5 Reasons Your Budget as a Married Couple Will Fail (and How to Prevent It)

Any married couple knows that one of the hardest things in marriage is dealing with the finances. It doesn’t matter how much money you have (or don’t have) when you get married, trying to figure out how to balance your finances with those of your spouse can result in endless arguments and frustration. The key to getting those finances in order: a budget, and yet, if you aren’t aware of the common budget pitfalls for marriage, even that budget will fail. So, if you’re ready to prevent budget failure – this one’s for you! Let’s get started.

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Here’s the deal: in order to achieve your long-term financial goals, you have to have a budget that works for you and your family. That means, getting super clear on your income, expenses, and total debt payoff amounts, so you can make any necessary changes and begin to see progress. That’s exactly what the Financial Fix Up Planner is designed to help you do. With step-by-step instructions to set up your budget, monthly challenges to keep you on your toes, menu planning resources, and space to reflect on your goals, you’ll have everything you need to pursue your dream of financial freedom. Sound like something you need? You can grab your copy today at lemonblessings.com/planner and because you are a podcast listener, you can get it for 20% off by using code SUMMER24. Once again that’s lemonblessings.com/planner and use code SUMMER24 for 20% off your copy of the Financial Fix Up Planner

5 Reasons Your Budget Will Fail as a Married Couple

Well hey there and welcome to this episode of the Financial Fix Up Podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Brumley and I’m really glad you’re here for today’s discussion centered around managing a budget with your partner. It’s not easy, I know that, but if we can recognize the pitfalls that will keep us from achieving our financial goals as a married couple, then and only then, can we set ourselves up for success long-term.

Justin and I have been married for 18 years and let me tell you, those first few years were rough. And if you’ve been around this podcast or the Lemon Blessings’ blog for long, then you know that we started out up to our ears in student loan debt, medical debt, which spiraled into credit card debt, and that we consistently had less income than expenses. It was a long road to dig our way out and yet, we did it – but not without some hurdles along the way.

So, knowing that you, too, might find yourself in a similar situation, today I want to take the time to talk about five reasons that your budget can and will fail as a married couple. These are things that we’ve learned over the years as we’ve worked together to achieve our goals. And my hope is that it encourages you to stay the course and avoid the pitfalls we ran into over the years.

Sound good? If so, let’s just jump right in.

Reason #1: You Don’t Have One

Your budget will fail if you don’t have one. Every time. It might have worked for you while you were single and managing only your own expenses, but you are married now, and having a budget is critical if you plan to meet your goals for the future, whatever they might be. You have to have a plan in place in order to reach that destination.

Another awesome thing about a well-planned budget is that it can also help put your finances on autopilot, meaning that the time spent frustrated and arguing about money issues can be used for more fun activities.

Take the time to sit down with your spouse and go over all the income and expenses you have as a couple. The longer you wait to do this, the harder it will be, so don’t postpone it. You want your finances as a married couple to get you all the way to retirement and beyond, without having to fight about it each month, and that starts with a simple budget.

Reason #2: You are Drowning in Debt

The second reason your budget will fail is that you’re drowning in debt that you might not even know about. It could be anything: the credit card debt you racked up on what was supposed to be an inexpensive backpacking trip through Europe; the student loans for the degree you have no plans to use; the loan for that truck that you can’t afford to drive since gas prices went up; or maybe it’s the wedding and honeymoon expenses that you had to get a personal loan to cover. Whatever debt you have, come clean about it now with your spouse and make a plan to get out from under it.

In my experience, the easiest way to handle debt is to write down ALL of the debt you have as a couple, as well as the interest rate and minimum payments for each debt. Then determine how you will incorporate at least the minimum payments into that well-planned budget. If you want to take it a step further, you can grab my debt snowball worksheet (it’s one of my favorites!) and play around with it until you know exactly how much you need to pay off each month to achieve your goals. (There’s even a video to follow along with HERE.)

If it’s credit cards, cut them up, pay them off, and then close them. There’s no benefit to you if you make the effort to pay them off and then just reload them with more expenses.

