One of my goals this year was to establish more regular “money meetings” with my husband.
We’ve typically done one or two money dates a year, where we spend time talking about our finances and our goals for our money, but we have both decided that it’s not really enough.
So we’re planning to do them at least once a month, or as needed, to discuss financial issues.
I come from a family that had little or no debt throughout most of my life. My husband’s family has had many struggles with money and has even been bankrupt. I’m a saver and have been since I was little. My husband is more of a spender (but is slowly adopting my frugal philosophy).
About 10 years ago, I read a personal finance book that changed our lives, and from that point forward, we have resolved to be debt-free except for the house. We were able to accomplish this goal in 2006, just before the birth of our twins.
We’ve paid for many things cash since then – home and garage repairs, new (to us) cars, and mini vacations, but we’ve noticed that we’re struggling a bit more than used to when it comes to paying for things. We know just how easy it would be for us to get into debt again, and our money meetings are one of the ways we want to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Where we stand financially
The Good News
- We pay all our bills in full and on time each month.
- We have some money in savings.
- Our vehicles are paid for.
- We’re relatively healthy.
- We regularly contribute to our retirement funds.
The Bad News
- We spent more than we earned several months during 2012. (We pulled from our savings to cover these expenses.)
- We do not have a fully-funded emergency fund. (it’s close, but it was depleted when we had to repair our garage foundation).
- Our vehicles are high in mileage and will need to be replaced in the next few years.
- We were not able to maximize our Roth IRA contributions for 2012.
What happened during our Money Meeting
We began our meeting by going over the status of our various bank accounts and our mortgage. We also talked about our recurring monthly expenditures like our utilities. From there, we discussed areas of our budget that are variable – like gas and groceries.
This was a very helpful part of our meeting. I usually end up handling the day-to-day operations of the family budget because I love doing it, and my husband is less than thrilled about it. Lately I’ve been feeling a bit like the weight of the family is on my shoulders. At the same time, my husband was feeling closed out of the loop. We agreed that it would be good to involve him in more of the day-to-day financial operations so that he knows how everything works. It will help him have a better understanding of where I come from when I get nitpicky about an expenditure. And it will help me by having a trusted sounding board to figure out our financial challenges.
My husband and I recognized that we had a series of unusual circumstances that led to our financial challenges in 2012. We know that these circumstances cannot serve as an excuse for continuing bad money habits.
Setting a direction
We finished up our money meeting by setting some goals for finances.
At the top of the list:
Create a better spending plan (or budget, if you want to call it that), so that we ensure we spend less than we earn. We’re good most months, but periodically, we end up dipping into our savings more than I would like. I will be working on setting up procedures to track our income and expenses. My husband and I will also be working to find ways to lower the cost of household operations.
Rebuild savings. We need to fully fund our emergency fund and rebuild our savings so that we are prepared to replace our vehicles. We also want to save up for some fun toys, too.
In addition, we are also hashing out a plan to introduce an allowance to our three young boys. We want them to understand that they need to do work to be paid, and we want to start teaching them money-management skills.
After our first money meeting, we both felt better that we had talked about our financial issues and developed a plan for tackling them.
Now we just need to do the work!
Your turn: Do you have money meetings with your partner? How often do you meet?
About Christina Brown
Christina is a wife and mother dedicated to figuring out how to live a simpler, happier life on a budget.