Today I’m going to get a little more personal than usual.
My wife, Julie, and I were married in 2003. We started budgeting right away, because we had NO money, and I knew if I didn’t pay attention we would really be in trouble.
When I say we had no money, let me really paint the picture for you, our rent was $350; that included phone and utilities. Cell phones didn’t exist, at least not for us. We had one car. We saved up and were finally able to buy a computer. We were still in school. Like I said, no money.
So, we had to pay attention to every dollar. We were learning how to budget and through trial and error, I developed a system that really worked for us. (It was essentially the Four Rules, I just didn’t know that yet!)
Before we got married, Julie and I talked about our priorities. It was Julie’s priority (and mine) that she’d be able to be a stay-at-home mom. When she stopped working and Porter was born, we had a very clear division of responsibilities. I would try and finish school as fast as humanly possible so we could start making some money. She was going to be taking care of Porter, staying at home. She was also in charge of the cooking and the grocery shopping.
I never made the list or did any meal planning or anything like that. I’m sure a lot of you are in Julie’s shoes. You’re the meal planner. You’re the grocery shopper. You’re the main cook and things like that. That was her lot—still is and she kills it.
But we would always overspend on groceries. Julie would pinch pennies. She would price match. She would do everything she could, just to squeeze everything out of that budget, which by the way, was $100/month on food for the two of us (and Porter).
I would always be on her, “We keep overspending on groceries!”
We’d spend $120, $130. We’d bump it to $120; we’d spend $140. We’d bump it to $130; we’d spend $150. We overspent on groceries for years and years, and it was always agonizing to me.
Fast forward about ten years later, Julie and I are having one of our standard budget meetings. “What do you want to do about this? What do you want to do about that? What about the kids this, the kids that?” By that time, I think we had tacked on three, maybe four more kids…I’m not sure.
And there I am, still hammering on the grocery overspending. I’d tried showing her coupon this or that and strategies that you could use, bulk buying and freezer meals. And frankly, she wasn’t interested.
Finally, she was able to share with me, how she really felt about grocery shopping: “Jesse, when I go grocery shopping, it is a victory for me to have the kids be reasonably behaved, and for me to be able to get out of there without a lot of mayhem happening. If I can just get all the kids in the car, get to the grocery store, get the stuff I need, not forget anything, get all the kids back in the car, get home, get the groceries unloaded, get the kids unloaded, and have everything go off without a hitch, seemingly, it’s a victory. I don’t care what a can of corn costs!”
Stay with me, because this is where budgeting can really improve your love life.
1. It’ll Be Easier to Communicate What Really Matters
We were in a very different financial position than we were when we first got married. We didn’t need to be so tight with our grocery budget.
And I realized that Julie’s priority wasn’t healthy food (although we eat very healthy), or making fancy meals. Her priority was sanity. For her to maintain sanity with all these kids (now six), pinching pennies or coupons or comparison shopping was the last on her list of priorities. Once she revealed this to me, I had a complete shift in perspective.
2. Your Priorities Will Become Clearer
It’s just one example, but it was very enlightening to me. Not having to worry about the grocery budget had become, over the years, and with the addition of many children, a huge priority for Julie.
We’ve very rarely overspent on groceries since. We shifted things around and budgeted a lot more money for groceries.
Now, do we worry about other stuff, other categories, do we pinch pennies here and there in other areas? Yes, because for her, that is worth it. And we have a lot riding on her sanity, so, it’s a priority for me as well.
Sure, it took us ten years to find out and me probably being lame for nine of those years, but we figured it out and to this day, it’s been smooth sailing.
3. You’ll Hear Your Partner, and They’ll Hear You
Budgeting teaches you things about yourself and each other, what is most important to you, and what really makes you happy.
Even after years and years of budgeting, you can still learn things about each other.
Have a budget meeting is important, even if you have enough money, even if you’ve been budgeting for a long time. Take the few minutes to connect, to regroup about priorities, and to discover new things.
We didn’t go into that budget meeting saying, “Let’s get to the root cause of why we overspend on groceries. But it just happens when you are talking through it. As a result. we understood each other better.
4. You’ll Get Ahead Financially, Together
And what couple doesn’t want to have more money and less fighting about money? That’s what I thought. Budgeting can and will improve your relationship. It can surface your partner’s priorities for you and then you can be more strategic, make better decisions, and kill it financially—together.