How (and Why) To Do Budget Meetings
Guest post by Carrie of CarrieWillard.com
Last Sunday, at 6:30 A.M, hubby and I stumbled out of bed, trudged to the kitchen to start the coffee, then started our weekly budget meeting. Why would we choose to do this, of all the other activities we could be doing while the kids are sleeping (such as sleeping in ourselves!)?
The answer? Because budget meetings make our marriage and our family life, to say nothing of our finances, better.
The Benefits of Budget Meeting
My husband and I began weekly budget meetings four years ago, after attending Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University classes. At first, we really didn’t know what we were doing. We just knew that “Dave said” we should do this. We made a budget, made a list of debt (very painful for my husband to face), and began developing a plan for our money.
Those first budget meetings weren’t easy. While we never got into a fight during one — which is very common — there were definitely tense moments. Talking about money forces you to address your deeply held beliefs. It makes you confront issues in your marriage. And it really helped us get to know one another more deeply.
We quickly learned about one another’s values, fears, and dreams in a way that may have taken years to discern otherwise. Talking about our money is like a lamp that lights up the path to good communication. It makes it easier to really work together more to meet goals.
On a practical level, budget meetings have provided instant feedback into our financial health. We get to celebrate together each time a debt is paid, or when our income jumps. We find places where we can save.
Example: Determined to lower our “fixed” monthly expenses, we recently negotiated with our internet provider to lower our bill from $70 to $30. That’s $480 a year for one phone call!
After tallying up the grocery spending for last month, we found that we spent $120 less in that category. At first I scratched my head to figure out why. Then I remembered that I created a menu plan based on what I had in my freezer and pantry. That explained the savings, and motivated me to do that each month!
In preparation for this article, I asked my husband what he appreciated most about budget meetings. He said, “It really helps me to know where our money is going. I feel more in control of things. Since I’m the free spirit, I’m not as likely to take time to do this. But since we do budget meeting, the organization is happening in my life, and that gives me a feeling of contentment and ease.”
Budget meeting has become an important priority to us. We see so much value in it that we’re willing to forgo Sunday morning snoozing to hold it at a time when we won’t be interrupted.
How To Do Budget Meeting
My husband and I, like many couples, have different money styles. He’s good at earning money and is the primary income earner… and the free spirit.
I’m definitely the nerd! I love tracking things, creating documents, and crunching numbers. We’ve learned to leverage our strengths to make budget meeting work.
5 Tips For Holding Budget Meetings
1. Create a quiet environment.
While we have held plenty of money discussions around the kids (we feel it’s good to be somewhat open about these things so the kids will learn good lessons, both about money and about healthy communication), we generally hold budget meeting at a time when we won’t be interrupted.
2. Set a definite time.
If you leave it for “whenever it’s convenient”, it’s not as likely to happen. If you set a specific time and day of the week or month, you’ll stick to it more. If you’re working towards an important goal such as getting out of debt, you may want to meet weekly to keep each other informed and encouraged.
3. Come prepared.
When we meet, my husband gives me the totals he’s tabulated for his income and his spending so we can update our records. It’s also good to have your statements and bills handy. We also have “homework” assignments that we’ve completed.
4. Be organized.
Have one place where you store what you need for budget meeting. We use the box that came with our Financial Peace University supplies. Inside the box are the forms we use for our budget, a notebook, pencil (so we don’t have to hunt these things down each time), and other materials related to finances.
5. Create a new budget every month.
This is one thing that we didn’t figure out until we had been doing budget meetings for a very long time, and it would have saved us so much frustration if we had understood this principle of budgeting from the get-go.
Each month brings about different needs. In August, you’ll have back-to-school shopping. In summer, you may have vacation. In April, taxes need to be paid. And your income likely changes a little each month, as well. Your budget is a tool that serves you, not the other way around!
Do you do budget meetings with your spouse? What benefits have you enjoyed?
Carrie Willard is a blogger, writer, wife and homeschooling mom of seven curious kiddos. You can find her writing about books, self-publishing, happiness and money at CarrieWillard.com
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