What’s the most important part of budgeting with your spouse?
Is it actually having a budget? Sticking to it?
Neither is wrong! The most important part of a budget, to me, is making sure you and your spouse create it together and agree on it! One way to do this is to hold a monthly Budget Committee Meeting, which Dave Ramsey recommends. Not only do we feel confident about where our money is going, but John and I actually feel stronger in our trust and relationship after these meetings! Budget Committee Meetings are a must when you budget with your spouse; here’s what to include in a Budget Committee Meeting to help you feel more in control of your finances.
Make sure the budget is prepared beforehand
Whether it’s you or your spouse that creates the budget, make sure it’s all finished before you come together to discuss it. If there’s something you need to buy next month, make sure you put in your request so it can be added to the budget.
We’ve gotten pretty good at this, although I’ll admit we almost always forget something. One month this year we both needed shoes- two pairs of running shoes, a pair of everyday shoes, and a pair of work shoes. They probably didn’t all need to be bought in the same month, but because we added it to the budget beforehand, we were able to use the “extra” weekly paycheck we got in August to pay for all of them.
Review the previous month
What worked last month? What didn’t work? Tie up any loose ends; if you have any extra money, throw it at debt or savings to create a zero-based budget like I talked about a couple weeks ago. Get things straightened out here first before you start talking about the next month’s budget.
Decide on any one-time monthly expenses to add
By “one-time monthly expenses”, I mean things that usually come up once a year that you should already know about. For example, Christmas is always in December, and your family’s birthdays are always the same month; so you should know beforehand those are coming up and be able to add money accordingly to your budget. If you have a long-term savings account, you can set aside a few dollars every month so you know you’ll have the money when you need it!
Give grace to yourselves, too. I always seem to forget something important, like that 5k I’ve been wanting to sign up for. Budgeting takes practice, and John and I are nowhere near perfect!
Address any concerns
Did somebody overspend on a category last month and now you need to re-arrange your money for this month? Was there a new medical bill that popped up? Things happen, even when you’re doing well; maybe think about things you can cut back on to save some extra money.
The grocery bill seems to be the easiest to cut, just because you can get so creative with what you cook! If you’re not sure you can feed your family for less, check out this list of meals you can make when you have no money.
Follow our three general rules
- Meet in a quiet space: Wait until the kids are in bed, and make sure you’re not too tired or hungry. John and I sit in our office right around 8:00 PM for our meeting, which gives us plenty of time for un-rushed conversation before bed. Being somewhere quiet helps us focus, and eating dessert beforehand (always a plus!) tends to make us happier before we talk.
- Keep the meeting to 30 minutes max: Dave Ramsey tells us it’s a meeting, not a summit! Any more than 30 minutes and I just get frazzled and tired. Talking about money can be challenging and stressful, so the shorter you can make the meeting, the better. Most of the time, we finish up in about 10 minutes if there’s nothing big to talk about.
- Both of you need to agree to the budget: This is the most important thing you can do before you end the meeting. The budget won’t work if one of you is reluctant on where your money’s going this month, and you need to speak up about it!
Schedule your meetings for once a month
You decide when to have your Budget Committee Meeting, but make sure it’s always on the schedule! John and I always have our meetings the last Sunday of each month, which gives us time to figure out any unsettled matters and get our budget in order.
As with anything you do, these Budget Committee Meetings will take practice and patience. You’ll get things wrong; you’ll forget stuff; you may even try to skip these meetings every once in awhile. Being on the same page with your spouse is super important, though, so as long as you’re in constant communication, you can figure things out!
Do you already have Budget Committee Meetings with your spouse? Share your tips and concerns in the comments below!
Check out the other posts in this series: