Molly’s Money | Coming to a Budget Agreement with Your Spouse

February 26, 2015·

If this is your first time here, Molly’s Money is a regular series I write on this blog that includes ALL things personal finance – debt management, budgeting, home buying, savings, investment, etc. I am NOT a financial advisor, but I am married to one! These are just things that I have learned over the years as I struggled with my own personal finances and ultimately, became debt free in 2012. Got a question about money that you want answered? Leave it in the comments below or email me!

I posed the question on social media the other day: “What are some finance or personal finances topics you’d like to see me talk about or cover on my blog?

One topic that came up MULTIPLE times in various forms was: “How do you set and create a budget IN AGREEMENT WITH your partner / spouse?”

Now, I’ve written before about how to combine finances after marriage, and sharing your financial situation with a significant other, and I’ve talked about how money doesn’t have to be a relationship killer, or the tough money talk in marriage, or even about combining finances after marriage whether or not that has an effect on your credit.

So yeah, you could say I’ve addressed the money-in-relationships topic a few times.

BUT, I’ve never specifically addressed ways to sit down, talk about money, and come to an agreement TOGETHER about your joint budget. And obviously, every relationship is different and you know your own relationship dynamics better than anyone… BUT, there hopefully are still a few things you can take a way from this post. 🙂

The first thing is understanding that the money is OUR money. Not his money and her money. It’s OURS.

This is THE BASIS for the entire financial discussion. (I am obviously talking to the married folks here… BUT, if you’re maybe in business with someone and you’re trying to come to an agreement on a business budget, this could apply). If you and your spouse are still not in agreement over the fact that the money is YOURS, collectively, then we have bigger fish to fry.

This is one of those things that I won’t back down and and cannot agree with those that disagree with this… when you got married and you said those vows, your ceremony officiant probably said SOMETHING to the effect of “For RICHER OR FOR POORER” and / or “TWO ARE NOW ONE.” The officiant did NOT say, “For when he has money and she doesn’t or when she has money and he doesn’t.” 

Marriage is about becoming ONE with your spouse… and that INCLUDES your finances. This is tough for some people… and I TOTALLY get it. But this is the first major step when it comes to finances in marriage. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is what can make or break a marriage.

molly's money: how to create, set, and MAINTAIN a working budgetThe second thing is to sit down and do the budget TOGETHER.

If you don’t currently do a budget, you should start. Now. And it needs to be done together. You need to both sit down and make the rules… together.

If only one of you is creating the budget, then the other is basically in the dark and that can create friction and resentment. That’s no bueno.

So, take one day a month and sit down and do it together. Figure out what are your necessary, inflexible expenses. What HAS to come out of the budget every month… these are things like rent / mortgage, cell phone, water, health insurance, etc. Those are things that have a fixed expense attached to them.

Then you start to talk about the necessary, FLEXIBLE expenses… things like groceries, gas, etc. Those are things that are necessary, but can be adjusted according to how much you do or do not eat out, couponing, carpooling, etc. Discuss those things together and come to an agreement.

And then you get into the area of OPTIONAL expenses… things like eating out, going to the movies, shopping, your own individual “cash” budgets, etc. This is the toughest category but the one that needs the most discussing.

This is where you need to LISTEN to each other and hear each other out. If you want to go buy yourself a new dress this month, you need to put that want out on the table and figure out if it’s plausible in the budget. And then, when he asks to go to Home Depot and buy a new saw, then you need to hear THAT want out. You see what I’m getting at?

You need to HEAR each other and figure out if what your optional expenses are are, in fact, possible! It’s ALL about communication. Do not get defensive. Do not get aggressive. The key is to LISTEN.

Understand that you are BOTH setting the rules. TOGETHER.

When you’re creating the budget, you’re creating the rules together… the budget is your RULER and you have control over it… UNTIL the budget is set for the month. Once the budget is set for the month, the budget controls you and you follow the rules of the budget.

Know what I mean?

Know that you’re a TEAM.

You are both captains of this ship. You can sink or float TOGETHER depending on the attitude you take. It’s so, so, so important to realize that just like with anything else in marriage, it’s all about being a team and being each other’s support system. It’s about talking through the tough stuff, even when you know it’s going to be hard.

I share all of this because this is what John and I do in our own marriage. And no, we don’t get it right all the time… in fact, I probably screw up regularly… but instead of attacking me or getting mad, we sit down and John points out where we’re going over budget in one area and we figure out how to fix it! TOGETHER. We communicate regularly about the budget and we make sure we’re both on the same page.

So what do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Is there anything you do in your own relationship that works for you?