Just before getting married, LTJG Husband and I had a few sessions of premarital counseling (a common requirement to get married at a church, but also a great way to gain some wise advice about the next stage of life). We assumed we’d gain insight on improving our communication and dealing with future conflict, but what we actually ended up learning the most about was…budgeting.
Yep, you read that right! While it may not sound like the most romantic conversation, budgeting was a well-covered topic for good reason. Research has shown that conflicts in marriage over money are by far the most frequent, and also the most likely to go unresolved.
In the years to come, we would become increasingly grateful for the budgeting wisdom we picked up in those weeks.
The budgeting tips we learned then and the ones we’ve collected since have allowed us to take amazing vacations, stay almost entirely debt-free (boo, student loans), give generously to causes we care about, tithe monthly, live by the beach, and avoid allowing money to become a marital conflict. When I stumbled upon Kait’s budgeting linkup, I was inspired to share ours as well! Here are a few of our best budgeting tips:
1. Know Your Priorities
Is your money going where you really want it to? If you haven’t outlined your financial priorities, you may not even be aware that all those Starbucks trips are potentially draining you of a dream vacation. Sit down with your spouse and talk about it! Would you rather have a new car payment or buy only organic, grassfed meats (because- let’s be real- they probably cost about the same… #paleoproblems)? Would you rather live small now and save up for a home or YOLO it up by the beach and cut costs elsewhere?
You get the idea. The more you can narrow down where you really want your money to go, the easier it will be to agree on a budget that funnels the funds in those directions and helps you decide where you wouldn’t mind scaling back to meet those goals together.
2. Make It Easy To Keep Track
Once you have a realistic budget in place that you are both happy with, you need an easy way to keep track of your spending. A budget is useless if you aren’t actually following it.
Personally, we have used an excel format since we got married almost five years ago and I still love it. It has all the algorithms already in place, so all I have to do is enter the total of each receipt into the right cell (i.e. $50 at Trader Joe’s into ‘Groceries’) and the document does the math for me! It then shows me know how much I have left in each category, as well as how much we are saving in either amounts or percentages.
Entering your receipts every few days only takes a minute or two, and will help you easily stay on top of following your budget throughout the month. That being said, the first few months may require adjustments. For instance, if a category is consistantly ‘out of money’ way before the month ends, that may be a sign that you need to either re-evaluate your spending or admit that your budget may not be realistic and adjust accordingly.
3. Think Ahead to Spend
And by ahead, I mean way ahead. Want to splurge on Christmas presents? If you tuck away just $40 every month starting in January, you’ll have $480 by Christmas! I don’t know about you, but I can easily blow $40 at Target without meaning to. Knowing that we are intentionally setting aside money for something big helps keep that in check.
Another way to spend smart is to use credit cards that give you points for the things you love most. We have used our Chase Reward Points to save hundreds of dollars on travel (a high priority for us), while friends of ours love using their Amazon card for cash back on future purchases.
4. Ask Yourself These Two Questions Before Every Purchase
You’re standing in Target and falling helplessly in lust with a gold glitter reindeer. Christmas is coming! This would look so fab on your farmhouse table. I know the feeling all too well. That’s why I ask myself these two questions before every purchase:
1. Do I really need this?
2. Do I really need this right now?
You’ll be surprised how often you honestly answer no! Personally, I have found that many of the things that had me weak-kneed and reaching impulsively for my credit cards weren’t even on my mind a day later. And you know what? If you’re still thinking about it after a week or two has gone by, it will probably still be waiting for you when you go back.
While these tips have been enough to keep the finance conflicts at bay in our marriage, there is so much financial wisdom out there to help you make smart decisions with your money. To pick up more budgeting tips, click the button above to visit Kait’s blog and see what some of the other bloggers to do to save on spending!