For newlyweds, budgeting as a couple or partners can be a very challenging experience that can make or break a marriage. It is not easy to switch from seeing your money as your own to now thinking of it as “our” money.
Studies have shown that one of the major factors contributing to marriage friction and even divorce is finance.
It, therefore, shows that if you can manage to be in accord when it comes to managing your finances then you can dramatically increase chances of success in your marriage.
The opposite could also be true. In that, if there will be frictions when it comes to finances then you could join the many couples and partners that are failing.
It is therefore vitally important that couples and partners agree from the outset how they are going to manage their finances. And budgeting is one of the tools that you can use in managing them.
Budgeting As A Couple: How To Do It Properly
1. Agree How You Intend To Manage Your Resources or Finances
Ideally before getting married or before starting to live together, you need to sit down and discuss your goals and values in so far as money is concerned.
At this point, you can decide on whether you intend to have one joint bank account or not. I would advise that you seriously consider having one bank account as it helps to build trust and unity in the relationship.
At this point, you also need to openly discuss how each one of you has been spending your money. After discussing this you can then discuss how as a couple you intend to spend your money.
This discussion will help you avoid situations where one partner starts complaining about how one party is spending money. This is because at this stage you will agree on the parameters that will govern your spending.
It is also a way to incorporate accountability in your marriage.
Next, you need to discuss your goals. Before marriage, you had your own goals but now you are a team and you need to come up with family goals.
This is a time to give and take. You should be willing to abandon some of your goals and adopt new ones.
For example, you can agree to start saving towards your retirement or towards purchasing your own house in x number of years. This is much easier if you have joint bank accounts as it reduces the temptation to misuse these savings.
The importance of this step on how you intend to manage your finances is that it promotes a harmonious marriage experience as they are few surprises ahead of you.
That is why I pointed out that it is very important that both parties are transparent in the discussions.
2. Discuss Individual Needs and Wants And How To Fund Them
Even though from now onwards you will be doing things together as a couple you are two individuals with needs and wants outside of the shared needs and wants.
Such being the case you need to accomodate those individual needs and how they can be funded.
For example, I like soccer while my wife is indifferent. To watch soccer that I want I need to cable tv subscription.
While this is very important to me, it is a luxury for her. I, therefore, had to work to convince her how miserable I would be if I did not watch my beloved soccer team on television. We eventually came to a compromise and I now watch my soccer on television.
The same can apply to ladies who have their own needs and wants. I, therefore, need to accommodate that too during the budgeting process.
One way this can be accomplished is by giving each an allowance that is solely controlled by each party. In other words, each party is allowed to do whatever he or she wants to do with the money without even consulting the other party.
A partner can use this money for purchasing video games, hair grooming, and other activities not included in your budget.
3. Agree on the Budget Categories And Who Will Be Responsible For Each Category
After agreeing on how you intend to spend your money, now is the time to jot down the budget categories.
This is not an exact science. You are therefore free to craft your categories in a way that you are comfortable with.
Some people prefer a detailed list that creates a category for almost every expense. Some may prefer grouping expenses into a category.
If you decide to group expenses, it may be helpful to have a breakdown of the components somewhere.
For example, if you decide to group all groceries under one category then you can have a list somewhere that lists the groceries you intend to buy e.g. sugar, loaves of bread, etc.
That is what works for me as I want to know the exact number of things I intend to buy for that month.
I also saw somewhere that you can also group these categories into buckets. Below are suggestions on the buckets.
Bucket 1 (Savings):
- Retirement Fund
- Emergency Fund: To cover expenses such as funeral costs, loss of employment, etc.
- Major Future Expenses
Bucket 2 (Accomodation):
- Rent or Mortgage
Bucket 3 (Living Expenses and Taxes):
- Medical Insurance
- Transport costs
- Car repairs
- House Repairs
- Income tax
4. Make A Commitment To Strictly Follow The Budget
Having a budget is nothing if for whatever reason you cannot follow it. This is true of the government, companies, organizations, and families too.
I used to work for an African government where the govt used to spend more than what was in the budget leading to huge budget deficits and inflation. The inflation was caused due to the increase in the money supply.
In the same way, if you as a family won’t strictly follow your budget you could end up in all sorts of financial problems.
In some cases, you could end up resorting to credit card debt to finance your out-of-control expenses. While it is easy to get into credit card debt, finding a way to pay credit cards off is a difficult matter if it’s too high.
It is therefore important that at the very outset of your marriage you commit to following the budget strictly.
That means that if you know that you have a problem with impulse buying, then maybe the best solution for you may be to surrender money issues to your partner.
This partner will then take custody of all the debit and credit cards.
You partner can then only release the funds to you when you need to use it.
I know that this is a drastic action but it can be the only way out for some people who are addicted to shopping.
5. Set Time To Discuss And Review Your Spending And Budget At Least Once A Month
It is important once you have created your budget and have started spending to meet and review how you are following the budget. It is a kind of accountability process for each other.
If you don’t do this you could be going off the rails in your expenditure without knowing it. Knowledge is power if you are to spend within your budget.
