By Benjamin Temin
Welcome to the third and final blog in our series about budgeting. We first discussed the basics of budgeting, then addressed concerns for those on a tight budget. Now, let’s talk about budgeting for couples.
Talking about money can be hard. It is emotionally charged, and in some ways is a metaphor for life. Couples who successfully negotiate the money conversation and unite about how to handle their money can feel a deep sense of accomplishment. They will be prepared for financial decisions that impact our day-to-day lives as well as our future. It may also enhance trust and emotional intimacy in their relationship.
Here are some big-picture considerations.
Learn about your own habits and attitudes around handling money. This was the focus of an earlier blog, “Let’s Talk About Money-First Things First.” Each partner comes with their own background and perspective about spending and saving. What constitutes a big purchase? How much should be allocated to charity? What represents financial security?
Next, decide on your goals. Where do you want to live? What direction do you see your careers taking? If you have children, what are your goals for them? If children are not part of your current picture, are you considering having any in the future? The point of a budget is to align your plan for your money with your larger goals.
Play to your strengths. It is not necessary for each partner to be equally involved in every transaction and payment of bills. In many relationships, one person may be more detail-oriented and comfortable with financial and banking tools. Some couples divide duties more evenly. Each relationship is different and there is no one size fits all. It is important that both sides are involved in setting short- and long-term goals and each can access all accounts when needed.
Once you have a plan in place and the budget is in motion, here are some other things to keep in mind.
Check in with each other regularly about how things are going. Where do you stand with your debts or with collecting money other people owe to you? Are you keeping up with your goals for saving and investing? When you have these conversations, create a comfortable, relaxing environment, and try to eliminate other distractions. Think of it as a money date night! “Let’s Talk About Money – A Partnership” blog delves deeper into the solutions to these common questions.
When disagreements arise, discuss them in a productive way. For example, avoid statements that place blame and put the other spouse on the defensive. Instead of, “honey, why are you always stopping at Starbucks,” try, “I am concerned about how much we spent on take-out last month.”
Remember, just as the process towards financial well-being involves learning about our own habits and motivations, when you budget as a couple it will take time to gain a deeper understanding of your partner’s financial personality. Be patient and be ready to put in the necessary time because it is well worth the effort.
Benjamin Temin is a Coordinator for Economic Sufficiency at Jewish Community Services.
Jewish Community Services (JCS) is dedicated to providing programs and services that help people of all ages and backgrounds achieve their goals and enhance their wellbeing.
To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or 410-466-9200.