It has been established that men and women have different financial and communication styles. Add to that the fact that opposites attract. Now we have room for conflict everywhere.
In a marriage one spouse is usually more creative and spontaneous than the other. That mate is a little — or even a lot — less organized and tends to see budgeting as a form of torture or control. I call this mate a Free Spirit. The other mate likely has more administrative skills and more of a bent towards numbers; this mate also tends to shoulder responsibility for the budget. Deep inside him or her is a Nerd. A Nerd has the capacity to create a 17-page perfect budget and present it to the family like a gloating dictator. The Free Spirit will smile — and then spend money however he or she wants to. And the budget wars are on.
A Word to the Nerd
Nerd, you should be the one to prepare the budget, because that's what we Nerds love to do. Next, submit it to the budget committee, meaning you and your spouse.
When you submit the budget (a.k.a. your masterpiece), remember to be quiet and listen. Your Free-Spirit spouse will not come to any more meetings if all you do is tell him or her what to do. The first draft of the budget is your chance to have your "say." After that, sit back and listen. Accept the fact that your mate has valid input. Remember, you are doing this to coax your spouse into better money management and financial unity — and believe me, your concessions are a small price to pay for unity.
The budget committee needs to have rules. First, keep the meeting brief. It's a budget committee meeting, not a Camp David accord. Nerds like me to love to look at all possible scenarios and projections. However, when the objective is agreement with your Free-Spirit spouse, you have about a 17-minute window of opportunity before he or she tunes out. Oh, you may see a physical body still sitting across the table from you, but his or her mind will have moved on to non-Nerd, non-budgetary activities.
Nerd, your three rules for the budget committee meeting are:
Rules for the Other Side
Free Spirits, you must show up for the budget committee meeting. This activity is important to your marriage and to your children’s future. The only way you can defend your position is to come to the meeting.
During the budget committee meeting, there is a phrase you must resolve to never say again: "Whatever you want to do, Honey." Wrong, cop-out breath! You have to stick in there and make this work. And as you sit there, you must be a grown-up and realize that we cannot spend more than we make and have financial security or build wealth. Your wants, needs, and desires must be combined with those of your family, and the new total must be less than your family income.
Free Spirit, your three rules are:
Although men and women are different, common sense tells us we have to work together. You spenders need a saver in your life, or you'll retire eating Alpo. You savers need a spender in your life so you'll have a life. Remember, you are no longer two individuals, but one couple. Working together is the only way to survive bad times and prosper in good ones.