This could be a time when you can help each other to be disciplined in your use of money.
A budget is a flexible document that may need to be revised one a while. I remember living in a high inflation country where we were forced to change the budget for our company on a monthly basis.
The same would also apply to family budgets that may a victim of price rises and in some cases, you may need to add or remove some expenses. As the late Egyptian Secretary-General of the United Nations, “only fools don’t change their minds.”
Sometimes it could that there is an emergency that may require that you adjust your budget. I am here thinking of the Coronavirus epidemic which has decimated people’s incomes lately.
People have been forced to adjust their expenses to match the dramatic change in circumstances. I know of a firm that has cut their employees’ salaries by 25%. In this case people have no choice but to adjust their expenses unless ofcourse you are one of the big shots at the top.
It is because of these reasons that it is important to review your expenses and budget performance at least once every month if possible. In that way, you will be able to keep track of your finances. This is one of the ways you can make sure that budgeting as a couple works for you.
6. You Need To Agree That Any Major Modification To The Budget Will Be Made By Mutual Agreement
One of the things that can create friction in any marriage, when budgeting as a couple, is when one partner is not consulted when major changes are made to your budget.
No partner will be happy to come home and see that the other partner has decided to make a major purchase such as buying furniture without consulting the other.
It is a real lack of respect for the other party and can needlessly lead to serious friction in marriages.
It is therefore important that all the parties commit to making sure that any major modification to the budget is only done after mutual agreement.
This does not mean that if I go to Walmart and find a sale or something not on our budget, that we really need and is also reasonably priced then I should not buy it. No, this only applies to major modifications that will mess up your budget.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should couples share finances?
Ofcourse they have to share their finances as they are living under one roof and are legally partners. The issues involving money can be the most divisive issues in many families and these problems can be reduced by sharing finances.
Should husband and wife share bank account?
For the sake of openness and transparency it is strongly advised that couples should share bank accounts. Doing otherwise will invite suscipicions and doubts on money management form the partners.
When you get married you become one and you need to be one in practice and not in just words. If you are one then you do not need to hide your bank transactions.
There is no better show of unity than sharing a bank account. Doing this will definitely make it easier to manage your funds and expenses.
If you leave each party to manage their own finances you could end up with one party digging himself in financial hole with the other knowing. You may have come across a wife or husband complaining that his or her spouse is now being chased by debt collectors and all this happened without their knowledge.
And in some jurisdictions, a spouse may be financially exposed to their husband or wife debts. In such a situation sharing a bank account can be a way out of such predicaments as you can together settle debts before they are overdue.
If you share a bank account, it may be necessary to make sure that no payment can be made without both of your signatures. Otherwise you will wake up one day and discover that your spouse has run away with your money.
It therefore makes sense to anticipate such things and make sure that you protect yourself by the controls you impose on that shared bank account.
What is the best budget app for couples?
If you are sharing your income then the best app for couples is GoodBudget. It is based on the envelope budgeting system. However in this case the envelopes are electronic and are also tracked electronically.
The app also allows couples to sync and share budgets. You can therefore as a couple track your household budget expenses together as the app deducts from each envelope any payment related to that particular envelope.
As you deduct money from an envelope, the person sharing the budget with you will be able to know what is spent, where, and how. The app also allows you to save automatically by processing all this for you.
You can therefore easily save for example for your dream vacation and other future large purchases. It can also track your debt payoff progress.
If you are still budgeting using the trusted paper then may be it is time you moved into the 21st century by going digital. Not only is it not less cumbersome but it can make your budgeting much easier.
I like the fact that you can also sync your bank account to these apps. In this way you will be able to not only keep track of your expenses but also your bank account too.
What is the best way for married couples to handle finances?
Personally I think the best way for married couples to handle finances is to maintain one joint bank account. Having said that I respect those that may not be for this idea. As families we all face diffrent circumstances and therefore some may choose another option.
Maintaining one joint account, to me that shows trust and transparency which are very important characteristics in any relationship. Without these two pillars then your family life may be in for a rocky ride.
However, if you decide to maintain separate bank accounts then you should at least still make sure that you split up the bills between yourselves. I have come across couples who pile almost all of the bills on one person.
You therefore need to make sure that there is some fairness in terms of the sharing of the bills. Otherwise that can be a source of friction in the family.
Even though I belong to the joint bank account, I understand and get it that people are different and some may not want to have a joint account with their spouse.
For those that opt for the joint account, I would advise that they should only use their individual accounts for personal expenses only and the funds in those accounts should come from the joint account. They can then spend the money on their personal account as they wish.
While maintaining one joint account is important, you still need to learn to budget your income. It is not alright to start spending your money without a budget as most people do.
You need a budget as a guide on how you will spend your money. A budget can also help you in making savings for big projects, i.e. sinking funds. A budget will help you control your expenses and enable you to have excess cash that you can save.
Budgeting as a couple can be a challenging experience that can lead to friction between partners. It is therefore important that you agree in advance on the parameters and rules within which your budget will be prepared. Don’t wait until you are living together to discuss any money management issues.