I have been looking forward to our first budget meeting since like our first year of dating. My fiancé definitely does not feel the same way. Your first budget meeting as a couple (dating, engaged, or married) can be overwhelming, stressful, and frustrating. My goal is to help you make it as stress-free as possible (which might require some beer & pizza). I am sharing what tools we used and how we prepared for our first budget meeting.
ALL of these tools can also be used for your individual budget meeting. Although this post is geared toward couples, the tools are 100% applicable for an individual (including the beer & pizza).
Understand Your Differences
I currently have my budget in excel. I have used the same basic template for years and it works for me. I pay all my bills online and check my budget a few times a day. My fiancé is pretty much the opposite. His budget is written on a piece of paper, he pays his bills in person or on the phone, and he definitely does not check his budget a few times a day. In order for us to be successful at budgeting together, I need to compromise and choose tools that we both will actually use. I knew if I just threw a few excel files at him most likely he would not check them, and I would have to annoy him to see if he viewed our budget recently. My goal is to make the transition to budgeting together as painless as possible.
I have been planning for this day for a VERY long time. Like a few years. I have had many many months to figure out what resources I want us to use. The key is to be flexible. Although I have all the tools that I am about to share with you, they might not all work. We might realize after a month or so that we need to adjust how we are doing something and that is totally okay. In order to stick to a budget, pay off debt, or save money you need to figure out what works best for you as a TEAM. What worked best for you as an individual might not be what is best for you as a couple and that is totally fine. It can be very frustrating. I am very Type A and usually it’s my way or the highway so this will take some patience from me. It might take us a few months to get in sync.
Acknowledge What is Important
Before you even sit down to create your budget, make sure you realize that what is important to you might not be important to them. You might think spending money on alcohol is dumb and should be completely cut from the budget. If it is important to your significant other, it is worth including or at least discussing why it should/shouldn’t be included. If you want to stick to the budget, it has to be realistic for both of you. If your significant other usually spends $100/month on alcohol, realistically he/she won’t stick to your budget if you cut it to $0. Acknowledge what is important to your significant other even if you don’t fully understand. It is okay to not understand because I will bet that there are some things you do that he/she doesn’t fully get either.
Tools You Need for Your Budget Meeting
Like I said I have been planning for this for a while. I had our budget binder template organized since before we got engaged. I have had a lot of time to research different tools, programs, and templates to see what I think will work best for us based on our money habits and money personalities.
Okay for you it might not be beer but if your significant other isn’t as thrilled about this meeting as you, have some reward. That might sound dumb but I bet it will get him/her to focus more during the meeting. Maybe say let’s budget and then we can get ice cream or let’s discuss finances and then next week we can go do something you want to do. It might take time to get him/her on board so like I said try to make it as painless as possible. In my case, I 100% will have beers at all budget meetings in the foreseeable future. If you are doing your budget by yourself, try to make it as enjoyable as possible. I usually drink wine when updating my budget.
2. Budget Templates
Like I said before, I love excel and my fiancé likes pen and paper. In order for us to create a budget we will both stick to, I created a budget binder. This will have the budgeting worksheets from A Sunny Side Up Life and also our debt payoff charts from Debt Free Charts. I used a binder I had leftover from school and leftover sheet protectors from my stash of random office supplies. I printed a set of the budgeting worksheets and put each page in a sheet protector. The budgeting pack from A Sunny Side Up Life also comes with the google sheets version of the worksheets so I plan on using both. During our budget meetings, I will edit the google sheets version of the worksheets and once it is finalized I will copy it to our hard copy of the worksheets in our binder. This way my fiancé can check the binder when he wants but I also have a google sheets version for myself. If he is feeling spontaneous he can also check the google sheets version since we will both have access to it.
The budgeting worksheets are simple and easy to use which is exactly what we need right now. This is the first time either of us has budgeted with another person so we don’t need crazy files right now. In order for us to get on the same page, we need simple budget templates and the budgeting pack from A Sunny Side Up Life is perfect for that.
If you need help starting your budget, A Sunny Side Up Life has a complete budgeting course which I took and highly recommend (you can read my review here). I might have my fiancé review some of the modules during future budget meetings (with more beer).
If Excel is more your style, Make Real Cents has an amazing budgeting pack that has 8 automated excel files to help you stick to your budget and pay off debt. She has tutorials on how to use it and each excel worksheet is printable so you can still put them in your budget binder (win-win). She is pretty much an excel expert and it is SO reasonably priced you should get them now.
3. Debt Payoff Strategy
I am debt free but my fiancé has a lot of student loan debt. I knew this very early on in our relationship and I am actually excited to get started paying it off. About a year ago I bought the debt snowball calculator from Easy Budget because I knew that is what I wanted to use when we paid off debt. I have been playing around with it but I am excited to actually use it. We are using the debt avalanche method which also works with this calculator. It is a great way to see what debt you have, your estimated debt payoff, and how extra payments can help move that date sooner. I think this tool will be perfect for us to see how hard work will help us pay off our debt every sooner.
We are also using some charts from Debt Free Charts. I have printed a few student loan charts that we will color in (I love visuals) to track our progress. Make sure you check out the website because a ton of charts are FREE. These charts will be in our budget binder so we can review them during our meetings or really whenever we want. The debt calculator and the charts will help us stay on track and motivated to pay off our debt.
I hope this helps you get started on your budget journey as a couple or as an individual. It will not be easy (which is why beer comes in handy) but it will be worth it. One thing I told my fiancé is we both need to be EXTREMELY honest. Always. I said do not hide any debt, big purchases, or money concerns because I will find out eventually. It might not be this month, but it will come out and we are a team. I want to deal with it all together and there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Will we stick to the budget every month? Definitely not. I don’t even do that as an individual. The goal is to have more good months than bad months. Budgeting, paying off debt, and saving money is not a sprint it is a marathon. An uphill, downhill, rocky marathon that takes a lot of patience and endurance.
Let me know in the comments how your first budget meeting went and what worked best for you.