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You can’t talk about money with a partner for very long, before you stumble into relationship issues and communication issues—frankly, territory more suitable for a therapist, than a guy who teaches people how to stop stressing about money.
That said, most of us, eventually, at some point, end up with a partner, and budgeting together is super important. So, at a high level, here are a couple things I’ve learned over many years of being married, teaching people to budget, and helping people budget with a partner:
When you are living with roommates, you might put your name on your milk carton. Because it is your milk! And you don’t want to run out! But if you get married, or you are living with your partner, you probably aren’t going to do that, right? It’s both of your milk. And it’s really no different with your checking account.
Don’t manage two sets of finances. You’ve joined your lives, you probably have shared goals and dreams about where you want your life to go. So, join your finances to get there faster.
Guilt isn’t going to work. Fear isn’t going to work. Or even if they do, you will probably end up in therapy anyway, so a more productive tactic is to frame budgeting as something extremely positive—a way to get the things you want faster—and start extremely small.
Pick one thing your partner wants and start saving money for that and then buy it, or have the experience or whatever it is, and then when they are like, “Oh my gosh, how? What? When?” You can just say, “Oh yeah, we saved for it.”
Then do it again, and again. It might take you a year, but eventually, it will click: “Ohhhh, budgeting is not a subversive way for my partner to control me and ruin my life. Budgeting allows us to do things we want to do guilt-free! I love budgeting!”
It can happen.
Budgeting is all about priorities. We talk about this all the time. And when you are budgeting with a partner it is no different, it is just that there are three categories: your priorities, your partner’s priorities, and your shared priorities. Budgeting together, joining your finances doesn’t mean that the priorities that you hold or your partner holds disappear from the equation. That’s really important to helping that communication go well.
We’ve always had “Fun Money—His” and “Fun Money—Hers” categories in our budget from the very beginning. And it is one of the few areas we don’t even have to talk about. We can just spend our own money on whatever we want.
You may have been taught that it was rude to talk about money. Well, the tables have turned. Budgeting with a partner requires a fair amount of talking. About feelings. (Get ready, guys!)
You have to be really honest with yourself about what is important to you and why, about your habits and about where you want to be in the future. Being honest with yourself can be hard enough, then you have to turn around and be vulnerable with your partner. But getting it all out on the table is a good, healthy exercise, that will benefit both your relationship and your finances.
And then you have to keep talking about it. Every month at least. Because something will change that is a big deal to you. Or something unexpected (read: expensive) will happen, requiring you to make some different decisions.
If you haven’t done this before you aren’t going to believe me, but budgeting with your partner every month will become something you look forward to. You are dreaming about your future and making it happen! This is good stuff!
The thing about budgeting is, it will 100 percent reduce your stress around money. And you know what, there are a lot of other stressors in life and relationships that you cannot control. Money does not have to be one of them.
To happy couples everywhere with money in the bank!
If there are specific areas of budgeting with a partner that you want us to dig deeper, let us know! We could talk about this ad nauseum!
Remember, budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. You can do this! Today. Right now. What do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress. (Ok, so kind of a lot.)
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