If you've read about creating monthly household budgets, you've likely heard about starting a monthly budget meeting where you and your spouse sit down and get on the same financial page. But you also might be wondering, "what do we talk about in a monthly personal budget meeting? What do we do in that meeting? How do you do a monthly household budget meeting?"
Fear not, my friends. I've rounded up my best tips for a successful personal budget meeting with your spouse. It's not hard, and it doesn't take a long time. Read on:
Put your budget meeting on the calendar.
There's nothing worse than sitting down to watch some brainless TV after the kids are in bed and then get surprised by your significant other wanting you to use your brain and talk money and budgeting. Put it on the calendar on the fridge or on your phone calendars so you get a reminder. It doesn't need to be more than 20 or 30 minutes. Once you've got a few of these under your belt, you might even be able to get it done in 15 minutes.
If the kids are too young to participate, do it when they're asleep, at practice, during a favorite show, etc. Put your phones on silent and face down on the table so you're not reacting to every notification. Do it in a room without a TV that is on. This meeting is important, so give it the attention it deserves.
Bring your budget and a pad of paper, and open up the banking app.
Whether your budget is in an excel file, a budget book, on a yellow legal pad or in a budgeting app, bring it to the table. You also might want to have a notepad so you can write down anything that comes up that you don't want to forget... like the fee for the upcoming basketball season. If you're running your budget on paper, you might also want a calculator. Open up your banking app so you can make decisions based on what you're really spending.
Talk about your needs and wants.
Make sure you're on the same page in terms of needs and wants. If you've done a budget in previous months and you've talked about managing your money better, you're likely on the same page. In the monthly budget meeting you're calling out anything current or upcoming. Does the car need new brakes? Are your tires wearing out? Is there a strange noise coming from the dishwasher? Does your favorite author have a new book out that you've been dying to read, or is there a new video game coming out that the family would love? A seasonal sport coming up?
Here's where you talk priorities. You likely can't do everything every month. If the kids are old enough and mature enough to be involved in some of the budgeting process (even if it's just the first 10 minutes, and then you dismiss them to talk details), this is when you'd talk about how things cost money, and that you need to cover the needs and priorities before the wants.
List all of the variable expenses and note next to each one if it's a need or a want. Talk about what your big goals are - is it saving for a new house or car? To be debt free? Think about that as you prioritize. Make sure you can cover the needs, and then you can talk about which of the "wants" you might be able to fit in. Just "keep your eyes on the prize" and remember that you're pushing toward a big goal.
Review the current (or previous) budget.
Take a look at how you're doing, if it's mid-way through your month, or review how you did last month. Do you need to make a quick mid-month course correction because you're going over budget in an area? Did you overspend eating out, and you need to cut back or rein it in somewhere else? What did you do well? What could have gone better? Anything you need to watch out for in the future?
Make or review the budget for the coming month.
If you're doing this monthly, at this point you'll actually review the budget you've penciled out, or you'll create one. (If you've never had one, go read the post about how to create your first budget.) Keep an open mind and talk through anything that you might have different opinions on. If you're doing this on the computer or in an app, the quickest way to start is just to copy and paste from the previous month and then make adjustments to the things that are more variable - like the light or heat bill that fluctuates a little month-to-month.
Now here's the last task - after you've agreed to the plan ahead, each of you should sign off. This is the agreed-upon budget plan for next month, and you'll both work against that plan.
That's it! It's really not that hard, and once you get the hang of it, it probably won't take long. You might need them more frequently in the beginning of this process - maybe even once a week, depending on how you're feeling at the start. But once you've got a few months of money management on your hands, you'll likely make this more of a routine and they'll not only go faster, but you won't need them as often. Good luck!