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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 following budget pitfalls for marriage, even that budget will fail.
Reason #1 For Budget Failure: 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. A well-planned budget can also 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. (Find free budget printables here to get you started.)
Reason #2 For Budget Failure: You are Drowning in Debt
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 on each debt. Add them all, in order of smallest to largest to this debt snowball worksheet (it’s one of my favorites!) and play around with it until you find the payoff plan and date that suits your needs.
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 For Budget Failure: 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 For Budget Failure: 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. 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.
Reason #5 For Budget Failure: 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.
You Can Prevent Budget Failure
Marriage comes with plenty of stressors, 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.
What’s your biggest budget-related challenge with regards to your marriage?
Have a wonderful day!
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