“Hey, I’ve got an exciting idea—let’s go work on our budget!”
… Said absolutely no one ever.
Setting up a budget isn’t exactly fun. It can feel more like a punishment—something you and your partner have to do because winging it every month isn’t working.
Just hearing the word budget can conjure thoughts of complicated math, unwanted restrictions, and facing up to some questionable past financial choices.
For couples who are combining their finances into one budget, and negotiating their spending styles, it also might seem like a potential path to an argument.
And yet, key for couples, budgeting is a good tool to really get a handle on household finances and reach financial goals.
This can potentially lead to some tough conversations. But it also may help avoid some tougher talks down the road. Here’s why budgeting for couples is important.
7 Reasons Couples Should Start a Budget Together
1. You May Gain Better Control of Your Spending as a Team
One of the basics of budgeting is to prioritize your spending. Once you, as a couple budgeting, have decided where your money must go every month—toward groceries, utility bills, car payments, rent, and other essential expenses—you’ll have a better idea of how much will be left for discretionary expenses.
And instead of being restrictive, your budget could give you some spending flexibility. You’ll know if you need to cut back and when you can loosen up a little—and you’ll be accountable to each other. Sometimes, one person in a couple budgeting is better at finances or just enjoys it more. It might be a good fit for that person to be in charge of managing the bills. But it’s also a good plan to come together for regular budget reviews so both of you know where the money is going and there will be some balance in the financial decision making.
Leave room for some splurges, or the spender in the family probably won’t be too happy. And be proactive about big purchases: identify a threshold for how much each of you can spend so there are no surprises.
Recommended: How to Split Up Bills in a Marriage
2. You May Be Motivated to Come Clean About Your Money Problems
Your spouse might not know about unwise extravagant purchases you may have made in the past, but it’s likely each of you has some idea about the other’s money issues.
If not, this is the time to talk about any hidden debts, bad habits that cost money, or if you can’t trust yourself not to overspend when there’s a credit card in your wallet.
Then you can start tackling those issues by setting spending limits, cutting up some of those credit cards, perhaps getting financial therapy, and, of course, incorporating those looming debt payments into your budget.
3. You May Be Better Prepared for Emergencies
A common recommendation is to have three months’ worth of living expenses set aside in emergency savings in case you lose your job or are sick or injured and can’t work. An emergency fund can also be used for unexpected costs such as home or car repairs or a medical procedure.
Not only can a couple budgeting determine how much to set aside each month to build that emergency fund, you can also choose which expenses to put off or do without if you don’t have enough in your fund when a crisis strikes.
Some budget ideas for couples who need to cut back on spending are reducing the number of date nights you had planned or putting your tax refund toward a bill instead of taking a spring vacation. Having a budget can help you replace panic with a plan, and having a financial tool like SoFi Relay can help you keep tabs on your cash flow and spending habits.
Recommended: How Much Should You Keep in an Emergency Fund?
4. You Can Create Short- and Long-Term Goals
If there’s a “fun” part of working together as a couple budgeting, this is it: deciding your priorities for the future.
Whether it’s saving for a home, having children, taking a cruise, starting your own business, or all of the above and more, your budget will help you focus on the things that are most meaningful to you as a couple.
Your strategy can help you set aside the money to reach those goals—turning the dreaming into doing. And you’re more likely to stay on track if you’re checking in on your spending each month.
5. You Can Decide How Much (or How Little) You Want to Combine Your Financial Lives
You may decide to completely merge your bills and bank accounts, or you might want to keep your own accounts and divvy up the bills. There are pros and cons to each approach in budgeting for married couples or cohabiting couples.
Combining accounts can simplify your finances and build trust. But if you feel strongly about financial independence—or you’ve been burned in the past—you may feel more secure if you have your own money.
Either way, if you’ve been winging it up until now—acting more like roommates than a couple—having a plan can help keep resentment at bay. Try to negotiate an agreement that’s comfortable for both parties.
6. You May Have Less Stress
Sure, knowing exactly how much money you have (or don’t have) and where it’s going (or not going) each month can cause a little bit of anxiety. Especially if things aren’t going well. But it’s better than not knowing.
Once you get the numbers down on paper instead of just swirling around in your head, you may find things aren’t as bad as you thought. And if the situation is shaky, you can take steps to do something about it. It’s pretty tough to know what to do next without some way to measure your progress in your couple’s budget.
7. You’ll Have Something to Talk about Besides Work
OK, those are all important topics, too. But once you create your couples budget, you’re going to want to revisit it on a regular basis. You can discuss how your various budget categories are holding up and if you need to make adjustments.
It’s a good idea to go over any upcoming expenses that aren’t in the budget or only come up occasionally. And you can talk about how you’re doing with your long-term financial goals.
The good news, especially for those who dig technology, is that there are plenty of online tools and apps that can help you put together a budget. And whether you decide to go with a joint cash management account or keep things separate, with SoFi Money® Account, you can track your spending to be sure you’re both sticking to your plan. (You also might find it’s necessary to make some tweaks based on the information the SoFi app provides.)
With the SoFi Mobile App, you can manage your account by making mobile transfers and check deposits, viewing transaction history, accessing statements, and more.
This post originally appeared on SoFi and has been republished with permission.
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