Making your budget work for 2

By Matthew Becker

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, May 20 2013 6:30 a.m. MDT

You should have regular conversations about finances with your partner, but you don't want to go into these conversations unprepared.

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There are many joys and benefits of coming together in a union with the person you love. However, balancing your budget is not one of those joys.

Managing finances and keeping to a budget can be hard enough for one person, but after getting married things get even trickier. On the upside, the income between two people is generally greater than with just one, since it’s common for both partners to be engaged in the workforce. But now you have to agree with another person on how to best allocate that income, and that’s where some couples just can’t seem to come together.

If you’re thinking of getting married or already are, you should be thinking about what you’re going to do when the inevitable issue of money comes up. You should have regular conversations about finances with your partner, but you don’t want to go into these conversations unprepared. Carefully consider what it is you want and what you think is fair, and then share these thoughts candidly. Honesty and openness is the first step to successfully balancing a joint budget.

As someone who’s been married for 23 years, I’ve had a lot of experience working with my wife to manage our household budget. It hasn’t always been easy, but we’ve always been able to make it work without too much contention.

Here are my top tips for balancing your budget as a couple. Whether you’re just getting married or have been married for decades, these will help anyone make wise financial decisions with their household income.

  1. Determine your needs. This is the first step for any couple trying to balance their budget. What are the essentials — rent, utilities, groceries, car payments, gas, etc. — and how much will they cost you each month? The cost of these essentials will sometimes vary from month to month, but always plan for the maximum amount. Once you know how much money you need to set aside, you’ll know how much you’ll have left to work with.
  2. Compromise on personal wants. A successful budget relies on compromise. If you aren’t willing to forgo some of your personal wants, your budget isn’t going to get you very far, and your partner won’t be very happy with you. Figure out how much you want each month for things like clothing, beauty products, entertainment, eating out, yoga classes, then decide what you can cut out or minimize to make the most of your money. When your partner sees you compromise, they’ll be more willing to do so as well, and that’s more money you can put into savings for an emergency or a rainy day. If your partner absolutely will not compromise, there may be underlying issues that need to be addressed before you can focus on your budget.
  3. Monitor your spending habits. It’s easy to lose track of your budget if you’re not carefully keeping track of it. Little purchases here and there can add up big time, and before you know it you’re not able to make ends meet for the month. The best thing to do for both partners is to monitor their individual spending and make sure everything is being accounted for. Watch your bank balance, and if something looks amiss, talk to your spouse about it. You don’t have to be accusatory or confrontational, but you need to make sure you’re both on the same page.
  4. Practice consistency. Once you and your partner are able to come together and agree on a budget, keep to it! Track your spending and stay in communication with each other. Have regular weekly or monthly meetings to review it. It may sound a little too professional for a relationship, but it works, and it will make all aspects of your marriage healthier and happier.
Balancing your budget isn’t always easy, but it takes a lot of stress out of everyday life. Once you’re on a good financial path, there’s nothing that you and your partner can’t do!

Matthew Becker is a Deseret Connect contributor and an independent consultant for CashAdvance.com.

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