When you got married, you probably were given advice on how to make that union successful. Whether it was from your mom or your Uncle Steve, the people around you wanted to see your marriage deepen and grow. I do, too.
Since I didn’t attend your wedding and offer my tidbit of wisdom, here it is: You need to prepare a written budget every month—before the month begins!
I know that may not sound as important as other marriage advice you’ve received, but ongoing communication about money and how you spend it can ultimately make the difference between a second honeymoon and a broken home.
Schedule time to talk
When you talk about your monthly schedules, include at least a half an hour for “budget committee meetings.” Now, you might be thinking that sounds a little formal. But let me ask you this: How successful would a business be if it never had budget meetings? It would go under! Operating your finances together without a budget could mean financial disaster.
We need to think of our home in the same way we think about a business. Have you considered that you and your spouse are actually the CEOs of your own little operation? And the truth is that your family is one of the most important operations in your life. Toward the end of each month, sit down with your calendars (or phones) and carve out time to develop and review the next month’s budget. Repeat that process every month, and by the time you hit month six of budgeting, it will probably feel like second nature.
Don’t make your spouse do it alone
Budgeting has to be a two-person process or it won’t work for a married couple. It’s a collaborative effort, like two people rowing a boat together. You both need to head in the same direction or you’ll find yourselves going in circles.
When my wife and I got serious about our finances, we started meeting together every Sunday. We’d go over our budget for the upcoming week, review the bills that were coming due and discuss the week ahead.
If you’re new to budgeting, I’d recommend that you and your spouse begin by meeting once a week to develop the skill of budgeting and build momentum for your financial goals. Once you and your husband or wife are confident about where your money is going each month, you can cut back to meeting just once a month.
Give yourself enough time
I tell couples to set aside 30 minutes for these budget meetings, but you may want more time than that, especially in the beginning. I’ve found that reserving 30 minutes together gives a couple time and space to engage in the topic of family finances without just flying through the budget quickly. You’ll want to really communicate. Even if you’ve been married for a long time, you may not know the emotional backstory to your spouse’s approach to money.
In my years of coaching couples, I’ve discovered that money fights are rarely about green pieces of paper. Something deeper is usually boiling beneath the surface, so give yourselves enough time to listen to each other — without interruption.
After several years of practicing the budget committee meeting, my wife and I can now knock out the financial conversation pretty quickly and move on to other important family business. We take the time to ask each other: What’s going on? Where are you traveling this week? What’s happening with the kids? What special events are coming up? Who is struggling in school?
After awhile, you just might find that budgeting is less about dollar signs and bottom lines, and more about reconnecting and making sure you and your husband or wife are on the same page. That’s when you know you’re set up to keep moving together in the right direction.
Chris Hogan is the #1 national best-selling author of Retire Inspired: It’s not an age, it’s a financial number and host of the Retire Inspired Podcast. A popular and dynamic speaker on the topics of personal finance, retirement and leadership, Hogan helps people across the country develop successful strategies to manage their money in both their personal lives and businesses. You can find Hogan online at chrishogan360.com.
This article was adapted by Chris Hogan from his book, Retire Inspired: It’s Not an Age, It’s a Financial Number. Used with permission.