In My Opinion Mr. Budget and Marriage Friction

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By Hocus
April 3, 2002

I believe today that having had a budget in place for the past 10 years has strengthened my marriage. But there have been times when I was less than sure that that would ultimately prove to be the case.

I bought into the idea of establishing a budget in January 1992 because I could see the value of gaining some insight into where the money my wife and I earned was going. But I was not inclined to be a stickler on the numbers. If I had put in a long day at the office and was invited to have a few beers with co-workers, I was comfortable in forming a quick conclusion that the experience was "worth it" whether it was covered by the budget or not. So I would go ahead and spend the money, presuming that I could figure out a way to fit it into the parameters of the budget afterwards.

Those who have kept budgets know that there are usually lots of ways to do this. No budget heading provides a precise description of its scope. When you spend $15 on a travel book, does that come out of "Books" or out of "Vacations?" If, like me, you press up against the limit of spending in the "Books" category regularly, you will want to assign the $15 to "Vacations." And perhaps you will want to assign the money you spend on an unexpected round of beers to "Health" rather than "Eating Out" on grounds that you need an occasional such outing to cope with that job of yours.

I've never been able to work up much enthusiasm for figuring out precisely what category an expense should come from. My wife is different. For her, all of the fun of the budget process was in seeing us meet those particular spending allocations at the end of the month. She didn't really care how much we allocated to "eating out" or whether that covered spending for beer nights or not. But once we agreed on a number, she wanted the spending reality to approximate the allocation for the month. She never felt comfortable with my suggestion that we just take the money needed to make up in the shortfall in the "Eating out" category from some other budget category where we had extra money at the end of the month.

There's some merit in both positions. Some flexibility is needed to make a spending plan bearable. Allow too much flexibility in your budget, however, and you reach a point at which it's almost like having no budget at all. You spend on whatever you want, rationalizing as you go each new failure to meet the spending allocations you planned.

Creating a budget turned a new chapter in my and my wife's ongoing effort to understand each other's  personality. In the days before the budget, there was me (loosey goosey on all sorts of subjects) and my wife (seeking certainty where she could find it). I didn't insist that she be loosey goosey, and she didn't insist that I seek certainty. We co-existed in relative harmony, staying out of each other's way when issues came up that might bring our personality differences to a head.

Once we wrote a budget, though, many issues could no longer be ducked...

[Queue the suspenseful music.]

Find out what issues could no longer be ducked.

Does this all end happily?

Can you peacefully co-exist with your spouse AND a budget?

Click into this discussion to get the rest of the story!

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