spending plan

The Budget Committee Meeting

by mike on September 7, 2009

Men and women are different.  Wow, I know that is shocking, but it is true.  We tend to approach the handling of our finances in different ways.  It is extremely important that we recognize this and use it to our advantage in our marriages.  The more we try to force our spouse to be more like us instead of accepting them for who they are, the more our spouse is going to dig their heels in and protest anything we do.  This is why the budget committee meeting is so important to a marriage.  Let’s take a look at what a budget committee meeting looks like and what the rules are for each spouse.

First and foremost, it must be noted that there are usually two types of people in a marriage in regards to working with the money.  One spouse is usually more inclined to like working with numbers.  This is the spouse who likes working with spreadsheets, Quicken, paying the bills, etc.  Dave Ramsey calls this spouse the nerd.  The other spouse would rather poke their eyes out than work on a budget.  They feel constrained by a spending plan and definitely do not feel uptight about money like the nerd can.  Ramsey calls this spouse the free spirit.  Most marriages have one of each.  There may be some blending of characteristics, but one leans towards the nerd side and one leans toward the free spirit side.  This is a good thing, by the way, as each brings something to the table.

I suggest a meeting before each month begins to go over the coming month’s spending plan (budget).  The nerd will generally do all of the work ahead of time to lay out the spending plan, since, believe it or not free spirits, nerds actually enjoy doing it.  The key is that both spouses sit down and agree on the plan together.   With all of this being said, there are certain rules that must be adhered to by each spouse, whenever they meet to discuss money.

Here are the rules for the nerds:

1.     Listen. By preparing the budget’s first draft, you have had your say.  So, you need to keep your mouth shut.  The last thing you want to do with the free spirit is lecture them on what they can or cannot spend money on.

2.     Take input. I will say it again, you have had your say.  It is a much better step toward unity and harmony in your marriage to let the free spirit have input.  I know this goes against every grain in your being because as a nerd you usually have a propensity towards being a control freak.  I can say this because, shocking as it may be, I fall in the nerd category.  Both spouses must have input and ownership in the finances for it to work.

3.     Keep it brief. Another quick way to lose the free spirit’s buy in is to make these monthly meetings an hour long.  This is not a budget meeting at the corporate level that requires hours and hours of discussion.  This should really only take 15-20 minutes.  Much longer than that and the free spirit will check out.

Free spirits, here are your rules:

1.     Show up. This might be the hardest rule for you to adhere to.  It’s easier to let your spouse handle and worry about the finances because they are good at it.  It’s not your personality to get into this money stuff.  But, your sharing in the planning of your family’s finances is extremely important and will help you feel less controlled by your spouse.

2.     Give input. There are two kinds of input that don’t count.  One is “it looks great, whatever you want.”  The other is “how do you expect me to only spend _____ on ______, I need much more than THAT!”  As you look over the budget, if you want to put more money in a category, then you have to suggest where you can lower another category.  The key is that the budget balances, so give your suggestions on how to do that.

3.     Be realistic. It is vitally important to understand that there will be no more spending more than you make.  If you are going to have financial security and retire with dignity, then spending less than you make is the only way to get there.  So, be realistic about things in your current lifestyle that may have to  be sacrificed in order to have that security.

The monthly budget committee meeting is the foundation to having financial security and unity and harmony in your marriage.  As you discuss your spending plan and your finances each month, you begin to understand each other on a whole other level.  Each spouse’s goals and dreams for the family begin coming to the forefront.  Instead of another money fight, the committee meeting becomes something to look forward to as you strive towards your goals together.