When Johnny first told me about a budgeting book he was reading, I was all for it. He’d tell me little details here or there, and I’d nod my head in approval to all the wisdom he was gleaning from its crisp pages. Then he sat me down to discuss implementing a strict budget into our daily lives. Even then, it sounded okay. But when it came time to putting it into action, I was no longer on board. This was his dream, not mine. These were his rules, not mine. I grudgingly stuck to the budget because I’d said I would, but I blamed Johnny for sucking all the fun out of my life. After all, it was because of him that we were doing all this in the first place.
Any of this sound familiar? Maybe you’re Johnny in this situation, and your spouse is me. Whatever the case, one of the biggest challenges with budgeting can be getting on the same page as your spouse. For some reason or another, opposites attract, which means oftentimes a saver marries and spender and vice versa. And having different money philosophies can cause big problems. So what do you do when you find yourself in this situation? Every situation is different, but for Johnny and me, here’s what helped us get on the same financial page.
Recognize Each Other’s Strengths
Chances are good that you and your spouse are fairly different. For instance, I tend to be a little more organized than Johnny, so keeping track of our budget is easier for me. BUT (and this is a big but), I am way more compulsive. When it comes to spending money, Johnny thinks through every little purchase and, therefore, rarely makes a regrettable one. So when it comes to keeping track of our spending, I kind of lead that up, reminding Johnny to enter in purchases he’s made. And then Johnny’s job is to talk me off the impulsive spending ledge (usually late at night on Amazon). “Joanna, let’s just go to sleep. I promise that toilet training kit for cats isn’t going to seem like a good idea in the morning.” The point is, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses forwards and backwards, but we try to focus on the strengths and use them to our advantage.
When we first started budgeting, I would get so upset with Johnny because I felt like he was trying to control me. I’d say super mature stuff like, “I’m an adult! I’m not a child!!” and then stick my tongue out at him. We’d then have a passive-aggressive let’s-see-who-can-go-the-longest-without-talking fight. Even though Johnny had only the best intentions with our budgeting, I didn’t respond well to feeling like I was being forced to do something. Budgeting has to be equal. One person can’t be telling the other person what to do. Now we agree to the same budget each month and set rules, and we politely (for the most part) remind each other of those rules. The “Everything Else” portion of our budget really helped ease up the tension, too.
Another key to equality is not keeping track. And I’m not talking about your spending. Sorry, Charlie. I really hope someone named Charlie just read that. I’m talking about the income. There should be no “yours” or “mine.” It’s all “ours.” Johnny makes almost all of our money right now, but he doesn’t have special privileges within our budget because of it. And I didn’t get my personal spending revoked because I’m now a stay-at-home-mom. Keeping track of who is contributing more is never a good idea. Capisce?
Set Goals You Can Both Agree On
One of you may hate budgeting. Maybe even both of you think it’s the devil. And you’d be right. But even if you and/or your spouse doesn’t want to budget, you probably both want the same things from your future. Do you want to be debt free? Do you want to buy a home? Do you want to have enough money for retirement? Do you want to buy a farm with fainting goats? Figure out which similar goals you have for the future. Once you’ve established what you both want, you can then figure out what you’re both willing to do to get there. This was the clincher that finally got me 100% on board with budgeting. It’s still our freaking budget, but now we’re both on the same page because, ultimately, we want the same things from life. And one of the biggest things is financial peace.
That’s our two cents. And for all you not-yet-marrieds out there…
Talk about finances before getting married. There are few topics more important to discuss before you say “I do.”
Anything you’d add to this list? What has helped you and your spouse be a tight financial team?