This post is a part of Women’s Money Week 2012. For even more posts about budgeting, visit womensmoneyweek.com.
My husband and I have very different styles of managing money. I am the type who will spend an hour looking for missing pennies in our checkbook and he is the type who doesn’t even know where the checkbook is. I am the type who tracks our bills and he is the type who doesn’t even know how to login to our accounts. I am the type who knows exactly how much money we have and he is the type who can’t remember when he gets paid. In other words, we have completely different styles of handling money.
This makes for interesting discussions, particularly around our budget. Actually, our different styles are exactly why we avoided having a budget for so long. Every time we’d discuss money, he’d get upset that…well, I’m not sure what he’d get upset about, but he got mad. Then I’d get angry because I could not, for the life of me, understand how someone could know so little about their own finances. And we’d yell. Loudly. And a lot. For a long time. Then we’d have to go to our own corners and calm down. Unfortunately, the end result was two angry people and no budget.
It got to the point, though, that we needed a budget. Whatever we were doing wasn’t working for us and we had to make some radical changes. Which we did. But more than that, we had to figure out how to talk about money and creating a budget without fighting. To do that, we came up with some ground rules:
- Schedule a specific time. Rather than just spring talks about our budget on each other, we agreed that if we needed to talk about it, we’d have to call an official budget meeting. A specific date and time would be set, and we had to be sure to clear our schedule to do it. The only off limit times were Saturday nights (date night) and any day after 9:00 PM (I can’t get that stressed or worked up before I go to bed).
- Bring an agenda. Whoever calls the meeting must develop an agenda. Just saying “we need to talk about our budget” is not sufficient. This is what leads to fights. Now, we must detail which specific parts of our budget we need to discuss, revisit, refine or redo. It’s helped cut down on the fighting if we know exactly what we’re discussing instead of having an open conversation.
- Check the attitude at the door. My husband has a tendency to get…condescending when we talk about our budget. I’m not sure why since I’m the one that’s been handling it for the last 12 years. For some reason, he gets really rude at time which makes me furious. So we’ve come to an agreement that he will not behave that way and if he does, I can point it out without him getting pissy. On the other side of that, I promise not to get snippy if he asks stupid questions.
- Accept that we’re there for the same purpose. The point of a budget meeting is for us to discuss our finances and figure out how to create a budget that best fits our life. We both want to make our money work for us in the most effective manner possible. The only way to do that is for the both of us to (calmly) discuss how and on what we’re spending our money and where we need to make changes. If we come to the meeting wanting to “win” instead of resolve or build consensus, we might as well manage our finances separately.
- Don’t take anything personally. And don’t make it personal. It frustrates me to no end that my husband doesn’t take a more proactive role in our daily finances. Although I’m working to accept it, I sometimes may get a little upset if he innocently questions something that I do to manage our money or makes a suggestion that I know would never, ever work. I might take it as a slight to me or my abilities. I’ve had to learn that it’s not a personal attack on me; he really doesn’t understand what goes into keeping our budget intact.
With those ground rules in place, creating and maintaining our budget has been substantially less stressful. We now have a budget that works for our family which is essential for making sure we stay out of debt (it took approximately 5 years to get there. I have no desire to go back). And should we need to revise the budget, we can do it without screaming. Which is essential for everyone.