This is a guest post by Abby Hayes.
I think it’s safe to say that, on some level, money is always an issue in any relationship. Sure, some couples don’t fight about money often, but every couple I know has had some tension about finances at some point. And for many couples, money is at the root of the fight in the marriage – that one recurring issue that never seems to go away.
Unfortunately, financial disagreements aren’t only common; they’re also incredibly damaging. Recent research from Utah State University shows that couples who fight over finances once a week are 30% more likely to divorce than couples who only disagree about money a few times a month.
But just because you fight about money with your spouse or partner doesn’t mean you’re automatically headed down the rocky path to divorce. One simple move could save your finances and your marriage from ruin: the weekly budget meeting.
How it Worked for Me
I know just how difficult tension between the spender and the saver can be. I’m a Type A, frugal wife who can be a little too controlling of the family purse strings, while my husband is more laid-back and doesn’t mind spending money.
For the first several years of our marriage, we’d wind up in this recurring pattern of money-related fights:
- We have a little bit of money in our bank account (because there’s really never been a lot!).
- He wants to spend the money on something.
- I deem that “something” unnecessary (which is probably true), and say no.
- He calls me controlling (which is also probably true), and things spiral down from there.
This happened over, and over, and over again – ad nauseum.
But finally – five years later – we’ve begun to avoid at least most of the money-related fights. We still disagree about where to spend and where to save at times, but we finally feel like we’re on the same page financially. So what changed? Well, I chalk it all down to our regular, weekly budget meetings.
Now, we get together regularly (usually once a week, but sometimes more or less) to look at our spending so far for the month and to plan out near-future spending. We also use these times to talk about longer-term financial goals, like buying a home, paying off debt, and saving for our daughter’s college education.
Having some time to focus on finances – when we’re not already in the middle of a financial fight – means that we can set goals together, watch ourselves reach those goals, and generally just agree on more when it comes to money.
It also means that we can head off major arguments before they even start, by talking about things when we’re both calm, focused, and looking at the actual budget and bank account numbers.
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How It Can Work for You, Too
There’s no magic formula to our budget meetings that you can’t replicate in your own relationship. And you might even do things a little differently than we do. But these tips for implementing a weekly budget meeting could help you and your spouse avoid that spender/saver tension, and meet financial goals together:
Schedule your meetings. It’s important that you both be focused at these meetings, especially since you’ll be talking actual numbers. So set aside a time when you won’t be distracted by work, kids, or your to-do list. You won’t need much time, especially after the first few meetings, but you will need to be distraction-free.
Play to your strengths. I’m the more organized, analytical person in my marriage, so I take care of all the budgeting and bill-paying. That means that I also “run” our budget meetings by leading us through the information I’ve been looking at all week. I’m not really in charge of our budget, per se, but I’m the one who knows what’s going on, so I typically set the tone for budget meetings.
Use the tools that work for you. My husband and I use Mint for budgeting, and we’ve just started using ReadyforZero. I love that both of these interfaces are very visual, which helps give my husband an at-a-glance look at our financial situation without having to go into too much detail. (He appreciates this, too!) But there are tons of great budgeting tools out there (like this budgeting spreadsheet), so figure out what works best for you as a couple!
Talk long-term and short-term. At budget meetings, make a point to talk about both your long-term goals (getting out of debt, etc.) and your short-term goals (saving for vacation, trimming your grocery budget, etc.). This ensures that you stay on track with your longer-term goals, while giving you short-term goals that are easier to meet.
Give one another leeway. One of the absolute best things we’ve done in our marriage has been instituting an allowance system. Each month, both my husband and I get a separate small budget of our own that we can spend on whatever, no questions asked. This gives us each money for personal needs and wants, and keeps my husband especially from feeling too controlled.
Like I said, no magic tricks. This is just all about setting aside time to intentionally communicate about your finances, so that you can team up more and fight less. Once you’re on the same page and are reaching financial goals together, you’ll never look at shared finances the same way again.
Abby Hayes is a blogger and copywriter who writes for The Dough Roller. She enjoys detailed budgets, dark chocolate, and fat Victorian novels.
Credit For Image 1 MAMJODH
Credit For Image 2 Keith Williamson
Credit For Image 3 ccarlstead