Creating a family budget is a lot like taking your vitamins. Everyone knows they need to do it, but it’s the kind of thing that gets pushed to the back burner in the chaos of life.
Why is it so easy to procrastinate the things that will make our lives—both individually and as a couple—better, easier in the long run? Probably because budgeting requires discipline, and who in the name of soccer practice, birthday parties, and deacons’ meetings has time for anything else—especially discipline?
While we don’t have an interview with a couple who overcame vitamin lethargy, Ryan and Kori Stubblefield started budgeting early in their marriage. Granted, they both like budgets, but even with their common interest, getting two people on the same page financially takes some real effort and hard conversations.
So how did they get all the way to the point where Kori’s shopping bags didn’t bother Ryan? Here’s what they had to say about their budgeting process:
Whose idea was it to start a monthly budget? Did the other spouse get on board immediately?
Ryan: I would say we had it pretty easy getting started, because we both wanted to budget. Though we don’t consider ourselves hardcore Dave Ramsey disciples, he certainly helped kick start our monthly budgeting practice by giving us a framework to go by in the early days. It was a mutual desire from Day 1 of our marriage, but I do have to take the credit for recommending that we take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.
Kori: What he said. We both jumped on board instantly. In the Financial Peace University course, they have each spouse take a survey to find out who is the “money nerd” and who is the “free spirit.” We were both money nerds!
What was the hardest part initially?
Ryan: There were two hard parts for me at the beginning: 1) Trying to unselfishly discuss with Kori how much to budget in categories that didn’t benefit me at all. Example: She requires more beauty products and clothes than I do. 2) Being frustrated after the first month or two, when we wouldn’t account for an expense, and it would blow our budget. It took about 3 months to fully discover all the random expenses.
Kori: Honestly, it was more fun than not, but probably the hardest part for me has been getting into the habit of immediately entering receipts into our budget software. I have the tendency to wait a day or two or three and then rely on memory, not the best choice.
In a practical sense, how do you budget your money? How do you track it?
Ryan & Kori: We have a monthly budget meeting usually the 1st or 2nd of each month. It’s broken up in 3 parts:
1) Prayer. We thank God for the dollars He’s entrusted us with. We pray for wisdom, discernment and generous hearts, and then ask the Holy Spirit to guide our meeting. We’ve often forgotten to pray, start having a little tiff about something, and Kori will say “Wait! We forgot to pray!”
2) Then we review last month’s spending—move money around if we over-spent or under-spent in a certain category.
3) Lastly, we plan for the upcoming month using a “Zero-Based Budget” (i.e. giving every dollar a name).
Have there been any surprise benefits after you started budgeting besides getting better control over your money?
Ryan: After a year of budgeting with your spouse, you’ll naturally earn a Masters degree in Communication. This is a HUGE byproduct of a monthly budget meeting. There aren’t many parts of your life that money doesn’t touch, so budgeting forces us to talk about everything.
Oh, and the second awesome surprise was, I no longer had any issue when Kori came home with shopping bags in hand. We had already agreed on all spending before the month started, so I don’t have to stress and fret that she’s out spending too much.
Kori: The best part is the “freedom” I have now in spending. I put freedom in quotes because it doesn’t mean I can spend whatever whenever, but instead it means anytime I want I can open the YNAB app, see how much clothing money or fun money is in my bucket, and I’m free to spend it how I want. I can spend it all at the beginning of the month or save and let it build up over a few months.
What advice would you give couples who want to start a budget, but don’t have one yet?
Ryan: Ladies, if you start budgeting with your husband, it’ll get him communicating. Men, if you start budgeting with your wife, it’ll improve your sex life. (Just kidding.) Getting on the same page with your spouse about money just seems to improve a lot of other areas. That’s all I’m saying.
Kori: Bite the bullet and jump all the way in if you and your spouse haven’t already. Any frustrations, tiffs, tears, sacrifices along the way will be well worth it in the end when you are living a life free of the heavy burden that money/debt often weighs on marriages. It will be worth it, I promise!
If you and your spouse are ready to take the next step and start budgeting, click here to get 10% off You Need a Budget (YNAB) software. Or, if you want to take things a step further and learn Dave Ramsey’s money principles, use this locator to help you find a local Financial Peace University Class!
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