Did you know that, the more frequently couples argue over finances, the more likely they are to get divorced? It’s true, and it can be avoidable with a shared budget! (Single people: you still need a budget, too, but that’s not the focus of this post.)
So, how do you partner with your partner for harmonious budgeting discussions … the kind that won’t make you want to run and hide? Well, it turns out that a humble budget is amazingly effective at reducing the stress around money conversations. Here are some tips.
Tip 1: Keep Budget Discussions Short
It’s a universal truth: the length of the budget session is inversely correlated to the likelihood of a peaceful budget meeting. In other words, and Julie and I have found this to be true, the longer we drag out the budget discussion, the less likely our conversation is to be peaceful.
Tip 2: Play to Your Strengths
Each month, my wife Julie and I decide, together, where we want to assign our dollars. Then we co-manage the budget throughout the month. On a day-to-day basis, Julie is a pro at dutifully entering on-the-go transactions. I’m better at the nerdy things—like covering overspending or importing transactions. It works for us.
Tip 3: Budget in Small Bites
My budget is with me wherever I go, since it’s an app on my phone. This makes it really simple and really easy to take a glance at it quickly. With the increased frequency, naturally things are more up-to-date. When Julie and I are at the store, or out to eat, for example, we adjust the budget on the fly. I might be pushing the cart and moving money around while Julie grabs the clementines. As we leave, Julie records the transaction. Done.
This real-time interaction means that we know exactly how our money is shifting throughout the month. And it makes for a really quick budget meeting on Sunday—resulting in fewer questions, less stress, and more peace.
Tip 4: Have Some Budget Conversations in Stealth Mode
This one’s a favorite. Let’s say we’re eating dinner. Now, I don’t have my phone at this point—no phones at the table—but I can slip a quick question in, like, “Oh there’s a transaction I was wondering about, a check for $120. What was that for?”
And Julie will say, “That was for swimming lessons.”
Then I quickly shift gears: “Oh, cool. How are the swimming lessons going?”
It’s a very casual approach, so nobody feels like I’m doing a budget interrogation. Plus, like I pointed out in Tip 3, it keeps us informed as we go so that we can shorten our weekly budget meetings.
Tip 5: Act Like a Team
What could be better than having your spouse ask you “What was this? And this? And what was this?!”, repeatedly, on a Sunday afternoon?
Answer: anything. Avoid this kind of budget meeting by using the tips above.
Plus, when you have frequent, mini money talks, they’re practically painless. Even better? With a current budget, rather than chasing down information about historical transactions, the conversation can shift to strategy, like planning where you want to allocate new dollars. It’s easier, it feels collaborative (not like an interrogation!), and you’ll be a happier couple. You’re welcome.
I want you to see for yourself how liberating this approach can be. This week, during an everyday conversation with your partner, try weaving in a money question. Act totally natural, stay calm—this is just a no-big-deal, just curious, kind of question.
So, maybe you’re talking about the weather, and you casually ask, “Oh, hey. We overspent on groceries by $20. What category should we pull that from?”
Then you talk about it. Agree on a solution. Boom, done. Rule Three followed, crisis averted, and you’re on to the next topic.