If you’re married, and you have big financial goals, one way to reach them faster is to work on them with your spouse. It’s not enough to say your goals out loud. It’s important to have weekly or monthly budget meetings to talk about how you’re doing financially.
The problem with budget meetings is that they sound pretty boring (and stressful.) Money is an incredibly taboo topic, and if you are in a tight spot financially, these meetings might remind you of how far you have to go to reach your goals.
However, you can look at budget meetings in a different way too. You can treat them as a family meeting, one where you work on your communication, share common goals, and re-commit to working together to improve your money situation.
I’m not saying every budget meeting will be fun (or pleasant.) But, they are a great idea if you want to work together with your spouse towards a common financial goal. Below are four ways to have a successful budget meeting with your spouse.
Remember That You’re On the Same Team
Sometimes, budget meetings can get heated. Maybe you have to reveal you went over budget when it came to the groceries last week. Maybe your husband wants to spend money finishing the basement when all you really want is to go to the beach this summer.
When money disagreements happen, it’s helpful to remember you’re on the same team. Push aside all those small, immediate goals and go over some of your bigger goals. Do you want to buy a house someday? Do you want to retire early? Do you want to finally build a large emergency fund?
Instead of focusing on all the ways you’re different from your spouse when it comes to money, instead focus on the things you agree on. Chances are, you share a larger life philosophy, and once you remember that, it gets easier to choose financial goals that fit better into your long term plan.
Once you’ve cemented those long term goals, then go back and discuss the smaller ones. This makes it a lot easier to budget with your spouse and reminds you why you want to work together in the first place.
Take Turns Leading the Meeting
I like budgeting way more than my spouse. I pay all our bills, and I manage the finances day to day. So, I naturally want to lead every budget meeting. What happened over time, though, is that I ended up making most of the financial decisions. It was like I was giving a power point presentation every month to someone in the audience who was more of a participant and not one of the leaders of our family.
So, I started asking my husband to lead a few budget meetings. At first, he was unsure, not knowing the best way to read our budgeting software or what to suggest. However, what I noticed over time is that the more ownership he had over the budget meetings, the more interested he was in the outcomes.
So, now we switch off every month, and this strategy has allowed both of us to lead the discussions and sit back and be a captive audience. We still make most of our financial decisions together when it comes to our bigger goals, but we each get to take turns leading the meeting. This makes us feel more like a team, and it also makes us feel like we’re making joint decisions.
Celebrate the Wins
Budgeting and making a long term financial plan can feel like a roller coaster. Maybe you have a big, medical emergency right after you decide to start aggressively paying off your debt. Or, maybe your kid needs braces before you’ve been able to save up for them in cash. That’s just how life work sometimes.
But, life can be more fun when you celebrate the wins while acknowledging the setbacks. So, make a plan to congratulate yourself when you meet financial goals. It can be small, like deciding to get takeout every time you pay off $1,000 in debt. Or, it can be big, like planning a big trip to Disney World when you knock out your student loans once and for all.
Either way, having a plan to celebrate your accomplishments makes the setbacks a lot more bearable.
Bring Wine and Snacks to Your Meetings
Everything is better with wine and snacks, right? I mean, it’s hard to be mad at someone when you’re eating brie and crackers. It might seem silly, but budget meetings are a lot more pleasant when you don’t feel like you’re at work.
Essentially, whatever you can do to make the meeting something to look forward to, you should do it. You can even reward yourselves afterwards. For example, if you make it through a stressful budget meeting, make a plan to watch two episodes of your favorite show. Or, allow yourself to order takeout only on the nights you have budget meetings. This ties something that can be stressful to something pleasurable. Having a reward at the end will encourage you to be open during the budget meeting, and it will also help you to remember you’re on the same team.
Budget meetings don’t sound like a lot of fun, and at first, they’re not. If you’re new to budgeting, budget meetings can feel stressful, isolating, and frustrating. But, if you stick with it, you’ll notice after a few months that your meetings get shorter. You get more efficient, and you’ll start reaching your goals.
Use the tips above to make budgeting with your spouse more fun and interesting, and you’ll be much more likely to want to schedule your budget meetings every single month.