Budgeting For Couples: 10 Tips To Ease The Tension!

By Zach Buchenau

Last Updated: July 1, 2021

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Budgeting as a couple can be stressful and downright frustrating at times. Between the planning, tracking, adjusting, and holding each other accountable, living on a budget can cause quite a bit of tension between married couples.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way?

In fact, what if implementing a few simple tips could help you take the pressure off your finances and ease most (if not all) of the budgeting tension in your relationship?

Would you be interested?

Well, you’re in luck, because, for the rest of this article, I’m going to reveal my top 10 budgeting tips for couples.

So, if you’re ready to reduce the frustration that seems to crop up every time you sit down to work on your budget, keep reading.

Budgeting for couples: 10 helpful tips to ease the tension! | Be The Budget

Figure Out Your Financial Goals As A Couple

When you first start budgeting as a couple, one of the most important things you should do is figure out what your financial goals are.

And I’m not just talking about your individual goals. Rather, you should come up with some goals as a couple that give you both a sense of unified purpose, and get you excited to stick to your budget.

After all, if you don’t have any kind of end goal in mind, then you’re basically just budgeting for the sake of budgeting. And who really wants to do that?

Think of it like this: budgeting without an any goals is like playing a game of football without an End Zone. Not only is it boring, but it is completely pointless.

In general, I recommend setting at least 3 goals for your budget: a short-term, a medium-term, and a long-term goal.

The short-term goal should be no longer than one month. For example, a good short-term goal might be: “We are going to add $500 to our emergency fund this month.”

The medium-term goal should be no longer than 6 months. For instance, “We are going to pay an additional $5,000 towards our debt over the next 6 months.”

And the long-term goal should be no longer than 1 year. For example, “Over the next 12 months, we are going to pay off all our consumer debt, and max out our ROTH IRA contributions.”

Interested in budgeting? Check out some of our other helpful posts:

Create Your Budget Together

Now that you’ve set some goals that excite the both of you, it’s time to work backwards from those goals, and create a zero-based budget that will help you achieve them.

Just remember, communication is key. So, before you sit down to create your budget, make sure you are both in a calm head space and willing to work together.

If you aren’t there yet, head back to the goal-setting stage, and figure out some goals that get you both more excited and ready to work together. 

Ok, back to the zero-based budget.

A zero-based budget is basically a budgeting method where you create a plan for every dollar of your income for the upcoming month.

Starting with your total income, you subtract the amount of money you want to give, then the amount of money you are going to save. After that, you use the remaining amount of money to pay for every other expense in your life.

Seriously, from your rent/mortgage and utilities to recreational spending, you should use your budget to live within the remaining amount of money after giving and saving.

This is the only way to ensure that you set aside enough money to reach your financial goals every month and keep your spending under control.

But here’s the thing, you both need to participate in the process of creating your budget.

In other words, this shouldn’t be a one-person job.

You are a team, so make sure you create (and agree on) your budget at the start of every month.

After all, if you both agree on the budget at the start of the month, neither of you will have any excuses if you get off-track with your spending.

Save Before You Spend

I already mentioned this in the last tip, but it is just too important not to include as its own tip.

If you take only one thing from this entire post, it should be this: save before you spend!

In other words, as soon as you get paid, whether you’re self-employed or on a salary, set aside the amount of money you allocated for savings in your budget.

Seriously, before you spend a dime on any kind of living expense, move the amount of money you budgeted for savings into your savings account. Then, use your budget to figure out exactly how to live off of the remaining amount of money.

This is not only the key to achieving your financial goals, but it is the key to wealth. So, every time you get paid, save before you spend.

Open A Savings Account At A Separate Bank

How many times have you approached the end of the month and thought, ‘let me just take $100 out of my savings to buy this while it’s at a good price?

Don’t worry; we’ve all been there! 

When your savings account is staring you directly in the face every time you open your current account, it can be incredibly tempting to shift money around and buy things that you don’t actually need.

You tell yourself that you’ll transfer it back as soon as you get paid, but we all know that’s a lie! 

The way to avoid this is to open a savings account with a separate bank entirely.

This makes it a lot less convenient to dip in and out of your savings as you please. Plus, it keeps your money slightly more hidden from view, which can help reduce your temptation to spend it.

We recommend signing up for an Axos High-Yield Savings account to look after your money. With no maintenance fees, no minimum balance requirements, and the fact that you can set one up online in less than 15 minutes, it’s an excellent way to protect your savings from yourself.

Set Aside Some Money For Fun

Lots of people look at budgeting as something that can drain the fun out of a relationship. But truthfully, when done properly, budgeting should actually help your relationship thrive.

And one of the best ways to keep your budget from feeling restrictive, is to allocate some money for fun—both individually, and as a couple.

In other words, you should allocate some money for the fun things you each like to do on your own (like playing a round of golf or getting a massage), as well as allocate some money for the fun things you like to do as a couple (like playing golf together or getting a couples massage).

