Budgeting doesn't have to be a hardship, even if you're doing it with a partner.
Budgeting money can be challenging under the best of circumstances. And when you are married or in a committed relationship where you make financial decisions together, things become even more complicated. After all, instead of just one person's needs and desires, you now have to take the distinct interests of two people into account.
The good news is that budgeting doesn't have to be a big chore or a cause of money fights. In fact, there are some simple, easy ways to make the process of budgeting as a couple easier than you ever dreamed. Here are some tips to help.
Set aside a time for regular monthly updates
In order to come up with a plan that works for both of you, you each need input. If one person makes the budget and expects the other to follow, this is bound to lead to resentment in most circumstances.
To ensure you're both on the same page, schedule a time each month to sit down and work through your finances together. You can discuss issues that came up over the past month, look ahead to any unusual spending the next month holds, and put together your plan.
No judgement during your budget meeting
No matter how much you have in common with your spouse, chances are you'll have some different priorities when it comes to budgeting. While you may feel like rolling your eyes at your partner wanting to have a dedicated budget line for shoes or power tools or whatever your respective hobbies, getting judgmental is only going to lead to disaster.
You may also be rightfully upset and disappointed if your spouse used the credit card and didn't stick to your prior month's budget. While this is definitely worth discussing at your monthly budget pow-wow, go in with the goal of understanding the issue and working together to find a solution rather than condemning your spouse for going overboard. You're far more likely to find a way for you both to stay focused on your budget going forward if you skip the blame language.
Develop a list of shared financial priorities to work from
Far too often, budgeting is an exercise in sacrifice as you think about all the things you can't spend money on.
Rather than emphasizing spending cuts, though, think about the goals you want to accomplish and agree on a few key objectives that are top priorities. This could be paying down credit card debt, saving for a home, or saving for a big vacation.
Once you have a plan in place, you can see what you need to save each month to achieve your goals by the desired timeline. That way, when you do make your budget, you can build your spending around accomplishing those goals. Any sacrifices or cuts you make will be in service of the greater good, so you'll be a lot more willing to give up other things.
Make sure each person has some "no-questions-asked" funds
You'll also want to work into your budget money that you can each spend on your own personal desires without having to justify the expense. That will help you avoid money fights and reduce the likelihood of overspending splurges that may happen when you feel deprived of the ability to buy what you desire.
By following these simple steps, you and your spouse or partner should be able to make a budget that you're both very happy with -- and one that you actually stick with over the course of the month.
Related: See The Ascent's list of the best credit cards for couples.
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