Creating new budgets or really most situations involving money management can get stressful. My husband and I also have different financial personalities, that adds another fun level to dealing with money. When we decided that it was best for our family if I become a stay at home mom, we needed to create a new budget for the change in income. A lot of adjustments and plans were made in preparation. Sometimes your best laid plans aren’t enough and you have to make even more changes. This can be especially true when trying to reach goals as a team. We had to figure out the hurdles of a new budget. Which led to 5 things you need to overcome money issues in your relationship together.
You can read the details about our conversations before going to one income, but I’ll just do a quick recap. The biggest change of course was going to one income. We sat down and evaluated where we were money-wise. Paid off some debt, cut cable, decided on lifestyle changes and made goals for saving money. Also, I started meal planning in a more intentional way, since the biggest money saver would be food.
I am going to get really vulnerable now.
I am the spender in my relationship. I’ve alluded to that, but it’s hard for me to just go right out and admit it. Yes, I have used and loved retail therapy a few too many times. Also, I’ve broken every credit card rule. Starting when I was 19 and got my first credit card so I could have “money” to travel abroad for a semester. It took me 6 years to finally close that card.
This wasn’t the last credit card I would have or rule I would break. One time, I used my student loan refund to pay off a credit card. Yes, I used debt to pay off debt. I would love to say that I was young, but this was in grad school. When I started to make more money, my tastes just got more expensive. As I grew older, some of my habits have definitely gotten better. But I was still carrying around a credit card with a large balance. Like many others out there, I had charged parts of our wedding and honeymoon that still lingered 2 years later.
I am married to a saver. When I met Jordan, he was 25 years old and already owned his own condo. His place looked grown up- not like an ex boyfriend I had who got all his towels from the gym. He had a great job, investments, savings, multiple retirements, etc. Over the next few years, the credit card debt he had was paid off. He is human so of course he had made mistakes with money, he also used a student loan refund to buy his car when he was 22. Overall though, he was/is great with money and using it wisely.
So yes, we are money opposites.
It can be a great balance if you work together as a team. It can also be frustrating and debilitating if you never hit it head on and work against each other.
We didn’t fully combine money at the beginning of our marriage. There were two paychecks and all rent and bills were split evenly. We figured out how to pay everything else together without getting into the nitty gritty.
The white elephant in the room. He knew of my “spending past”, even though I had already come a long way. This worried him. On my end, I was worried of a too strict system that didn’t leave any room beyond the necessities.
Then our second income went away. We had to face that huge white elephant and make a stricter budget all at the same time! We definitely started peeling away some of our concerns before this change happened. But there are some things that you can’t even begin to overcome until you experience it. These are some of the hurdles we have faced and the plans we put in place to overcome money issues as a team.
I am going to share this because I know I’m not the only one in this situation and hope it can help others avoid it in the future. I’ve heard this come up in stories of couples just dating, engaged, but even in established marriages. Making large purchases or acquiring credit card debt that your partner doesn’t know about will of course kill your budget, but it can also hurt your relationship as well.
Jordan knew I had a credit card. I was making a large payment every month, but I was also still using it so not really getting at my principal balance at all. He thought it had a lower balance than it had. By a few thousand. Yes, yes-I know. I kept thinking that I could take care of it, but I wasn’t trying anything new. My spending habits had changed and I was living within my means, but I hadn’t dealt with the lingering debt that followed me from past decisions. I didn’t tell him that the balance was lower than it was, but we never talked about what it actually was. It was part of the white elephant of our different financial personalities and us not really wanting to combine our money so much that we had to worry about each other’s differences.
We talked about this right at the beginning of making our new budget. It was icky. For a while. It brought up some arguments and lack of trust in regards to spending. In the end, I think this made us tackle that stupid elephant once and for all. But it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty either.
I’ve heard of even worse stories, partners not even knowing that a credit card existed, let alone that it had over 10k charged on it. Being open about this stuff can be hard, especially if you think they will react negatively. It can be hard, but oh so important to be honest about big issues in your marriage- one of those being money spending.
On the other end, it is important to forgive your partner for things they have done in the past. It is harder to be honest with someone that constantly reminds you of every little thing you have done wrong.
Align Goals & Methods
Being the responsible and passionate money saver in the relationship, Jordan became really interested in Dave Ramsey and got his book “Total Money Makeover”. Before this, we had decided that we would pay a small amount on our remaining debt of student loans and not really worry about them right away. What Jordan learned was that any debt can be detrimental to budgets and financial goals. So he wanted to add complete debt elimination to our budget. Remember this is a completely new budget of two months that we were still getting used to with half the income we previously had.
