Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Budget Boot Camp - Help Your Marriage - Have a Monthly Budget Meeting

So I was reading this article about how arguments over finances are the #1 predictor of divorce. I think a lot of people suspected or assumed that was true, but this study proved it. The part of the article that got me excited was the researchers' suggestions for preventing and repairing those issues because they're both related to budgeting. They are two very simple things, yet so crucial, they could be the difference between making or breaking a marriage. And they're things anyone can do, financially-minded or not.

Marriage-Saver #1: Each Spouse Should Have a "Fun Fund"

The first solution is for each spouse to have their own "fun fund," as mentioned in a previous Budget Boot Camp post.

Marriage-Saver #2: Have a Monthly Budget Meeting

To quote one of the study's co-authors Sonya Britt, "Couples should set times where they talk about the budget and if changes need to be made to the way they are allocating their money." She continues, "This advice remains the same no matter how long the couple has been married. Our preferences change all the time, so it is important that how the couple is spending money reflects changing preferences."

Budgeting may be a pain at times, but it's a *whole* lot easier than dealing with the fallout from not doing it. Budgeting doesn't have to be hard (see our "How To Budget" here) and it doesn't have to be perfect. It's about putting something together that is good enough to facilitate that monthly discussion revolving around:
- How are we currently spending our money?
- How do we want to be spending our money?
- What changes do we need to make to reach those goals? (e.g. "How can we lower our gas expense?" "Do we need to allocate more money to groceries?")

These monthly meetings from advice from JL Collins helped up reach millionaire status in our 30s.

Getting Started

My marriage isn't perfect (my husband won't play Ticket To Ride with me anymore--I'm kind of a sore loser). But despite our shortcomings, we don't argue about money or finances, largely due to our commitment to making a budget AND sticking to it. By having a budget, the discussions about finances occur when everyone is cool and you are logically making decisions based on needs and wants instead of pointing fingers and being accusatory about the spending habits of your spouse.

What A Monthly Budget Meeting Might Look Light

Every Sunday night, my husband and I spend about 15 minutes updating our budget (meaning, downloading the transactions and re-categorizing as necessary).Once a month (usually on the first Sunday of the month so we can review the previous month) we have a "budget meeting" to review how we did and make adjustments as needed. Some months are smooth and it's a happy, 5-minute "looks good" discussion. Occasionally we realize certain expenses have gotten out of control and it takes 20 minutes to figure out how we're going to deal with it (e.g. "Maybe we need to take money from our entertainment budget and increase our grocery allowance" or "Ugh...time to cut back on eating out. Our "dining-out" budget got slaughtered this month.") It's a time investment, but because those discussions happen regularly in a productive and structured setting, we spend little to no time outside of those meetings discussing money and virtually no time arguing about it. It's a beautiful thing.

If you and your spouse argue about money, you're in the majority. But decide now to do something about it by taking these two steps towards a healthier relationship (and healthier finances!). It takes a bit of work, but the payoff is huge. Consider it an investment in the most important relationship in your life.

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