Money Matters: How to Build a Functional Budget as a Team

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This is the second part of a two-part series on money. Check out Part 1 here: Money Matters: How to Talk about Money Without an Argument


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ne of the more difficult steps early in marriage is working to combine finances and spending styles. We’re strong advocates of all money being shared in joint accounts. But that brings the task of spending responsibly as a team, and the best way to start that is with a budget. Now many people have a “budget” where they don’t pay much attention to what they spend as long as the checking account isn’t completely empty. That’s not what I’m talking about. We need to be a bit more intentional to truly be in control of our finances. We need to be in control of our money, not allow our money in control of us.

Having a budget and taking control over your finances as a unified team will create security and safety. This actively protects a marriage from resentment or bitterness around financial decisions.

When we work as a team on a budget and treat each other with respect with our finances, trust is built, establishing a unified mindset.

But how do we get started?

  1. Add up how much money you have coming in each month
  2. This is the total of all take-home (after-tax) money from paychecks and any other sources of income you may have.

  3. List out your monthly expenses
  4. List everything you buy in a normal month. Groceries, utilities, car insurance, gasoline, co-pays, toothpaste, restaurants, and even your streaming service. List everything you can think of. A quick way to do this is to look back over your bank statement and see what you’ve spent over the last few months.

  5. Do some basic math
  6. Subtract the expenses you listed in step 2 from your total income in step 1. Is the number positive? Great! You’re doing well! Is the number negative? If so, you have a bit more work to do:

      Get creative

      If your expenses are higher than your income, look for ways to shrink your expenses until the two balance out. This might be tricky if you live in an expensive area without high income.

      When Jess and I were first married, we were living on the bare minimum. We didn’t go out to eat, we kept our thermostat in the mid-50s during the winter, carpooled whenever possible, and worked extra whenever we could just to get by.

  7. Write it down
  8. Once you’ve found a way to shrink your expenses or increase your income until they balance, write down the amount of money you have in each category. That’s your beginning budget

  9. Keep track
  10. As you spend money during the month, keep track of what you’ve spent in each category. Once you run out of money, stop spending.

    There are apps to help you with this too–a great one is Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar app. Jess and I used it for a time before switching to my beloved spreadsheets. We don’t get paid to endorse the app–it’s just so well done that we can’t help sharing it!

    If you struggle with keeping track, get a handful of envelopes and write the category names on them. At the beginning of each month, put the monthly allotment of cash in each envelope. When you buy groceries, the money must come from the grocery envelope. Once you spend money from an envelope, replace it with the receipt.

  11. Give yourselves grace
  12. It’ll take a few months to get the hang of living on a budget. Sometimes more. It’s okay.

    Jess and I now keep track of our expenses using some spreadsheets I made. We have a folder on the computer labeled “Budgets: When we were really bad at them”. It’s good to look back on those and see how far we’ve come since we were first married.

  13. Figure out what works for you
  14. One spouse may pay more attention to the details of the budget and the other may help out. There are couples where the husband pays more attention to the details of the budget and couples where the wife does. As long as you both are working towards the same goal, do what works for you. Use the strengths that you each have.

    In our marriage, I handle paying bills and the more detailed tracking of our expenses, while Jess handles specific categories. With that being said, we both talk through the big picture of our budget–the amount that goes to each category, our big expenses, retirement planning, and everything else.

  15. Check in regularly
  16. Go over your budget together at least weekly to make sure you’re on the same page.

    Jess and I do weekly check-ins. You may want to do them more often if you have lots of transactions. What’s important is that you’re both aware of what the two of you have each spent so you don’t go over in any category.

  17. It’s not about control
  18. Money should never be used to control or chide your spouse. It should always be a team effort and a meeting of equals.

No matter what your money situation is, being fully aware of it is almost always less scary than the tricks your mind plays on you when you THINK you’re doing poorly. When you and your spouse work together to handle your finances well, as God calls you to, you’ll find that financial problems are much more manageable. You’ll also find that you feel less stressed and happier with each other.

You may not enjoy budgeting, but you will be thankful for the peace and understanding the teamwork brings. It’s the best part!

Are you on a budget? How has it been helpful for your marriage? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…

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adam & Jess

Hi, we’re Adam & Jess--we’re so glad you’re here!

Our marriage got off to a rocky start in 2014 and quickly escalated into a full-out crisis. God healed us, and now we're inviting you to walk with us as we all journey toward healthier marriages together!

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