spend money on that. It's that easy.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Rosemarie Groner's blog, The Busy Budgeter. It has been modified and republished here with permission.
Rosemarie Groner is a formerly stressed, overworked and exhausted mom who loves blogging almost as much as she loves brownies. She writes at The Busy Budgeter about how she used the free Ultimate Money Saving Workbook to reduce their spending enough to be able to quit her job, stay home with her kids and then found way to make up her salary at home. She’s still working on the cure for exhaustion.