My wife and I have had some incredible financial wins during our marriage. We eliminated $48,032 of debt, paid off our $195,000 mortgage and increased our net worth by $800,000 all in the last 9 years. And the one tradition that has been constant throughout the entire process has been our Budget Party.
The Budget Party is a monthly get-together meant to set aside time for me and my wife to have important conversations about our financial future together. We review how we used our money from the previous month, what we want to do with our cash this month and how we're tracking on our overall financial goals.
Outside of the obvious financial benefits of this activity, these meetings are great for our marriage. We discuss what’s important to us, how we’re going to get there together and how we see our relationship growing over the years to come. With two small children in the house, time for discussion is limited. The Budget Party gives us a little break and helps me feel closer to my wife.
If all this financial growth and marital relationship building stuff sounds interesting to you, I’ve compiled 10 easy steps for you to build your own Budget Party. This way, you can create your own monthly meeting and strengthen your family tree for years to come.
1. Schedule a Date on the Calendar
The easiest (and the hardest) step in the Budget Party process is to simply make time for it. Block a couple of hours on your calendar for a date and time that works well for both you and your spouse. This way, you won’t forget it.
Simply placing it on your to-do list is not enough. When you have physical time booked on your calendar, like the other important meetings and appointments in your life, you tend to take them more seriously. This is your marriage and your money we’re talking about here … it doesn’t get more important than that!
Nicole and I sync up our iPhone calendars to make this process easier. If you don’t have an iPhone, you can do this with a free Google Calendar or even a plain old wall calendar. Whatever flavor you choose, just book it!
2. Make it Fun
If you have a couple of hours to hang with the love of your life and plan your future, add some fun into the mix. Order some pizza, drink a glass of wine together or sit outside in the sunshine. Treating it anything like a business meeting can make the process a lot more fun.
With two young kids at home, Nicole and I often take our Budget Party to a kid play place where they have wi-fi. That way our kids can run around like crazy people while Nicole and I plan out our month.
Related Article: 10 Easy Ideas to Make Your Next Budget Session Fun
3. Discuss Your Financial Dreams Together
This is where the magic happens.
- What’s going to be your driving motivation for doing your budget party each month?
- Why are you paying attention to your money besides “because you’re supposed to”?
When Nicole and I started minding our money, it was for one very specific reason. She didn’t love her job and she wanted the opportunity to raise our new daughter at home. So that became our driving force. Let’s eliminate our debt and modify our lifestyle so we can live on one income only.
So what are your dreams? And what are your spouse's dreams?
Perhaps you want to start your own business, switch careers, adopt a child, give more to charities you love or simply reduce the stress that comes with not being in control of your money. This is your time to discover your dreams together. And be sure to remind yourself of your goal(s) when you meet for your Budget Party.
Related Article: 7 Dreams That Can Come True When You're Debt Free
4. Choose a Budgeting Tool That Makes the Process Easy
The world of Fintech has made budgeting incredibly easy. There are so many tools available today that help you save time and money. Here are some of my favorites:
- Mint: Synches your accounts in real-time (our Budget Party go-to system for 8 years)
- Tiller: Spreadsheet-based program that allows for easy customization
- Personal Capital: Tracks your net worth, budget and much more (get a free $20 Amazon credit with your free account)
- YNAB: Detailed app that allows you to easily track financial goals
- Zeta: Specifically designed with couples in mind
If you don’t like the idea of using an online system, no worries. Break out the old pencil and paper and get to work!
5. Create Your Budget
Whether you’re using a budget app or a pencil and paper, you’re going to start by detailing your monthly income. Include your salary, your spouse’s salary, business income or any investment income.
Then move on to estimating your monthly expenses. Start with the “Big 3”:
- Housing (Mortgage, Rent, etc)
- Transportation (Car Payments, etc)
- Food (Groceries, Eating at Restaurants, etc)
These three costs can often take up a great deal of your income each month. If you’re not sure how to estimate these 3 big expenses, grab a copy of your latest credit card statement or bank statement and see what your recent spending has been in these areas. Then move onto all of the other expenses in your life like utilities, debt payments, childcare, entertainment, and clothing.
Now if one of you is more excited about this part than the other, then allow that person to take the lead in developing the budget. Just make sure your spouse agrees with the allocations you’ve set. This way you’re moving down this path of financial improvement together.
6. Review the Budget in Alignment with your Goals
Now that you’ve constructed your budget, it’s time to give it a once over to make sure it’s set up to help you achieve your goals. If you’re hoping to pay off all your debt in the next couple of years, but you don’t have much set aside for debt payments then things might have to be adjusted.
On the flip side, if you’re budget feels too tight for you or your spouse (like all work and no play) then find a happy medium for both of you. Speaking from experience here, it’s important that you and your spouse on the same page before the budget is set.
Related Interview: How Paying Off Our Debt Put us in Marriage Counseling
7. Check-in on Non-Financial Topics in your Marriage
While the main goal of the Budget Party is to improve our financial lives, it doesn’t have to be only about money. Use your time together to discuss upcoming events, plans with friends, date night, kid’s sporting activities or future vacations. (Well, actually all those topics still have a lot to do with money, but you know what I mean).
Our marriage feels off when we haven’t had our Budget Party because Nicole and I haven’t taken time to plan our month together. We get so much done during our session and it just sets us up for a good month together. Now, we need it.
8. Stay Consistent
Before your Budget Party ends, make sure you schedule the next one. Like anything in life, it’s easy to forget it if it’s not on your calendar.
This ritual proves to your spouse that this is important to you. These meetings and your consistency with them shows your spouse that you want to get your money situation on track and have your family thrive.
Your drive and determination will make your spouse WANT to jump on board and help your family win. So be a positive light in your marriage and be consistent.
9. Realize the First Few Sessions Won’t Be Easy
If this is your first time budgeting or working the numbers with your spouse, there is going to be a lot of mistakes. Don’t get discouraged. It’s just like riding a bike. You weren’t a pro in the beginning, but after a few times around the block, it’s no big deal.
Additionally, you may not agree with your spouse on certain money decisions. Try practicing empathy and truly listen to your spouse’s concerns.
And make sure you respectfully voice your opinions as well. Though a little conversation, you can surely find some way to meet in the middle.
10. Celebrate Your Wins
When you’ve reached a big milestone in your financial journey, be sure to stop, breath it in and celebrate. The two of you are making incredible strides in your relationship and your future family happiness. You need to acknowledge it.
Let’s say you’ve worked together for a year and you’ve finally paid off all of your credit card debt. It’s time to put the party in Budget Party!
Get a bottle of champagne, have dinner together, share the news with friends, family or even a random dude that hosts a podcast who likes to hear this type of news (ahem, me).
By making epic financial moves in your relationship, you’re creating epic memories together. Those memories are going to be the ones you look back on and say, “Remember when we did that? That was awesome.”
That’s what life is really … a series of memories. So go make some incredible ones with the love of your life today.
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