How Budgeting Changed Our Marriage
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If you are like me, talking about money was stigmatized when I was growing up. You were always taught that it’s rude to talk about money. Whether you had a little or a lot- it was NOT to be discussed! As a result, even in adulthood, you are still uncomfortable talking to your friends, family, or even your spouse about money and finances.
It is my belief that this has a profound effect on the majority of marriages because we are so uncomfortable talking about money and our finances that we don’t discuss it with our spouses until it’s a problem. With the most commonly cited reason for divorce being “Money Problems”, my husband and I knew that we wanted to safeguard our marriage by being on the same page with our finances.
Early in our marriage, a friend recommended that we watch the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University series. We had heard about Dave Ramsey before, but were not totally on board with the idea of doing a budget every month. Doing a budget felt so restrictive. We thought if we sat down and did a budget then we wouldn’t be able to do anything fun or spend any money on ourselves. So, we kept putting it off and putting it off- Any of this sound familiar?
Dave Ramsey said something during the series that really struck a chord with us and it was:
“People don’t like doing a budget because it has sort of a bread and water connotation to it…”
Yep, you’re talking right to me Dave. He followed this up with:
“A budget doesn’t have to be restrictive, a budget is simply a plan. You are simply telling your money where to go.”
Say What, Dave?! My husband and I had an “Ah-Ha” moment, if you will. It seems like such a simple concept, that honestly never crossed my mind. A budget is a plan. You get to decide how you want to spend your money and where.
So, we took some of Dave’s advice and did our first budget. I would love to tell you that the first one was incredible and it felt natural and easy…. Yeah, not even close. We “estimated” our expenses and did our nice pretty, perfect budget only to find out at the end of the month that we were off by almost $1,000. WOW, talk about a wake-up call. This prompted us to really look at our expenses. So, we pulled our bank statements to compare to our budget, and found that we not only over spent in almost every category, but we spent hundreds of dollars eating out at restaurants and at bars. When we actually sat down TOGETHER and looked at how much money was “leaking” out of our bank account, this really lit a fire under us and we decided we were going to fully commit. We had a lot of mistakes the first couple of months, but after about 3-4 months we were finally in a rhythm together.
So without further ado…Here is how budgeting changed our marriage:
1. It FORCED us to talk about money TOGETHER.
In the beginning, we really struggled with being honest and upfront with each other about our finances. Maybe we were embarrassed, maybe we were just clueless. Regardless, we wanted to tip toe around the issue and just hope it will all work out. NEWSFLASH- It didn’t. When we finally came to the realization that marriage and finances wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine, we realized that we needed help on where to start. If you were like us, we felt out of control. We honestly felt like they money just flowed out of our bank account, and we did not know how we would ever be able to save any money because “we never bought extra things”, “we are really careful with our money”, “we have a lot of bills”. Well surprise, surprise- we were just hiding behind those statements because we were really too afraid to admit that we HAD NO IDEA.
I would love to say that after our Dave Ramsey “AH-HA” moment that we knew where we stood financially, but that would be a lie. Yes, this “AH-HA” moment, motivated us to try to do a budget, but it was really after that first month of taking our bank statements and comparing them to the budget we made that really lit a fire under us. This was the single moment that we can pinpoint that completely turned our finances and our marriage around. When we compared those statements, we actually saw how we always bought extra things, were not careful with our money at all, and we spent just as much money on “extra things” as we did our own bills! Needless to say, it was a wake-up call that we desperately needed and motivated us to fully commit to not only 1) sitting down each month and making a budget, but 2) Actually sticking to the budget. Novel idea, I know. After about 3 months of doing this, we found that on that 4th month when we sat down it was so easy, and we finally felt like we had a sense of control.
2. We stopped arguing over the little things.
Before starting our budget, almost any time my husband bought anything, I would get upset with him. Then when it came to the end of the month, and we were short on money, I would bring it up again. Not to mention, any time I bought something or wanted to buy something I felt guilty and like I had to hide it because I was reprimanding him so I shouldn’t be doing it either. We were both irresponsible with money, but we both wanted to blame it on the other person. Now, after budgeting, it is easy. Each month when we sit down, we allot money for his “pocket money” and my “pocket money”. There were no more fights about what we bought and there was no guilt when we bought something because it was in the budget, it was in the
We found that the same was true for going out to eat, going to a bar, or going to the movies. We budget money for “restaurants” and “entertainment”, we know exactly how much we have spent and how much we have left to spend because it is predetermined at the beginning of the month. There were fewer arguments about the financial aspects of going out to eat or going out for a drink because we both knew exactly where we stood. It really gave us a new level of enjoyment because we could actually go to a restaurant or to a concert and just enjoy the concert and enjoy each other. This was a stark difference instead of being mad at each other for spending money or worried about spending money the whole time you are there because you have no idea if you are going to have enough to make ends meet at the end of the month. It alleviated stress, we argue less, and can enjoy these outings with each other more.
3. It made us create realistic financial goals.
Right before we got married, we had all of these “plans”. We were going to go on our honeymoon, buy a house, buy new furniture, etc. all while still having to pay our car loans and student loan debits. Sounds like a totally feasible plan, right?! I hope you are laughing with me as I type this, because we honestly thought that was going to happen. Again, rainbows and sunshine. It came as a shock to us when we were not able to save any money each month to do any of these things. Of course, we knew exactly down to the penny how much we brought home every two weeks, but we had no idea of how much we were spending; therefore, we really had no concept of how much disposable income that we had each month.
After we finally, got into a rhythm budgeting, we were able to identify how much disposable income we actually had. Meaning, we knew how much money that we had left over after paying all of our bills, assigning money for groceries, pocket money, etc. By knowing how much we had left over, we knew exactly how long it would take us to reach certain financial goals. For example, we had about $9,000 left on my husband’s car loan, and we had about $3,000 of disposable income now after budgeting and cutting other expenses. Therefore, we interest rate and all, we knew it would take us a little over 3 months (14 weeks to be exact) to finally pay off his car loan. Now tell me that isn’t motivating! Budgeting allows us to make very specific and time-oriented financial goals, and this helps to keep us on track and motivated.
4. It made us more content with what we had.
As a mentioned above, we honestly used to think that we never bought extra things. When we compared those bank statements, we found out about exactly all of the extra things that we used to do and buy. We would just buy and go out to eat, and it was so insignificant that we wouldn’t even remember spending the money on those things. We would go to a nice restaurant and not even appreciate it enough to remember! That is absolutely crazy!
When we started budgeting and actually sticking to it, it made us more aware of what we were spending and how we were spending it. We also had financial goals now that we really wanted to meet, so we drastically cut our spending and expenses. So, when we would go out to eat or buy something, we really wanted to enjoy it. It made us appreciate those experiences so much more!
It also made us appreciate what we already had. By cutting our spending and expenses, we had to find free ways to entertain ourselves. We bust out those old board games or the Wii, we make a meal together at home instead of going out, we invite friends to our home instead of going to a bar. It made us more aware of things that we actually had, and we felt more content with what we had.
We should all strive to achieve financial peace and well-being because it can ultimately impact almost every aspect of your life. Creating a sticking to a budget has completely changed our marriage and our finances. I know, it sounds like a lot of work, utterly boring, and absolutely no fun- but if want to know the ONE THING that can improve this area of your life- it’s a budget. I am positive that if you engage and actually stick to your plan, you will see a drastic impact on your finances and your marriage.