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Ending the Money Fights (Part II): Relationships Blossom When Couples Budget

This is part two of three on how couples can resolve the constant fighting over money.

Men's Shoes

My breakthrough occurred while shopping for these.

Last week I outlined how communication is the first step to ending the money fights in a relationship. Unless couples share their values, goals and feelings with one another, they will continue to bump heads over how their money is spent. It’s inevitable. When couples don’t share the same vision the relationship falters.

When my wife and I began to seriously and openly talk with one another about money, our financial life began to change. However, the unity didn’t result from us just talking about it. We knew there had to be an action step, something that would cement the ideological bonds that were forming through our discussions. That step came in the form of a joint commitment to prepare and live on a budget.

Ugh…budgets…I know the feeling. Unfortunately many people have had terrible experiences with them. This leads them to create excuse upon excuse as to why they don’t need to prepare one. They are essential though, if couples are going to have a breakthrough. I know in our lives, the budget did more to move us forward than anything else.

Step #2: Work on a Budget…Together

My wife attempted for years to write a budget to no avail. There were reasons ours never worked, one being I didn’t follow it. She would write the budget and then I would go out and spend whatever I wanted.

That all changed when we started working together and I could see the numbers being put into the various budget categories. That triggered something in my brain. It was as though I had been given a bunch of mini goals, a number for each category, that I didn’t want to exceed. I began to view it as a spending competition with myself.

The budget process we followed went something like this:

We had one person draw up the budget. Mrs. Luke1428 took the reins in the early days since she had been working on it already. On her own and before the month began, she would input the numbers into all the income and spending categories. We used an Excel spreadsheet to record this information.

The next step involved a budget meeting that went through four phases:

a. Mrs. Luke1428 would present the budget to me. She would remain quiet as I looked it over and then would answer my questions about it.

b. I would change at least one thing. (This created involvement on my part and eliminated my ability to solely blame her for the numbers in the budget.)

c. We agreed on the adjustments and then recalculated the numbers in the other categories to account for the changes.

d. Then we would look each other in the eye and solemnly swear to live on it for that month.

Those first months were tough. We would always forget to put something in the budget. Or something unexpected would come up. In order to solve these issues, we came back together and held an emergency budget meeting. We had to move money around in the spending categories to solve the issue because we were committed to staying out of debt (by using credit cards) to solve the emergencies. Working together in those crisis times, though challenging, created oneness as we fought together against life’s curveballs.

It took us 4-5 months of using this process to get our budget running smoothly. In that time, our mutual tension about the budget subsided as we began to experience success. We learned to respect each others input and find ways to meet the other person’s needs.

Being the natural spender of the pair, I did encounter some initial failures. However, it finally clicked for me one afternoon while shopping for some clothes. I already had a few purchases in hand when I happened upon a sale in the shoe section of the department store. It was a good sale and I’m a sucker for shoes. Even with the discounts however, the shoe purchase would put me over on my clothing budget for the month.

I remember standing there thinking, “This is a great deal on these shoes. What’s the harm in going over my budget by $30? It’s not THAT much over and I’m sure I can sweet talk Mrs. Luke1428 into seeing my side of things.”

Then I remembered my obligation to be more disciplined with my spending. I thought about the budgets Mrs. Luke1428 and I had so meticulously prepared. I knew there was a chance my sweet talking attempts could turn into another “disagreement” and I definitely didn’t want that. Mostly, I was tired of blowing it and wanted to win.

So I put the shoes back, then went and paid for my other things. That was the day I came 100% on board and my spending habits began to change.

In the last installment next week, I’ll look at the final step to ending the money fights: planning the future together.

Have budgets been a help or a hindrance in your relationship? Is it easy or difficult for you to agree on spending patterns with your spouse? What’s the most difficult thing for you to work through in your budget? Do you have a shoe fetish?

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Next Post: Getting an Electric Car For Free Through Tax Credits

Prior Post: I’ll Take Money Over Love

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Comments

  1. Kelly Rogers says:

    I feel for you. While shopping for toys for my children, I saw this really beautiful doll house that I’m sure my children would enjoy. But it was very expensive. I was very tempted to buy it. But I put it down and instead bought a doll house that is way cheaper. Oh well, the ways we learn to let go is good lesson for us.

    • …that I’m sure my children would enjoy.” I’ve bought many things that I thought my children would enjoy, only to see them played with for a couple of days then put in the corner. If they love the small, cheaper one, you can always go back and get the expensive one later. I’d say you made the right choice.

  2. Charles@Gettingarichlife says:

    Budgeting has helped control some of our spending. My wife is a spender and I’m the investor, so we try to meet in the middle. One of the things that we argue about is that she makes me manage 100% of the money as it should be shared.

