When my husband and I were first dating, the topic of money came up fairly soon. On our first date, I distinctly remember eating at Fetta’s Pizza in downtown Owensboro and discussing our financial situation. I’ve always been an open book, so I didn’t mind to share such an important topic with someone I could potentially see a future with. I was thrilled to hear that Andy lived a debt-free lifestyle, because I was on track to be debt-free myself and wanted to marry someone with similar financial beliefs.
When we first began to seriously talk about engagement, one of the first things we did was set up a budget for Andy. As a soldier who lived in the barracks, he had no expenses other than his truck insurance, gasoline, and cell phone payment. He knew to live within his means (he paid cash for his truck) and contributed 10% to his TSP (military retirement fund), but other than that, he didn’t really keep a budget. Knowing that we would have to pay for a wedding entirely by ourselves, he asked me to help him with his budget. Let me preface this by stating I had absolutely no access to any of his finances; his checking account was solely in his name, and he had one credit card (that he never used) and one debit card also only in his name. But still, he knew finances was a weakness of his, yet a strength of mine, so he decided to seek my advice and help prepare us for our financial future as a married couple.
Every Sunday, before Andy left my house in Owensboro and returned to Fort Knox for another week of work, we’d sit down with all of his receipts, open his online banking account, and record his financial transactions into the YNAB account I had installed on his computer. Together we’d categorize his transactions, determine how much money he had left in each budget category, and look for ways to cut spending. Likewise, I also briefed him on my budget so he would know how much I was saving for our wedding.
There were 3 keys that I found vital in our success of getting Andy on board with the “Dave Ramsey” lifestyle. In fact, we still utilize these 3 keys in our budget, nearly 1.5 years later!
Have a goal in mind. For us, it was wanting to have a nice wedding and go on an amazing honeymoon to Jamaica. When we felt the pain of sticking to a budget, we’d look at my Pinterest board of wedding ideas or look at photos of the resort where we would spend our first week of marriage. It kept our “eyes on the prize.” We still utilize this concept with budgeting– dreaming over cars we would love to buy someday or vacations we would like to take.
Give each partner a “fun money” allowance. Even though we were doing our budgets separately since we were not yet married, we both agreed on a set amount of “fun money” per month for us to spend however we pleased. Andy spent his on video games and fast food, while mine was usually spent on books. Neither one of us had to feel guilty or explain our purchases made with fun money. It really helped us both enjoy that money!
Both stay involved in the budget. In the beginning (both prior to marriage and in the first few months of marriage), we met once a week, sometimes more, to review our budget. As we’ve been married longer and learned more of what our regular expenses are, we don’t have to do this nearly as often. In fact, barring any unexpected expenses, we usually spend just 5-10 minutes at the beginning of each month recapping our previous month’s budget and discussing the upcoming month’s budget. In fact, I think my blog readers get more detail in Bailey’s Budget posts than Andy and I discuss! That doesn’t bother Andy in the slightest because he doesn’t gets bogged down with too many details.
Give grace. I will be honest, this was the biggest struggle for me in the beginning. Andy can remember the first few times we sat down to do his budget and me leaving in tears because I was so upset at him. “How can you not remember what you spent this money on?!” Since then, I’ve learned to give more grace. If Andy forgot exactly what he spent money on and he lost the receipt, then we will estimate about how much money that purchase was for each budget category. A few pennies out of one category is not worth a fight.
Because we implemented budgeting as a team (even though our finances were separate) before we were married, we didn’t really struggle when we joined our finances together. The experts say finances is a major contributor in divorces, so we are both relieved that we are (almost always) on the same page when it comes to our money.
Are you and your spouse on board with budgeting?