Single? Set up a budget check-in to stay on top of your goals
If you’re single, how often do you have a budget check-in meeting? And whom do you meet with (besides yourself)? More than a third of our clients are one-person households; these solo-budgeters have complete control over their financial decisions and most relish that financial freedom. (Some of you may have read our post about how to have a couple’s budget meeting and felt relief at not having to regularly negotiate goals, roles, and the budget itself!) But that independence can also be a drawback: We can all use an outside perspective or a counterpoint voice to balance our financial inclinations from time to time.
That’s why I encourage my single clients to hold a quarterly budget check-in meeting with a trusted friend. This financial “sounding board” can be a financial planner, of course, but it doesn’t have to be a professional. It can be a mentor you look up to or a friend who is also craving a little financial accountability. Your regular budget check-in partner should be:
- Trustworthy: You need someone who can keep your conversations confidential and provide sound, clear-minded feedback.
- Financially healthy: They don’t have to have an MBA or a spotless financial record. They should currently be practicing good financial habits. (Or, in the case of a buddy-system style check-in, developing those good habits alongside your own.)
- Available : These budget check-ins only work if they actually happen. Make sure you both have enough bandwidth to commit to meeting every three months or so.
Before your first check-in meeting, you’ll need to:
Know your why. Budgeting works best when it’s embedded in a larger planning process. Use whatever goal-setting process works best for you (journaling, conversations with a best friend, guidance from a spiritual advisor), but make sure your budget is grounded in your purpose and your passions. What do you want out of life? What do you want out of the next year? What’s the “why” behind your budget? Idea: Start your first budget check-in meeting by sharing your whys and long-term goals. This will set the context for your discussion and allow you to cheer each other on.
Do a shame check. Most of us have some kind of shame around our finances. If you want to be a buzzkill at a party, just ask people what their salaries are! As a society, we don’t feel comfortable talking about money, but that keeps us from learning from each other. As we’ve written about before, overcoming financial shame can be a transformational experience. Opening up to someone you trust is a key part of that journey. Commit to both working through any shame that might be stopping you from moving forward. Then choose an empathetic, clear-eyed budget partner who knows how to not make financial shame any worse. Idea: One way to cut shame off at the knees is to be upfront about any past pitfalls right away. If you can say, “I tend to overspend on my credit card when I get stressed,” then it’s not a shameful secret anymore. It’s just something you want to watch out for—and something your sounding board has permission to ask you about later on.
Set your privacy boundaries. Make sure you’re both on the same confidentiality page: What you talk about in these meetings stays in the meetings. The level of detail you share will be different depending on your goals and strengths. If you want accountability sticking to a new budget, you may want to share more granular data during your budget check-in. If you are working on not making big purchases impulsively, you may want to commit to not buying anything over a certain dollar amount without talking through the pros and cons with your budget check-in partner. Ideally, you’ll want to share enough information so you can talk about whether you’re making progress toward your goals in a concrete way. Idea: Have a conversation with your budget check-in partner about the level of detail you are comfortable sharing. You can always revisit this conversation as your relationship grows.
Do your homework. Again, this is going to look different for everyone. If you use budgeting software, you might want to put together a report on where you met (or didn’t meet) your budgeting goals. If you’re tracking near-term savings goals for important purchases, maybe you’ll want to report on your progress. The real benefit of bringing some kind of report to the budget check-in is that it forces you to make the report in the first place: It’s a nudge to keep track of your own goals on a regular basis. Idea: Bring a report based on your top three annual goals to your first meeting. What do you need to do financially to make these happen?
Here’s the quarterly budget check-in meeting agenda I recommend:
- 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!
- Look ahead. What’s coming up in the next quarter? Do you need to adjust your budget for any seasonal or one-time expenses? Re-evaluate your goals?
- 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?
- Brainstorm solutions together. This is the meat of your meeting. Get to it!
- Take notes. Life can be crazy. Make sure you write down your conclusions and next steps to jog your memory at your next check-in.