    • I think it’s OK if couples give the responsibility of money management to one spouse as long as the other party has input. I write up our budget, pay the bills, do the checking, etc. But I’m always getting input from the Mrs. and giving her updates on how we are doing.

  3. Kim@Eyesonthedollar says:

    You and Jim would get along fine. I think he has more shoes than I do! He has learned to walk away from the shoe store in most cases and that has helped our relationship tremendously.

  4. Student Debt Survivor says:

    I like shoes, but I wouldn’t say I have a fetish. Thankfully bf and I agree about budgeting most of the time. We’re still budgeting individually but saving together (we’re not married, thus why I call bf, bf, not hubby ;-)) so we haven’t combined accounts or anything like that yet. But when we do combine finances I think we’ll be fine because we generally agree about how to save and spend and we already discuss big purchases with each other before we make them.

  5. I think that’s definitely one advantage to being in a relationship and sharing the financial duties-accountablity. When I screw up, I have no one to slap my hand or help get me back on track. I think it’s great how you both are working together. And no, never had a “shoe thing.” Thankfully!

    • That’s true Tonya. Shared responsibility is great to have. On the flip side, being single lessons the tension of agreeing with someone on the budget numbers. My recommendation for a single person who is struggling with doing and following a budget is to find an accountability partner, someone you could trust to share the process with. That may feel uncomfortable at the start but in the long run might prove valuable to have someone you have to report to about your spending habits.

  6. Shannon Ryan says:

    Budgeting is so important and it’s definitely something couples need to work together on but many don’t, sadly. I like them because they give couples a lot of a clarity. You can see what makes your partner tick or rubs them the way. What they value and what they don’t. They can see the same in you. Sometimes putting the budget together will have a few bumps but once you get a working budget in place – it really changes things. Definitely worth the effort in my book!

    • The tough months are early on as couples figure it out for the first time. Once it gets rolling it’s pretty easy to put together each month. (Not that there aren’t big decisions along the way because there are.) I spend about 10 minutes preparing ours and consulting with the Mrs. about it.

  7. My boyfriend and I don’t have joint finances, so I have my budget and he doesn’t have one. I’ve been trying to create one for him, but he is a little resistant to the idea. He doesn’t really have any spending problems, and I have a good idea of how much we’ve spent together as I’m usually with him when purchases are made. We consult each other before making any big financial decisions.

    • My hunch is that he will be resistant until he decides it’s right for him. You will probably not have much success drawing one up for him. He will have to come to terms with his need on his own. Do you think you will keep your finances separate or combine them if/when you get married? That will be a must topic of conversation before you say “I do.” 🙂

  8. We don’t do things in quite this way, but we end up having similar conversations. Our budget is more of a long-term tracking than a “what are we spending this month”, but we still have conversations when what we’ve spent is more than what we planned. We then have to come up with new habits that will get us back on track. It’s not always easy, and it can be especially difficult when there’s one person who’s more “to blame” (not that you would put it that way in the conversation, but it obviously happens). But working through it not only brings you closer to your goals but can bring you closer to your spouse.

    • Our budget process is different now that we’ve been doing one for so long. It’s basically the same month in and month out and so takes very little time to configure. We just check with one another to see if anything out of the ordinary is coming up and plug those items in accordingly. Also, since we have an emergency fund in place there is not much discussion about where funds have to come from for surprise expenses.

  9. The hardest thing we’ve worked through is probably some of the bigger purchases surrounding our house, vacations, etc. We both like to spend from time-to-time, but overall we usually resist purchases so that really has helped us budget-wise. We record our expenses and check the trend to make sure that everything is in-line and adjust accordingly. Most of our expenses seem to be unavoidable ones, like home repairs and other things that need to be done. I’m sure as our income increases we will be challenged more on those frivolous “want” purchases.

    • It took me some time to build up the resistance to frivolous spending. Mrs. Luke1428 was always better at that than I. Once I did, our monthly budget really began to improve, which had a spill-over affect on our other financial goals.

  10. Brian, I’m a sucker for shoes and jackets. :o)
    My wife and I had a similar experience tying to get our personal finances in order. We did really start winning with money until we were both on board. It’s still work, but our financial life is totally different now.

    • It definitely takes two for this to work. The road is so difficult when one spouse is unwilling. And I don’t see in that scenario how their is total commitment to one another. Seems like there would always be an emotional barrier keeping you from enjoying the relationship to its fullest.

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  2. […] Brian has a great series going on about couples and money. […]

  3. […] Brian from Luke 14:28 talks relationships and money in Ending the Money Fights (Part II): Relationships Blossom When Couples Budget. […]

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