How to do a budget meeting both spouses will enjoy

How to do a budget meeting both spouses will enjoy

When you read the words “Regular Budget Meeting,” what do you feel? Panic? Excitement? Instant boredom? Anticipation? Fear? In the next few blog posts, we’re going to explore how a regular budget can transform your life, financially and otherwise! 

Many people feel restrained by budgeting, but there’s power in flipping your perspective. A budget names the things you think are important enough to spend money on. It clearly lays out your priorities, and gives you a simple map to meeting your goals. If done right, a budget gives you freedom to spend your resources on the things you love the most.

If you’re in a partnership, sitting down for a regular budget meeting together can convert budgeting from an annoying chore to a shared responsibility that yields all kinds of rewards. But it only works if you work it together! Today’s post is for couples who are ready to get on the same page, clarify their shared goals, and find freedom through collaborative budgeting.

(Solo budgeters, I haven’t forgotten about you: More than a third of our clients are one-person households. Budgeting as a free agent comes with its own particular set of advantages and challenges. We’ll be covering strategies for independent budgeters in our next blog post.) 

Couples, it’s important to lay the groundwork for a successful co-budgeting habit. 

Before your first regular budget meeting, you’ll need to:

  • Know your why. Budgeting works best when it’s embedded in a larger planning process. I tell the couples I work with to ask the big questions first: What do you want in life? What are your goals for this year? The answers to these questions will guide your budget. Set aside time together for an annual planning retreat to define what you are working toward. Knowing your why will bring shared purpose and clarity to your regular budget meetings—and keep your focus on the big stuff (instead of who overspent on what that month). Idea: Ask your spouse, “What do you most enjoy spending money on?” and just listen. What can you learn from them about the answer?   
  • Choose your roles—and commit to them.  In my experience, there’s usually one partner who is more on board with budgeting and one who is dragging their feet. That’s normal! Our goal isn’t to turn everyone into a fully geeked-out, spreadsheet-loving budget expert. The goal is for both people to bring their own unique gifts to the process and be 100% committed to their chosen roles. Shared responsibilities will be different for every couple. Maybe you take on the day-to-day budget tracking while your partner keeps an eye on long-term goals. However you share responsibilities, just make sure to lean into your God-given strengths and appreciate your partner’s approach! Idea: Ask, “What are the biggest ways you believe you can help us keep on track with our goals?”
  • Prioritize the relationship. Remember that your budget can only be as healthy as your partnership. Remember to focus on harmony —not winning budget arguments. As relationship experts remind us, there are no win/lose arguments in a true partnership. There are only win/win or lose/lose scenarios. (And we’re going for win/win in our regular budget meetings!) Idea: Try these tips if your conversations become difficult.
  • Set a regular time and place. Consistency is the key to making your regular budget meeting habit stick. Choose a place where you can have a good conversation. Pick somewhere you’ll want to go regularly, whether that’s your favorite spot in your house or a quiet restaurant patio. I suggest having your budget meeting twice a month. Going weekly is probably overkill, but you should review your progress once a month at a minimum. Idea: Set up weekly date nights, using every other for budgeting, with the “off” weeks for fun!
  • Come prepared. Whatever your chosen role is, come to the meeting ready to share. An important side note to spreadsheet lovers: You may love spreadsheets. I may love spreadsheets. But your partner doesn’t need to love spreadsheets—or want to sit through a line-by-line analysis. They just need to know the big story the spreadsheet is telling (and appreciate your behind-the-scenes spreadsheet skills). Idea: Experiment to find what’s most helpful for you both. It’s common that your approach will shift over time.

Couples, once you’ve done your collaborative prep-work, you’re ready for the real budgeting thing. 

Here’s the regular budget meeting agenda I recommend: 

  1. Review. Look over what has happened since the last meeting. Did you meet your spending plan? Did you have to readjust? Did you reach any of your goals? Make sure to celebrate your wins and not just point out your misses! 
  2. Look ahead. What’s coming up in the next month or quarter? Do you need to adjust your budget for any seasonal or one-time expenses?  
  3. Identify today’s questions. What’s out of whack that you need to get back on track? Any concerns or challenges you need to tackle today? 
  4. Solve those questions together. This is the meat of your meeting. Get to it!
  5. Take notes. Life can be crazy. Make sure you write down your conclusions and next steps to jog your memory at your next regular budget meeting. 

Need some professional advice on building a budget that works for your family? Talk to one of our wealth planners about your goals. 

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