If it’s loans for physical items (cars, etc.), determine whether selling the item and being free from the debt is the better option.

If it’s student loans, determine that you won’t take any more, even if going back for that second degree seems like it will be cost effective. Job markets change, but those student loans will stick with you forever.

Whatever you do, make a list and find a way to get out from under it. It might take years, trust me I know, but it will be worth it not to be tied to hundreds or thousands of dollars of debt payments each month.

Reason #3: You Can’t Say No

If you (or your spouse) has trouble saying no to every little expense that comes along, your budget will always be in trouble. It could be as simple as not being able to say no to friends when they ask you out for dinner. Or maybe for you, it’s not being able to say no to the family vacation that happens every other year and manages to drain every extra penny you have each time it happens. It could even be the inability to say no to that daily coffee run.

No matter what it is you struggle to say no to, create boundaries together. Put those boundaries in place well before a situation comes up that you will have to say no to. In the ideal world, your budget will encompass every aspect of your daily lives, and the occasional yes won’t create issues, but if you don’t make those plans ahead of time, you will regret saying yes every time.

Reason #4: You Don’t Have Realistic Spending Allowances

Typically, the person that is best at saving is the one in charge of the finances. If that’s the case, that person is going to be less likely to divvy out money for spending, but it’s a critical part of a budget for couples, especially if you are trying to prevent budget failure.

  • Does your spouse love Starbucks?
  • Does he get a fishing license or enjoy going out with the guys each Friday night?
  • Does she have a monthly manicure she just can’t live without?

Create a spending account for each person so that they can prioritize even a couple instances of something that makes them happy each month.

My husband and I learned early on that we have very different expectations for how we spend our personal spending money. My thing is and always has been Starbucks. There’s something about having an iced Americano in their cup, with their straw, that just makes me insanely happy.

My husband, on the other hand, wants me to spend MY money on Starbucks so that he can spend HIS money on board games. No matter what you and your spouse enjoy, set aside a small amount of money that each of you can use at your own discretion.

How you manage this money is up to you. In our relationship, we’ve chosen to use two separate spending accounts. That allows money for birthdays and Christmas to be added to those accounts if desired. I know other couples that are really successful with cash spending money.

Determine what works for you as a couple and create a spending allowance today. You won’t regret it when you prevent budget failure.

Reason #5: You Don’t Communicate

Your budget will absolutely fail if you don’t communicate. It’s surprisingly common these days for one spouse to hide debt or expenses from the other because they are embarrassed or afraid of what their spouse will think of them. In the case of debt, that omission can lead to payments being neglected in entirety and may result in collection fees or defaulting on a loan. Be honest. Both of you will make mistakes, some worse than others, but when you get the truth about your money out in the open you can tackle the problem together and move on from it.

Additionally, one person might be responsible for the finances in the home, but each time the budget renews for the month there should be an open discussion between the spouses. This discussion is the perfect time to mention any upcoming expenses for the following months, make plans for what will happen with unexpected income, and to decide together what you might need to cut or back off on to make your goals happen (whether that be a vacation or paying off debt). Go through each line item in your budget and make sure both of you are still supportive of having that expense, and that you both agree with the amount allocated to it. Without these monthly meetings, it becomes easy to let the budget slide, until such point that it’s an ultimate failure.

Communication is key, not only to a successful budget but to a successful marriage.

Budgeting for Married Couples: What Will You Choose?

Obviously marriage comes with plenty of stressors, but I just give you all of these potential pitfalls with the hope that you don’t allow your finances to be one of them. Put together a plan, say no if you have to, and communicate with your spouse, and you’ll find quickly that you and your spouse might actually enjoy budgeting together because it allows you to plan for a future you are both looking forward to.

Once again, if you are just getting started, you can head to lemonblessings.com/family-budget to grab my free budgeting resource. It’ll help you categorize each area of your family budget so that you can stay on track with your financial goals.

Whatever you decide, just know that I’m cheering you on! You’ve got this! Have an amazing day and I’ll chat with you again next time!