Seriously, we recommend allocating a total of around 10% of your monthly take-home pay for fun activities.

We even recommend rolling the money over each month, so that if there’s something either one of you would like to save for, you can.

Then again, if you get to the end of the month and you haven’t spent it, you can always add it to your savings account or make an additional payment on the mortgage. 

Don’t Forget About Dates

When you’re married, dating is just as important as it was when you first met.

It’s a vital way of keeping the romance alive and ensures you spend quality time alone with your spouse.

Whether that means a weekly date night, or a weekend getaway every month, placing a financial priority on quality time is key when you’re budgeting as a couple.

And here’s the thing, if you’re working to a tight budget, your date nights don’t need to be extravagant. 

Honestly, something as simple as an evening walk followed by a glass of wine and a movie at home can be just the ticket. With date nights, the effort to spend time with each other is more important than the date itself.

So don’t worry about allocating too much money here. Rather, get creative and just place a priority on having fun together!

Get Out Of Debt

Unbelievably, people are still going around today saying there’s such a thing as ‘good debt.’

This is absolutely false.

The truth is, being in debt means owing someone [or more likely an institution] money that you don’t actually have. And until you’re able to pay it back, you’re subject to interest payments and a whole heap of stress. 

The solution? Get out of debt. 

You might think this is easier said than done, and in many cases, it is. But the trick to getting out of debt is working out a monthly repayment schedule to start eating away at the money you owe. Even if you start paying off $10 every week and know that you will be out of your debt in 1-2 years, it’s a start. 

As your payments gain momentum, you will be inspired to drive your debt down even further, and you will find yourself out of debt in no time.

Honestly, if you want to take tons of stress of your relationship, fast-track your ability to build wealth, and simplify your entire financial life, getting out of debt is one of the best things you can do.

Not to mention that when you have fewer debt payments to make, budgeting as a couple becomes incredibly simple.

Spend Money On Your Debit Card Only

Credit cards are a budgeter’s worse nightmare.

They make it seem like you have more money than you do, and the temptation to purchase something on your credit card can often be too much to resist.

So, if you’re serious about budgeting, cut up your credit cards right now, and focus all your combined energy on paying off what you owe. 

Then, begin spending money exclusively on your debit card.

Not only will this help to ensure you only spend money that is actually yours, but it also makes it easier to track your monthly payments and expenses. 

If all of your payments are made through one account, you can easily track what you’re spending your money on and avoid unwelcome surprises at the month’s end. 

Some people take this one further and pay for everything with cash. While this isn’t my preferred method, it is a great way to reduce your spending and simplify your finances as a couple. Oh, and if you do decide to go ‘cash-only’, just remember to keep all your receipts so that you can log your expenses into your budget every day.

Reconcile Your Budget, Daily

Although it might seem like a lot of effort at first, logging your expenses every day is the best (and easiest) way to stay on top of your budget as a couple.

Seriously, it’s so much easier to spend a couple of minutes every day logging a few expenses into your budget, than sifting through hundreds of expenses every few weeks.

Also, it’s so much easier to stay on track for your financial goals when you reconcile your budget on a daily basis.

You can log your expenses manually on a spreadsheet on your laptop, or you can use an app like EveryDollar, with which you can track your expenses directly from your smartphone or tablet.

But no matter which method you choose, you should develop a system so that works for both you and your spouse.

After all, in order to budget as a couple, you both need to be consistent about inputting your expenses.

Don’t Quit If You Get Off-Track

Nobody said that budgeting as a couple is easy. In fact, the first couple months can be rather challenging at times.

The key is to stick with it and persevere—even if you get off-track.

If, for instance, you have a bad month, and you and your partner go way over budget, don’t punish yourself! Just take a step back and acknowledge that things went off track, and figure out how you’re going to refocus at the start of the next month. 

Remember, budgeting is a long-term process. So it’s okay if you hit a couple bumps in the road.

Just do your best to learn from your mistakes and get better as you go.

Final Thoughts

Contrary to popular belief, budgeting as a couple can be a fun and rewarding process. Not only can it help you reach your financial goals faster than you ever imagined possible, but it can actually bring your closer together and take a ton of stress off your relationship.

Just make sure that you’re open with your spouse and willing to compromise on certain things.

Also, don’t forget to have some fun along the way! Although budgeting is a serious matter, when done properly, it should provide you with quite a bit of freedom and relief! 

Now get out there, get on a budget, and start crushing your financial goals together!

Zach Buchenau

About The Author:

Zach Buchenau is a self-proclaimed personal finance nerd. When he isn't writing about budgeting, getting out of debt, making extra money, and living a frugal life, you can find him building furniture, fly fishing, or developing websites. He is the co-founder of BeTheBudget, and Chipotle's most loyal customer.

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