Do you fight with your spouse over money?
Here are 6 tips to stop fighting, and feel united over your family finances.
Many people talk about how magical the first year of marriage is. Don’t get me wrong we had many wonderful memories our first few years of marriage, but we also fought. A LOT. We had so many evenings where we would argue and I would wonder what in the world we were going to do. I love my husband now, and I loved him then but we just couldn’t seem to see eye to eye on one very important topic. Money. When I look back on those first few years, and especially the first year the root of all our biggest arguments was money.
Now nearly 10 years later I can honestly say- we do not fight over money. That may seem ridiculous but I am being 100% transparent. We have a few ground rules that we follow now and it has not only saved our finances but It has also saved our relationship.
I am not a financial advisor, nor an accountant. I am just a wife in the throws of life and offering advice with a grain of salt from personal experience.
1. Make a Long Term (5 year) plan
The first thing we did was make a plan. Where did we want to be in 5 years? How did we want our life to look? What were our family values? This plan is flexible- because things change when you least expect it. But what doesn’t change, is what you believe to be important. When you make a five year plan you aren’t making a concrete road map. You are aligning yourself with your spouse. And when things get rocky you have something to come back to.
2. Make a short term (1 year) plan for each financial goal that year.
One of our biggest pit falls is that we throw out all these amazing ideas which would 100% to attainable but we forget what they are and then we move on to something else. Or we immediately dismiss an idea because “there’s no way we could ever do that” with out even looking in to the logistics. When in reality if you broke up your bigger goals in to smaller goals they may not seem so overwhelming.So instead of saying I want to take my family to Disney World this year, and then dismissing it as too lofty. Break that one goal in to several smaller attainable goals and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish!
- Your goal may be: Take your family to Disney World (seems impossible right?)
- First attainable goal: Price things out. Do research. Would you stay on resort? Would you do an Airbnb? Would you fly? Drive? Do your homework.
- Second attainable goal: Decide how much money you would need to set aside for the next 12 months to reach this goal. Does this amount fit with in your cost of living with out stressing you out, or taking food from your table?
- Third attainable goal: What can you cut out in order to make that monthly saving goal a reality?
- Fourth attainable goal: When presented with alternatives through out the year, just repeat these words; “We can afford to do that but we are choosing to spend our money in other ways this year”. This gives YOU the control of YOUR money and you don’t feel like you are being held captive.
- Fifth attainable goal: GO TO DISNEY WORLD with your family. And the best part is because you stuck to your plan you’ve been able to cash flow it and you won’t be paying it off for months after the memories are made!
3. Monthly Budget Meetings
Oh how I used to dread these. But now they happen so naturally and effortlessly I actually enjoy them and look forward to those 15 minutes my husband and I set aside for each other. If you struggle with making these meetings a priority here’s a few tricks we use:
- Have a special treat to bribe you (sounds silly but it works)
- Set aside a specific day each month. Ours is the first Sunday of every month. We never miss.
- Say a prayer first. Or read your vows or your 5 year plan. Something to unite you before you begin
4. You Tell your money where to go and what to do
Repeat after me, “I can afford that- but I am choosing to use my money elsewhere this month”. It can be SO tempting to blame your situations on your money. When in reality YOU tell your money where to go. Whether you have thousands of dollars to work with, or 10 dollars to work with take control of it and tell it where to go. So our budge meetings always go something like this:
- Fixed expenses. Things that never change.
- Expenses that only renew annually or biannually etc. These tend to pop up and surprise you so just set reminders in your phone or planner so you remember.
- Groceries. With out a grocery budget you have no guidelines. I have to have a budget or I spend way more than I need to.
- Consult your family values and 5 year plan to decide what other areas of budget you need.
- Each of our children has a budget line here (this covers clothes they may need, dance lessons, random things for school, new shoes when theirs get too small etc.)
- Date night
- Family Recreation (this includes adventures and eating out)
5. Plan next month’s expenses this month
Along with the mentality of telling your money where to go you have to know how much you need. And the oldest trick in the book is waiting to see if you really NEED It. So for example, I may notice my daughter needs new school pants. Does she need them tomorrow? Probably not- can they wait until next month? Yes. So then I write them down on her column in my planner and then I know next month I need to budget 15$ to buy her some new leggings. Get the jist? Another example may be that I know my baby will always need diapers, and I know to the penny how much they cost. So when I budget for him I automatically add 25$ for diapers. These expenses need no justification because they are already there and planned for. Some months my baby only really needs diapers. So his budget may really only be 25 $. Sometimes my daughter needs a dance costume, valentines for her class party, and new underwear, so her budget may be closer to 100$ that month. It’s not a fixed budget so it’s ok. And then when I write that check for dance I am not wondering where the money will come from. It’s already there and accounted for.
- Side note. This mentality also helps our kids. My daughter will now ask “hey mom next month can we budget in new socks and hair pony tails? I need some new ones”. This is so refreshing compared to just begging for things all the time.
6. Make separate purchases at the store for easier tracking.
We enter all our expenses in to the app Mint (not an add just a fan). This app is automatically linked to our accounts. But to make it even easier I divide my purchases at Walmart or Target, or Sams etc. into categories. So that when they clear through Mint they can automatically be placed in to the appropriate budget and I don’t have to do any of the math.
Living this way requires planning. It requires thinking ahead. But has eliminated the guess work. I no longer feel like I need to call my husband and say “hey can I go out and buy this”? (because that is not fun for either of us). I know where our finances stand, and I know how much money is allocated for each category ahead of time. If there is something I want to plan ahead for, I write it down. And at the next months meeting I say “I have these things written down for this month”. And he usually has things he has thought of too. Mutually respecting each other has created a harmonious and united front when it comes to taking control of our finances, and ultimately our relationship.