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Making a Budget Together: How Couples Do it Succesfully

Smiling couple riding a watercraft together, having fun.

Getting serious means becoming more and more involved in the details your significant other’s life. Perhaps the most important things a couple can do together is get on the same page financially. This means knowing what money is coming in, how it’s going out, and where money is headed. Maybe you’ve been married for decades and have tried to budget before, but found yourselves derailed.

Whatever your situation, here’s a step-by-step strategy for budgeting successfully as a couple:

Step #1: Start Simple.

First, go back to the basics of budgeting. Sit down with your partner to list all income and expenses.

This may be tricky because you may disagree on things—like if an income source is substantial enough to list, or why some expenses are still in your life. Recognize this tendency before you begin, and acknowledge it aloud. That way, when it’s time to list the controversial items (like the dog’s monthly spa visit or your partner’s quirky subscription to socks), you’ll be able to keep your cool.

Believe it or not, this first step is the hardest for many couples. Once you do it, you’ll understand why. Thankfully, the next step is more fun.

Step #2: Set Some Goals.

Since you both can see how much money is coming in and where it’s going, you’re able to dream. What if we didn’t have to pay that high-interest loan each month? How much would we have left over for savings, charity, or fun? What would we want to save up for if we were able to cut back on how much we spend eating out? Make a conservative list of short- and long-term financial goals.

Step #3: Make a Few Tough Decisions.

Next, it’s time to reallocate funds to where they belong—instead of where they go when you’re not looking. Go through each expense line-by-line and decide whether that cost should stay the same, increase, or diminish. When you come to a line where you disagree with your significant other, skip it, and agree to re-visit the topic later. This way, you don’t get sidetracked, and you both get some time to consider how important your stance really is.

Enjoy a meal or outing together before coming back to the costs where conflict is unavoidable.

As you decide what to cut, allow your partner some financial eccentricities: stopping for fuel even when the gas tank is mostly full, or insisting on renting a film enough times to have bought it twice. Savvy couples allow each person a monthly amount for “whatever” spending to enjoy.

Step #4: Administer the Changes

As you thumbnail through your budget together, keep a separate “to-do” list handy for action items that come up. Examples may include:

  • Sign up for automatic transfers into savings each month.
  • Download your budgeting software’s mobile app, if it has one.
  • Phone an adviser to talk life insurance, if that’s in your new couples’ budget.
  • Call utility companies to automate monthly or quarterly bill payments.
  • Set a recurring appointment reminder to review your budget together and either celebrate successes, or tweak a category.

A report cited by North Carolina State University says that almost 80% of couples surveyed whose marriages ended before they were 30 years old claimed financial disagreements were the primary cause of their breakup. Thankfully, you can be different. With the above tools and tips, you can live romantically taken, and financially free!

The team at CESI is committed to helping you make wise financial decisions and to helping you understand how to get out, and stay out of debt. For a free debt analysis, contact us and find out how we can help.

Image Source: Flickr

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