This was really overwhelming to me. He suggested we just eat beans and rice for dinner every night. I almost lost it, I don’t want to eat beans every night! I already did that the first 10 years of my life, lol. This is exactly what I had worried about- these unrealistic, strict rules on our life. I knew this was a good goal to have. We want to buy a house next year, and not worrying about debt payments in addition to a new mortgage would be great. But we had to find a better way.
Let’s pause for a minute and think about the different ways this could go. Lol. I could fight it, because it goes against what I think is doable and manageable right now. Or realize that this is something that is extremely important to my husband, and how much stress debt causes him. He’s pushing us to achieve a goal that is good for us, not make bad decisions.
We sat down and looked at our budget AGAIN. How could we actually reach this goal and what would that mean for our monthly expenses? This meant we really need to work as a team, respect each other and make compromises. The grocery budget needed to be even lower, but I made sure there was room to eat beyond beans and rice (thank god!).
We wouldn’t be taking any vacations this year, but I also knew we needed to put some money aside for special events such as our anniversary, traveling for the holidays and the kid’s birthdays. Those things are important to us, regardless if they are beyond needs. (This took some convincing) I have been wanting, without actually being financially ready, to move to a house for a while. This new plan (that was crazy hard to get to!) actually created a path to buying a house in a responsible way. It became a blending of our wants and goals, not just one person dictating their plan to the other.
Have Weekly Meetings
If you are seeing a theme here, the most important way we overcome our budget hurdles is talking. A LOT. Disagreeing, but hearing each other out and creating a plan that respects both of our decisions. For us, this happened after arguing about money for a couple days, not talking about it for a couple days and then sitting down with a fresh mindset and perspective. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Doing a budget together can be difficult at first. You almost want to skip over all this talking and disagreeing, to just do it yourself. Over time, it can help strengthen your relationship as a team. Money issues can be stressful, so having that burden land solely on one person can be overwhelming and kind of unfair. Carrying it together will help your decision making and long term goals. (I know there are couples that decide on someone that does most of the work with the budget, but some input from the other partner is still important)
Many couples have weekly budget meetings. Ours are not regularly scheduled…yet. But we do check in on how we are doing. The more consistent you are the better. You don’t want to wait until the end of the month to see how you are doing. We use mint.com for our budget and log in to see how our spending is in each category. I love that this happens automatically. Sometimes you do have to log in and move things around, but it’s pretty simple.
Respect and Compromise
I’m not sure if you are the saver or spender in your relationship. Maybe you are both savers or both spenders. From the perspective of being the spender that may have not made all the best money decisions, putting blame and punishing your spouse for their past mistakes won’t help! After you have resolved it, let it go. This goes for things beyond money! If you are trying to make a budget with a spender, verbalize what you want to change, but make sure you also listen and respect your partner’s point of view.
From my husband’s perspective of a saver- a spender has to show they want to compromise and make better financial decisions. Back up with actions. This helps assure you are on the same page.
I think we both have a little of the other in us as well, so holding each other accountable is key. If you are both extreme spenders, hiring a financial advisor may help strike some balance.
Don’t Give Up
You are going to get discouraged. If I haven’t already painted that picture for you! I spent about two hours at the grocery store one day. Analyzing everything- making sure I was buying things on sale and making sure I stuck to the weekly meal plan. Feeling accomplished, I was proud of the work I put in. Then I went to pay. I needed it to be a $100 and it was $150. UGH! Big difference right? It was so disheartening and made me want to give up.
You want to know what my life saver was? ALDI! Oh my goodness, I should have started shopping there a long time ago. I had been going to the same grocery store that I was comfortable with, clipping the coupons wasn’t enough. The bill just wouldn’t get to a place we needed it to be. Sometimes we have to adjust along the way and keep making our actions better and better.
In the End
I would have never picked up Dave Ramsey on my own, lol. Now that I have, it does give a great foundation for creating a better system for money management. Regardless of which system you choose to follow, working as a team is essential for your success. I hope our story helps you see that couples with different financial personalities can tackle a budget together. You both just have to want it! Being honest and respectful to each other’s differences was essential in our progress. If you don’t start out wanting the same goals, talk about it! We didn’t at first, but ended up in a place where we both compromised and had our biggest needs and wants aligned in common goals.