This post is part of an editorial series, “Money Matters.”
I admit it. I’m probably the last person who should be giving financial advice. I tend to have a “life is short, why not enjoy it?” philosophy when it comes to money. I prefer shopping over everything, and even if given the choice between Starbucks or a cup of home brew, I will choose the most expensive latte every time.
My husband, however, is frugal.
He loves to save and research deals, and he is constantly reorganizing our budget in order to maximize funds.
As you can imagine, this leads to many late night conversations discussing finances and new ways to reach our financial goals . . . while also living and enjoying life.
Our Bumpy Financial Road
My philosophy is flawed, of course, and we spent our early 20s in debt because of it. One idealistic year in New York City after college is all it took for us to plunge into a financial hole. To make up for those mistakes, we spent our late 20s developing discipline. Running. Working. Renting cheap duplexes and apartments while whittling away at debt and making plans for career and family.
But plans change when life happens.
Our second-born daughter was diagnosed with a degenerative neuromuscular condition, and I chose to leave my career. Two incomes became one and somehow, miraculously, we found a way to make it happen.
It wasn’t easy (still isn’t), and I give God and my husband all the credit for making it possible.
But in the process, I have learned a thing or two about relationships and money. And no matter where you are financially, being on the same page with your spouse will make it better.
Share Your Burdens and Dreams
How often do you sit with your spouse and talk about your dreams? I’m not talking about your desire to win the lottery or become independently wealthy. I’m talking about the real hopes of your heart. Maybe it’s starting a family business or quitting your job to pursue further education and a new career. I personally want to take an annual vacation and create a home where people want to come and stay. My husband wants to fund our retirement and pay off our mortgage.
These are deep-rooted desires of our hearts, and just saying them out loud and discussing ways to make them happen has brought us closer together.
It’s easy to focus on financial burdens, but sometimes re-shifting the conversation to talk about your dreams can shed fresh perspective on why you’re making sacrifices today.
Make a Plan
This is the part that makes me cringe. I really, really hate it. But my husband is good at it, so I let him take the lead.
Best-laid plans start with a good inventory of where you currently are. This includes knowing your take-home income, evaluating your current expenses (essential and non-essential) and comparing the two to see if your expenses are within your means. From there, you develop a budget and start tracking your expenses to assure you stay in line and also allow room to begin making progress toward your goals. This will include margin for an emergency fund, debt repayment plans, short-term savings for Christmas or vacations, and long-term savings for things like college or retirement. You may need to open up new checking and savings accounts to keep things organized, or you might consider a cash system where you use envelopes each week. There are dozens of websites and apps that can help you track your expenses and see where your money is really going.
I’ve found the key to saving your sanity and your marriage during this process is to talk about it regularly at a previously agreed upon time. Yes, I’m talking about a meeting. I know it sounds painful, but I promise it’s not that bad. If you do the budgeting process as a team, you will be committed to the outcome. And you’ll grow closer together, too.
Agree to Re-Visit the Plan
Once your budget is in good shape, you can space out your meetings to reassess every quarter or every six months, depending on the goals you are trying to reach.
It’s important to go back to the plan and make changes as your life does. Nothing is set in stone. You created the budget, and you can change it any time.
Sharing your burdens and dreams, setting realistic goals, and making plans to get there is just the beginning. You and your spouse can become more intimate through your finances, and roll with life’s punches. Together.
What are some of the ways you and your spouse stay on the same page financially and maintain the peace?