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Marriage and Money – The Budget Meeting

by The Happy Rock on September 6, 2007

marriage-money-couples-finances.jpgWhat often happens in marriages with combined finances is that one person will assume control the finances. They pay the bills, watch the accounts, and retain all of the money know how. In our family that is me. Being the analytical numbers guy, I willingly take on that task. On of the pitfalls of combing finances is that one person often ends up with all the power. Power doesn’t have to just mean setting rules, but it can also mean bearing the financial stress and controlling information. The other spouse often becomes oblivious to the actual amounts and inner workings of the accounts, and with that they lose their ability to provide their input and insight. This can wreck havoc on a marriage, but seems to happen all to often. Most times it starts out as innocent ‘sharing’ of duties, but ends in financial disaster.

Let’s look at one tool that helps couples handle their money and finances in marriage. For The Happy Rockette and I, we try to avoid that ugly path by having a monthly budget/finances meeting. It is not as scary as it sounds, what the meeting boils down to is laying all the financial cards on the table and talking about them. If you don’t have a budget, please don’t feel like you need one to talk about your finances.

You can vary the meeting frequency depending on the current state of the finances. If you are deep in debt and the stress is high, meet every week or every other week. If things are in cruise control skipping a month isn’t a big deal.

For us the meeting is usually scheduled for one of our many hour long car rides. To start the meeting, bring a current snapshot of the finances. I usually print the account summary page from Quicken or Microsoft Money. Bank and credit card statements or a spreadsheet print out would be perfect too. From there The Rockette will look things over, and make sure she is comfortable with everything. If she has ideas or questions, we will talk it through and come up with a plan together.

Subjects can vary from long term goals, to the budget for groceries, to 401k contributions, vacations, or whatever needs to be discussed related to money. Any actions that need to be taken are recorded and ‘assigned’ to one of us, so that they can be reviewed at the next meeting.

If there is a point of contention, we try to respect each others opinion and reschedule the discussion on the hot topic after we have had some time to think. We usually try to keep the meeting short, 15-30 minutes. If it runs longer than that, we will either follow up later, or wait until next month.

That’s a brief summary of what a monthly money meeting looks like. For us it has been a wonderful tool for handling our money together in marriage.

Here is a list of the benefits that it has brought to our marriage:

  • Openness/No Hiding
  • Valuable Communication
  • Multiple Viewpoints and Insights
  • Sharing of Financial Stress and Decisions
  • Diffusion of Power
  • Accountability
  • Unity

What tools are you using to strengthen your financial situation in your relationships?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Thecpa September 6, 2007 at 4:00 pm

Happy Rock,
You have such inspiring posts! I enjoyed reading this very much.

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chilli September 9, 2007 at 6:55 pm

i don´t know…that´s a very harsh subject. i think there are some things everybody should do on/with his/her own account. but certainly there are things that have to be paid from a shared accout – like furniture. but all in all the financial things in a relationship should be balanced in my opinion.

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Lynnae @ Being Frugal September 11, 2007 at 4:50 pm

I think I’m going to have to start having a Monthly budget meetings with my husband. Right now I pretty much take care of everything, because I like numbers and I have more time. I’m not hiding anything, and my husband is comfortable with the way things are, but if anything ever happened to me, he’d be lost!

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The Happy Rock September 11, 2007 at 5:04 pm

Awesome point Lynnae. A lot of couples will have similar ‘problems’ if the normal accountant spouse is not able to perform their duties. A great point that I missed!

Personally, we try to right down all the passwords and account in a file folders, for reference. Keeping it up to date is another matter entirely.

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Dr. Frugal September 17, 2007 at 1:53 pm

Although it’s a lot to keep track of, my wife and I have a total of five accounts and only one of them (the largest) is shared. She makes significantly more than I do and having a single shared account ensures that we each put in equal amounts each month for joint expenditures.

If nothing else it keeps the squabbles over “personal” spending/investing to a minimum.

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Ann at mommysecrets September 17, 2007 at 9:03 pm

Very wise words – I wish every couple would heed your wise counsel. A healthy financial discipline is a big step towards a happy healthy marriage! Thanks for sharing!

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Tina Anderson February 14, 2008 at 4:33 pm

If more couples took this advice, not only would we have a lot more happier marriages but our country would not be in the financial state it’s in right now, with millions in debt and living paycheck to paycheck.

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Bill @ How to Save Marriage August 16, 2008 at 9:20 am

What a simple but powerful solution to an all-too-common problem!

Financial stress is a very common source of marriage difficulties. Open communication is one of the best way to head off relationship problems of any kind. Your use of open, scheduled communication is really novel, and I’m sure it’s very effective.

Again, great post!

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Daniel At Save My Marriage Blog November 7, 2008 at 2:31 pm

This a nice way to keep the closeness in marriage, if there is something that can cause arguments its defiantly money, this leaves that one covered. and also the “team feeling” of it can only strengthen a marriage. Grate post.

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Ana l Dating Better March 16, 2009 at 8:13 am

Wow, interesting post! Every couple should practice this kind of attitude, to have a few discussions for every house decision. In our house, my husband allows me to manage our finances; he just remits to me the money and forget it. Nice thing to do is to follow the given tips above; I will surely do it by this weekend when my husband and I got the chance to talk. Thanks for sharing!

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Derek December 6, 2010 at 8:34 pm

What a novel concept of discussing important issues in your marriage. I’m afraid that most couples would rather avoid conflict and thus let issues go unresolved. It takes a lot of discipline and openness to be willing to discuss marital matters and make unselfish decisions. I guess that’s part of maturing as a person and couple.

Great advice here and thanks for sharing.

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mia October 15, 2011 at 11:57 pm

@derek i hear you; i think it takes experiences to be able to endure the differences more so than similarities … you learn how to embrace the differences after being together for a long time i guess

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