This blog is a collaboration of one of our Compassion counselors, Madelyn Murray, and her husband, Christopher Murray.
Money has always terrified me. There never seems to be enough of it…or at least it feels that way.
Money certainly has a way of making you think about something’s value.
There you have it. Two different thoughts when the word money is introduced into a conversation between husband and wife. The wife has a feeling about money, the husband has a thought about money. And people wonder why spouses often argue about money. Mixing emotions and logic rarely ends in a peaceful agreement! So, this blog is going shed some insight into what budgeting has done for the Murray marriage.
As Madelyn’s thought reveals, money evokes a sense of fear! Will there be ENOUGH? And for Christopher, it makes him think deeply about how each dollar is spent. Let’s think about this in the sense of actual spending behaviors. Since Christopher wants to reflect and think about how to spend his well earned dollars, his spending behaviors are often well thought out, researched and planned. Madelyn often is afraid there won’t be the amount of money necessary for the item needed or wanted which creates spending behaviors that can be more prompt and often more risky. So, how has this played out in marriage and creating a household of peace and harmony when it comes to finances?
Real life: Sometimes I still get really anxious when we have big house repairs or big purchases to make, even though I know budgeting has set us up to be able to make those necessary purchases.
Most times when approached about a big expense, my immediate thought is ‘how does this fit into the budget, how can we make this work?’
So if you have not already figured it out by now, Christopher really takes the lead in this marriage when it comes to budgeting and money planning.
I had to take a really hard look at myself and my feelings about money, and recognize, budgeting and financial planning is NOT my strength. It is hard for me to stay calm and think through things enough to plan a stable budget. But Christopher almost gets a rush out of it. Man, was it super hard to relinquish control of my spending and budgeting to him once we got married. I was embarrassed a bit, especially since I do think of myself as a strong, smart, independent woman.
For me, taking over the budget and planning for our family was more of a desire of not wanting to be behind the eight ball. I didn’t want us to start in a bad spot financially so soon in our marriage. Budgeting is kinda like a game to me. I like to crunch the numbers until I can see all our goals being met. We pay our bills, meet our savings and retirement goals, and still have some left over for a little fun each pay period. Once I felt we were in a productive groove, I began to notice Madelyn’s acceptance of my leadership in this aspect of our marriage. It made me feel happy to know that she was at peace, and I felt more confident as a husband.
How did this actually happen? LOTS OF COMMUNICATION, and honestly, a few…arguments…or maybe we should say, heart to hearts (with passion ). So here are our top 10 tips for when one of the spouses in the marriage has a knack for crunching the numbers and the other one, well, doesn’t.
• It is still a team approach: Just because we agreed that Christopher was gonna have the lead, does not mean I do not get a voice in our financial planning. I always ask Madelyn what items we need to plan for about one month in advance. Holidays, birthday presents, social gatherings, vacations, etc.
• Set some goals: I like goals. I could get behind this. I love planning and dreaming with Christopher. So, at the beginning of each year, we set goals. Not all of them are financial. Some of them are spiritual, relational, etc. But the financial ones often center around FUN. I need fun. Again, even though Christopher takes the lead with our budgeting, it is a team approach. Setting goals together will give each spouse a voice in what the year will look like financially. So, we usually set a monthly savings goal, a yearly savings goal (retirement related), and a vacation goal. Another goal to add could be a debt to pay off. We did this early in our marriage and now only have our house payment and my student loans. Those are just gonna take time to knock out. Oh, and don’t forget those home repair or renovation goals. We got a fixer upper, so there is stuff we have to get done! Sometimes we look at all we want to do and recognize that we may have to move some stuff to the next year, and that is OKAY! We aren’t made of money!
• Do your homework: At the beginning of taking over the family finances, I wanted to know what our expenses really were. I wanted to know what exactly our income was. I began to look harder at how we were spending our money by looking at how we were using our credit cards, how much we were spending money on food (I like food), and just other miscellaneous expenses. Both of us had gotten into a bad habit of swiping our cards without really thinking about it. I came back to Madelyn with some numbers and some plans on how we could begin to change some of our spending behaviors. I got my ideas for how to budget, change our spending behaviors, and pay off debt using videos from Dave Ramsey. That guy, he is the real MVP.
• Calendar method: We sat down with a calendar and wrote out each of our bills on the date they were due. This gave us a bird’s eye view of our month and set up good reminders to pay things that can’t be on auto draft. In addition to bills, we also listed out our paydays. Gotta have something to look forward to! We put the calendar in a visible location so it can be seen by everyone in the house at anytime
• Speaking of auto draft: We set up as many bills to be paid via auto draft as possible. We know this method may not be for everyone, but for us, it works really well. Using the calendar method listed above, we are able to anticipate when bills will be coming out of our account
• Be flexible: Flexibility has been harder for me. When I make a plan that I know has worked, I become extremely reliant on said plan. Almost attached. Real talk though, plans change, life happens, and in order to keep peace in my marriage, I have had to learn to be flexible and allow for variation with each month’s budget. Madelyn likes to be spontaneous sometimes, which as you can see, is not one of my strong suits. Apparently allowing her to be spontaneous is a good way to show her I love her. deep breath I can handle that…within reason.
• Set a spending limit: It is not realistic to think that you can check in with your spouse every time you want to spend some money. One of the first “rules” we set up was setting a limit on how much you could spend without having to check in with the other person. Now, I already shared, I get a little anxious about money, so I still often check with Christopher. BUT, we agreed that we can spend up to $50 without having to check in. Examples of this type of spending would be, a lunch out with coworkers, finding a great sale at Macys, or for Christopher, probably something related to new electronics or fitness.
• Open up about money: Seriously. Ask questions to people who have done this money thing well. Talk with trusted friends and family about your plans and questions. We have learned a lot from the most random places. That does not mean we try everything suggested, but it has made this whole money thing a lot less terrifying.
• Be generous to others: This is something I love to do. Once we really started budgeting well, we actually found places we could be generous. Taking a friend to lunch, surprising someone with a special gift, even being able to offer a friend to live with us rent free, because we had the $$ for extra utilities, etc. I have dreams that one day we will really be able to live even more generously. That is something that helps me stay motivated to stick to our budget when I feel the urge to swipe my card.
• Look at your budget more than one time per month: Don’t be afraid to look at your budget multiple times within the month, especially around paydays. Generally, I use paydays as budget setting days for the next pay period. Our pay periods are every two weeks, so normally, we have a new or revised budget by the time that the payday arrives. As the pay period progresses, the budget is being updated to reflect spending and to give us an idea of where we are within our budget before the next payday. I stick to the budget. Sometimes that means saying no, even if I do not want to, but the payoff will be so much better for our family in the long run.
Budgeting takes a lot of patience and even more practice. We certainly do not do everything right every single month when it comes to budgeting. Honestly, we are still pretty young in our marriage and know we have A LOT to learn. What we do know is that once we set up a good budgeting plan for us, the disagreements about money almost vanished. It was not an over night change, it has been an over time change. Learning to listen to one another and respect one another has been key to our success when it comes to budgeting as a married couple.