They say that the two most fought about topics are sex and money. That sucks, they’re my two favorite things. It makes sense though, people tend to be the most passionate about them because the reflect our desires so well. There are two people in a marriage with different desires so yeah, conflict.
I want to present a three tools though that can help keep the conflict to a minimum. The first is is personal: engaging with your desires. The second is communal: engaging with your family and third is technological: an actual budgeting tool that I, the spreadsheet/quickbooks/accounting hater LOVE and makes our lives so much easier.
Before I start however, I want to lay some quick groundwork. Budgets are simply assigning the money that comes in to a need or a desire. Second, relationships are hard. I’m going to assume you have a pretty good relationship with your spouse and you’re both pretty reasonable with each other. This is tough though because what’s reasonable can be subjective but we’ll touch on that a bit in the communal part. That said, if you are at a complete impasse and cannot talk about finances without things getting blown all to hell, ask for help. Seek a financial counselor you both trust or seek out a marriage counselor who can help guide you through your difficulties. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with counseling. Keep in mind, I don’t think either of you want to be horrible to each other but we can be pretty blind to ourselves sometimes. Be okay saying there might be something wrong with you. It’s always a great sign to want to improve yourself and your relationships.
I want to touch on the concept of desire. It’s not something we typically think about when we start discussing where money should go. As I tell my kids often, desires are something we want that we’re not getting or something we’re getting that we don’t want. When you sit down with your spouse you start saying things like, “I don’t want this debt” or “I want that vacation.”
There’s nothing wrong with having desires relating to stuff that you believe would improve your life. The challenge comes in examining whether those desires are the best in your particular circumstance at that particular time. How do you determine that though?
First, understand that it’s not just you anymore and it was your idea! You willingly stepped into a relationship with your spouse. A large part of the act of loving your spouse and your family is serving and sacrifice. You’re sacrificing what you want for the sake and benefit of your spouse and/or your family. Now, you might be thinking, “But I’m always the one sacrificing!” That may or may not be the case and if there’s enough resentment and conflict there, it would be wise to seek counseling before it gets worse. However, it’s always best to maintain an attitude of sacrifice when it comes to your spouse and family. You’re not living for you anymore.
So before I touch on some ways to get your desires aligned and keep any resentment at bay, RECAP: when it comes to assigning money to places, ask yourself what you’re getting that you don’t want or what you want that you’re not getting. Now, let’s build out some context for this practice.
The obvious question after looking briefly at desire is “How do you I know if my desire is good or bad or...”, what for it, “...good for my family?” This is where I want to focus on aligning your desires with your spouse and ultimately, what you want your family to be personally and where you want your family to be financially.
Budgeting starts out with goals and objectives. They can be as boring as paying your mortgage or as exciting as planning to take 3 months off ever year to travel as a family. Every family is unique so every goal is going to be unique to your family. Ideally, those goals you and your spouse have will drive your desires making the decision of what to do with that extra $600 you suddenly have that month.
Every family should have some sort of vision and mission. What experiences do you want to have? What do you want your family to be involved in? Why does your family exist? Are you outdoor nuts and want to take a month off every year with your kids and live in the woods? Is it important to you that you see the world with your family? Do you want your family to be actively involved in service projects? Do you want to be debt free by the time the kids are in high school?
Sitting down with your spouse and discussing your family vision, mission and culture is huge. They align your desires and give you a great metrics to evaluate your financial spending and make decisions. It moves your thinking from “How does this get me what I want” to “How does this get us where we want our family to be?”
Depending on where you are in your relationship, it’s best to revisit this every year. You’ll change, your circumstance will change and other factors will impact your goals. Use this as an excuse to go on a date and dream a little bit.
There a seemingly thousands of different tools out there and I’ve tried many of them. I’ve hated them all for various reasons. I want share one with you though that this accounting/spreadsheet/Quickbooks hating guy absolutely LOVES.
It’s called You Need A Budget. The premise is very simple. It’s an envelope system: As money comes in, you assign it to an category or “envelope.” I love that it’s actually fun to use- the process is enjoyable. Wait, what?! I also love is that doesn’t care about the method with which you pay. We use our credit card to pay everything. We love the travel points and the rebate we get every year. We’re buying 1/4 of a cow this year with our Costco rebate! YNAB takes this method of payment into account and makes it easy to manage without overspending on your card.
One interesting benefit is that it’s finally helped me understand finances better and instill better habits. Yes, I realize I’m a finance professional, but my business has very little overhead and I hire smarter people than me to make sure we stay profitable. Apparently, I’m really thick-headed sometimes and this app finally broke through the fog. Again though, it’s EASY once I started using and clarity began to dawn. I’ve used lots of apps from manual entry in QB to Mint to others. This is the best.
It is a paid service but it’s worth every penny of the relatively stress-free financial management life we lead right now. Check it out and give it a go AFTER you work on the personal and communal part.
*Disclaimer: We are in no way getting compensated for this post and it’s not advertising. It’s quite literally us sharing something we love with you guys.*