My wife and I had very different financial upbringings, but I consider myself lucky in that we have made our money life work very well together.
I have good reason to be thankful, with some experts attributing as many as 90% of divorces to some level of money trouble.
What’s the secret of our relative success? By chance or by design, we’ve made the following 5 strategies a priority in our joint financial system.
They are my tips to you for a long and worry-free life with your significant other:
#1: Set Joint Goals You’ve Both Invested In
Setting joint goals gives you a common purpose–one that isn’t decided by one side or the other–but as a couple. Joint goals are important for three reasons:
- They provide an important milestone that you can work toward together.
- They clarify expectations about what you and your partner want out of money, and force you to think about how to merge those desires.
- They give you an excuse for saying “no” to something, because there is a bigger “yes” waiting ahead.
It’s critical to set aside time to review and merge your goals, and to revisit those goals on a regular basis to make sure you’re making progress.
#2: Use an Envelope Budget
It can be as in-depth as Mvelopes, or something you throw together in a spreadsheet. The important thing is getting your budget under control in a way that respects your income and prepares you for unexpected expenses.
Envelope budgeting has the added benefit of preventing you from ever going into consumer debt again, if you’re using it honestly. But perhaps the biggest benefit of all is that it eliminates the dreaded “Can We Afford That?” question, and the guilt that often follows by the one of you who has to say “no.” Envelopes can tell you exactly what you can and cannot afford, and give you options for making that circumstance change.
#3: Use Some Kind of Allowance
An adult allowance has so many benefits, but has been shunned by those who say it makes them feel like a child. No, I say, you are never too grown up for an allowance.
Among other reasons, we use an allowance to:
- Cultivate a sense of independence in a setup where one of us handles most of the finances.
- Prevent feelings of resentment when one partner over-stretches on “wants” during the month.
- Allow us to buy gifts for one another without oversight.
- Provide a way to “blow off” spending steam without actually blowing our budget.
#4: Create a Prioritized Wish List
…and use it for almost every non-necessity you think of, seriously. Honey, we need new window curtains. Wish List. Honey, we need to get our car seats cleaned. Wish list.
My wish list primer will get you going on your own list, and also mentions some of the key benefits:
- It gets things out of mind (but not forgotten).
- Ranking enables you to use discretionary cash in a prioritized way.
- Most of the time, you don’t go to the store immediately.
#5: Meet at Least Once a Month
Finally, but probably most importantly, you need to meet at least once a month, specifically for the purpose of reviewing your finances. Ideally, you’ll also meet every quarter or once a year to review longer-term goals and adjust them.
The reason I go through the trouble of creating a monthly report for my wife to review, is because it re-focuses me on our joint goals, helps me review our money, and keeps me accountable to another person. Of course, the bigger reason is that it helps my wife understand all of those things as well, and in turn keeps her accountable to me. It’s a win-win.
What’s Your Secret?
Those 5 are mine. If you’ve had a successful marriage in the finance department, I’d love to hear yours. How do you keep it going? How do you deal with changing circumstances? What hasn’t worked that well?