When in a relationship, it is vital that you work TOGETHER on everything, this includes your finances. When you have children, your finances can be even more strapped. According to the Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child is about $14,000 a year for the average household.
When I was practicing financial planning, I would never meet with one person who had a partner without meeting with the other as well. I highly suggest you read this article with your significant other if you have one.
“According to the Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child is about $14,000 a year.”
Here are some basic tips that can help you implement a cohesive couple-strategy for your household:
1. MAKE IT REGULAR
Agree to a regularly scheduled meeting to discuss your finances. Some couples schedule a budget meeting once a week, but most of the couples that I’ve worked with scheduled a meeting twice a month. Find what works best for you.
Don’t let a month go by that you don’t talk about your finances! If at all possible, don’t meet at home. Instead, go to a coffee shop or meeting place when the children aren’t home. That will help both you and your partner to keep your focus and it makes financial planning more pleasant. Too often when we meet about finances at home, we get distracted from the task at hand. There is usually too much going on to focus.
If it is too inconvenient to leave the house because of your children or other obligations, wake up early. It is easy to make millions of excuses not to get up in the wee hours of the morning, and yes, parents are legitimately tired; but you have to carve out some time to plan something as important as your household finances. Wake up and have a cup of coffee together at the kitchen table. Plan your work and then work your plan.
2. HAVE AN AGENDA
What will you discuss at your meeting? Be sure it is transparent, forthcoming, and organized. Discuss all sources of income, bill payments, overall budget adjustments, couple goals, individual goals, concerns, questions, and comments. Being able to be financially naked is crucial to a relationship.
3. INDIVIDUALIZED COUPLE GOALS
It is important that you still have your own individual goals as well as couple goals. Perhaps you want to take a family vacation, purchase a home, buy an investment property, or start a college fund for your children? You still need to address individual goals like retirement dates, going back to school to get a degree, hobbies you want to take up. This is your time to LISTEN to the dreams and desires of your partner. Be supportive.
4. CHECK YOUR BUDGET
If you are having difficulty paying your current bills make sure you are constantly checking your budget. If you don’t have a budget, create one. Make sure you are using a budget style you are both comfortable with. Do you want to use Mint.com, a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, or a simple budget template that you can use with just a calculator?
You might want to consider using the envelope system. The envelope system works like this, when you get paid, you divvy up cash into various envelopes like food, clothing, shopping. Some people put rent, bills, and vacation in individual envelopes too. The envelope is marked with the purpose and amount of spending you have available in any giving month. When the envelope is empty, the spending has to stop.
5. SET UP YOUR ACCOUNT SYSTEM
How are you managing your money? Make sure you always have a discussion and agree to a system that works for both of you. There are three ways to organize your finances:
There is only one bank account where all monies are deposited into a joint account.
You each have your own separate bank accounts and bills are evenly divided between the two of you.
He has his own account, she has her own account, and you also have a couples account.
Make a list of the items you want to keep separate. Designate how much they will cost to be sure you are spending the right amount of funds, and budget appropriately. If you are operating in a surplus, don’t spend outside of your budget. Also, don’t get too worried if you are not able to meet your budget for that month. When you do have a month of surplus money, put the additional funds towards your savings; and in months where there is a deficit, address the shortcomings during your couple meetings.
6. KNOW YOUR LANE
As a couple, you each have your own strengths and weaknesses. Know them and be honest with each other. Who is the cheap one? Who is the spender? Which of you is the most organized? Once you have discussed your skill sets, start the process of assigning responsibilities.
- Who pays the bills?
- Who does the shopping?
- Who keeps track of the budget?
- Who is in charge of your investment/retirement strategy to ensure it is being implemented correctly? Do you both do it?
- Who keeps the list of the financial mistakes you have made to be sure you don’t make those financial mistakes again? Bring this up at your regular meetings.
7. HAVE FUN
Don’t make budget planning too serious. Make it a fun exercise. Make sure doing fun things is also in your budget. Give high fives when you are a success at keeping within your budget. What’s the name of your couple team? Give it a name! If you can put this type of energy into your job, you can put the same type of energy into your partner. This is IMPORTANT!
If you have a question, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will answer your questions and post the answers on my website in the new “Ask Ryan” segment!