If you’re in a relationship, money isn’t the sexiest thing to talk about.
But whether you love it or hate it, money is an important part of your life. That’s why you need to address it head on if you’re in a relationship (married, partnership, living together, etc. etc.!).
It may not be entirely obvious why you need to talk about money and have family budget meetings, so let’s start there.
Why You Need To Have Family Budget Meetings
Talking about money with your significant other is practically a no-brainer if you’re sharing expenses and finances under one household.
A business would never run without a budget because it requires using money to run the business. A family is the same way. You need money to run a household, so you need to have a family plan for your money.
Aside from money being critical to actually running a household, there are other reasons why you should have family budget meetings:
- You’ll learn to communicate about money more effectively with your partner
- You’ll learn how to set financial goals with your partner
- You’ll get on the same page with money as your partner
- You’ll have a set time to talk about your money with your partner so it doesn’t come up randomly in a negative way
- You’ll plan ahead with your money instead of reacting to things that come up
- You’ll work as a team instead of as individuals
- You’ll lessen the likelihood of money fights
With money being one of the leading reasons listed for divorce, it’s too important to ignore or just “let happen” naturally. You need to have a plan to review your finances with your significant other.
Now that you know why it’s so important to have money meetings with your significant other, let’s talk about how to actually do that.
How To Conduct A Family Budget Meeting
Because everyone has different circumstances, you’ll want to adjust how you conduct budget meetings to fit your family. That said, here’s a look at how you can get started conducting your own family budget meetings.
Step 1: Set the ground rules
There are a few things you need to decide as a couple before you have your first budget meeting.
First, decide on the frequency of your meetings. I recommend doing it weekly at first, just to get in the hang of it. After that, monthly may be enough. You need to have budget meetings at least monthly in order to set the next month’s budget together
Second, decide on the length of your meetings. I recommend at least 30 minutes (an hour if possible). Having a set schedule will help set boundaries for how long this should take.
Once you have these details figured out, put the meetings on your calendar and treat them like meetings for your job. You should not break them or reschedule unless it’s an emergency.
Step 2: Come prepared
It’s important that you come prepared to your budget meetings.
This means that you should have an idea of what you want to talk about before the meeting starts (at least for the initial meetings).
Here’s a look at 7 financial discussions you need to have with your spouse to give you ideas of what to talk about. These are bomb diggity so use them as a starting point. Use the suggestions from #5 below to come up with ideas of things to talk about in your meetings. Come prepared — don’t wait until the meeting to think about what to talk about.
This is a good time to talk about anything finance related. You can use my budget spreadsheets to create a monthly budget to review together as a starting point. These are the templates I use for my monthly budget.
Coming prepared also means that when you show up, be present. Don’t come in disheveled not remembering what you’re doing there. Show your partner genuine interest and respect so that it’s clear you’re doing this together as a team.
Step 3: Be transparent
Make sure you’re both being completely transparent about your finances. Even if you have separate accounts, they should be discussed openly. Separate does not mean secret.
One of the most important aspects of a relationship is honestly. That carries over into finances, too. It’s okay to have separate accounts, but barring any crazy circumstances (like you want to end the relationship), you should have transparency with your money.
Step 4: Define roles
Another important component to your budget meeting is for each of you to define your roles. You’ll need to decide who is doing what.
It’s not enough for one person to do everything, either – even if that person wants to do it. Why? Because a lot of pressure to have one person do everything, and it often results in that person feeling stressed about the finances while the other person is very carefree and not worried. To avoid this, work on your finances together. It’s okay to have one person be the natural leader, but that person shouldn’t do everything. Each of you should have responsibilities when it comes to managing your money together.
As your kids get older (high school age), this may be a good time to introduce them to family budget meetings as well.
Some things you may need to decide include:
- Who is going to fill in and track your budget
- Who is going to pay the bills
- How you’re going to track financial goals
- How often are you both going to check in with each other
- Who is going to monitor and review the bank account statements
It’s not necessary that you both do all of these things together, so assigning shared responsibility is a good way to have both of you contributing to your financial lives together.
Step 5: What to discuss during the budget meeting
What you need to review during your budget meetings is very specific to you and your family. But if you’re new to budgeting, I don’t want to leave you hanging. So, I’ll go through the examples I listed in Step 2 for reference.
Create a budget together. This means you’ll need to tack your income and your expenses for the current month, then project out and budget for the next month.
Start budgeting by using one of the resources below:
- Budgeting for Budget Haters (a budgeting course)
- The Real Life Money Plan (a money-planning course)
- Budget Spreadsheets (templates you can download right now)
When you budget with your partner, let each of you make suggestions. Work together until you agree on a final budget for the next month.
In future meetings, you’ll review what worked and what didn’t, then make adjustments for the next month’s budget.
- Spending limits in specific categories
You may want to have a certain amount that you and your significant other agree not to spend above without first talking with the other person. For example, you could set a $100 limit, where neither of you spend over $100 without first talking about it with the other person. If spending is a pain point for you, read my post about how to radically reduce your expenses.
- Financial goals
Regardless of your financial situation (whether you feel broke or well off), one of the best ways to plan for your future is to set financial goals. Use my how to set goals guide to learn how to set SMART goals (this works for financial goals and any other area of your life).
Examples of some financial goals are:
- Get out of credit card debt
- Pay off student loans
- Plan for retirement
- Save for an emergency fund or big purchase (car or house)
- Get educated about finances together (read a financial book)
Setting financial goals with your partner during these meetings is a great way to be proactive with your financial life.
- Major purchases
Your family budget meeting is a great time to talk about upcoming major purchases. Whether it’s a vacation you want to take or a new television your husband wants to buy, this is the time to talk about it.
- Income changes
Budgeting is all about money management – managing the money you have. But your family budget meetings can be more comprehensive than just managing your money. You can talk about the income you’re bringing in to the family and any changes you want to make.
For example, if you don’t bring in enough money, this is a great time to talk about ways to make more money. Here are a few posts that can help you learn how to make money:
Income is something definitely worth talking about with your significant other during these meetings if you are having income problems.
- Hiring a financial professional
Family budget meetings are a great time to talk about whether you want to hire a financial professional to manage your money for you. If this is something you’re considering, read this post about the top 15 questions you should ask your financial advisor.
Beyond the topics I’ve listed above, you can talk about anything during these meetings that is relevant to you and your family. It’s a great time to discuss what’s on your mind.
Step 6: Prepare for disagreements
Once you get going with your meetings and get in the groove of talking about money during a specific time you’ve set aside, you may find the conversations aren’t always easy (no surprise here I’m sure)!
You are going to disagree with your partner about your finances. It’s inevitable. That’s okay.
The most important thing to remember in this situation is to listen and maintain respect for the other person’s opinion.
You can use these disagreements as an opportunity to compromise with each other and practice working as a team. Just be aware that even though you have a plan to talk about money, you may not agree on what decisions to make.
A Final Note!
And that’s it — then you’re officially done and ready to repeat the process of having budget meetings.
These meetings will likely get easier over time for you, so keep pushing through the awkward first meetings until you get into a groove.
You just might find that working together on your financial life is just what your family needed.