Marriage Hack: Budgeting

The Hunk and I meet with couples before they get married often–especially when he’s officiating their wedding or doing pre-marital mentoring.  I love doing this!  Throughout the meetings, in addition to contributing to skills related to conflict resolution and other key marriage issues, I drop in a little marriage hack we’ve used to make the practical elements of marriage go more smoothly–causing fewer unnecessary friction.  And I want to share a marriage hack or two here and there for you to employ in your own marriage.  I’ve already shared a marriage hack for your schedules and if you missed it, you’ll want to check it out, for sure!  Be on the lookout for future marriage hacks to help you simplify and/or make your marriage run more smoothly.

Marriage Hack: Budgeting

This marriage hack is perhaps the most challenging hack The Hunk and I do.  Mostly because we’re lazy.  But, on the real, this hack has helped is prevent countless frustrations and arguments and negative Nancy thoughts.  I can’t think of many people who love talking money.  I absolutely love talking about it.  Budgets, plans, maximizing… I love talking about money plans.

The Hunk? No.  He’s not a fan.  He hadn’t had much experience with budgets before we got married but I was so house poor that I had to budget.  Also, I had taken Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University Course so I had some really awesome methods developed in my single years.  I brought that skill set to our marriage.

Remember that scheduling hack I told you about last time?  One standing appointment we have every month is a budget meeting.  We used to schedule ours on the first Tuesday of the month, but then our small group situation changed so we now try to have them on the first Thursday of every month.  Now, I say “try.”  Yes, this is where we fall short.  Sometimes, we forget.  Sometimes, we are just slackers.  Sometimes, one of us is sick.  We have skipped months from time to time.  I don’t recommend it.  I aim for perfection, for sure, but I fall short so often that I can’t let it get me down.

Anyway, during our monthly budget meetings we look at the month prior and plan for the month to come.

There are, however, some key background facts to this marriage hack. For instance, I always recommend one central bank account from which all basic spending is taken.  One account for the electric bill, the rent/mortgage, grocery, allowance, and all joint expenses.  This is one element of oneness that I really believe helps two people become one in their heart.  Because, as my Hunk says, our heart follows our money.  This hack is set up for a married couple who has one central account for the joint expenses of life.

That said, The Hunk and I have set up autonomy within our budget so we can still spend some without discussion; we were 26 and 30 when we married; we have allowance.  Don’t worry, that’s the next hack I’m discussing with you.  Until then:

Marriage Hack: How to

You will need two computers: one for logging into your bank account and another for having your spreadsheet open.  Our first step is to divvy up the jobs.  One person needs to be the spreadsheet guru and the other needs to be the bank account filter.

Here’s a free spreadsheet based on what we use to have our meeting.  If you have Google, feel free to make a copy (by clicking “File,” and then “Make a copy…”) and host this on Google for your budget meetings.  If you don’t have Google or don’t want to host this on Google, feel free to export it as an Excel spreadsheet (by clicking “Download as…” and then “Microsoft Excel (.xlsx)”) and use locally.  If you’re interested in more spreadsheets for tracking debt tracking and all that, let me know!  I can totally share what I use to motivate me to pay off more debt!

Job descriptions for this Marriage Hack:

Spreadsheet guru: Places all the numbers in the lines appropriate.  Inputs income as provided by the bank account filter.

Bank account filter: Interprets the expenses in income lines in the bank account online and speaks them to the spreadsheet guru for spreadsheet input.

So, here’s how our basic budget meetings go; you may start with this and find another similar method.  But start somewhere.  Don’t just spend without talking about it for years on end.

  1. I (the spreadsheet guru) open a Google Spreadsheet where we keep our yearly budget records.
  2. The Hunk (Bank account filter) opens our online bank statement for the month we’re meeting about.
  3. As The Hunk goes from the beginning of the month to the end of the month, I put in the amounts appropriate in the spreadsheet.
  4. We repeat this until every item from our month is put into the spreadsheet.  I use this formula to add multiple items for categories such as “car fuel” or “grocery,” etc.: =##+## Each “##” is the amount called out.  For those categories, I always type in the beginning of the sum in at the beginning of the meeting.  Then, I just click in the white space at the top of the spreadsheet when that category comes up again and type, “+##” to add it to the line item.
  5. We discuss the overall success of our financial month.
  6. We plan ways to make our finances more successful in the next month–maybe eating out less, spending less on groceries, putting more in savings, cutting back on frivolous things, etc.

The learning key here is that the line items will become familiar to the two of you.  For instance, we used to have a difficult time distinguishing between “care fuel” and “house gas” in our meetings.  This was unnecessarily frustrating (a real debbie-downer) during the meetings and the Bank Account Filter took a few months to remember to distinguish between the two when calling out the types of expenses.  The bank account filter must have the patience to learn what to really call out and be okay with interpreting the expenses more quickly as you practice each month.

Because I’m a major nerd, I’ve set up a quick video that describes how I interact with the spreadsheet during our budget meeting.  I’d love it if you let me know if you have more questions!


The marriage hack why?

Why is this marriage hack so important?  Well, as we’ve heard endlessly, finances can be the biggest of contributors to marriage frustrations.  Having a set time each month were the two of you discuss how the spending is going will help the two of you open up your discussions about money, spending, and saving.  You’ll have plenty of opportunities to look at cold, hard numbers to see where you’re winning and where you can improve.  The facts are not always fun, but in the long run, this gets easier overall.