Make a date to discuss it
A big problem couples have with money is not discussing ( or lying about) it. Change that by making “the talk” a priority.
“Communication is so important within a relationship to set up these budgets,” said Brian Wagenbach, a certified financial planner with Charles Schwab.
“If we’re going to purchase a new car or if my wife’s pregnant, we need to get everything out on the table to make sure we’re on the same page. Because we may not be on the same page.”
Plan for major milestones
The first step in drafting your budget should be sitting down with your partner to determine what it is you both want to work toward.
Is it buying a new home, remodelling the kitchen or starting a family? The sooner you lay out your game plan, the better off you’ll be, said Wagenbach.
“Taking the long-road gives you more time to think about the savings approach you’ll need to adopt,” he said.
“A baby gives you a fixed amount of time, obviously, whereas something like a boat can be viewed as more of a long-term goal.”
Get your financial house in order
Assess the health of your “financial house,” then commit to getting it in order, step-by-step. Your budget won’t work if it’s unrealistic.
So before you sock away $5,000 for a kitchen revamp, work on clearing your credit and realize it won’t happen overnight .
If you’re really in a bind—say the baby’s on the way but you’re $10,000 in the hole—look for areas to cut back or think about how you can hustle at work to boost your salary and cover expenses.
Curb your impulse spending habit
A big part of budgeting is assessing all your expenditures to see what can be cut and put toward your goals.
“You want to think about things from a cash perspective, especially if it’s a big-ticket item,” said Ritter.
So the next time you’re tempted to splurge on that Marc Jacobs handbag , count to ten and ask yourself whether the $300 setback will be worth the extra hours you’ll have to put in at work.
Also learn the difference between needs and wants, said Dr. Taffy Wagner, a certified finance educator and author of Bride and Groom’s Money Talk FAQ.
“If you’re a spender, put the item on hold for 72 hours. If you don’t want it after that, then you’ll know it was just a spur of the moment buy.”
Find ways to put every asset to use
Examine all the assets you have with an eye toward cutting costs.
“If you have a three-bedroom home and are approaching retirement, you may not want to have it when the kids move out,” said Wagenbach.
“You might want to downsize and look for ways to capture the home’s equity. You could try bringing windfalls into the mix, use a tax windfall, a year-end bonus, an inheritance or host a garage sale to generate extra cash. You might even get a second job.”
Tweak your budget on a regular basis
“A budget is not a set-it-and-forget-it,” said Wagner. “It’s a working budget that needs to be tweaked on a repeated basis due to the economy.”
She recommends reviewing your budget every three months so it’s easy to track where the money goes.
Any longer than three months is too long, which will cause a lot of under-the-radar credit card and utility fees and quarterly services to get overlooked.
“People forget what they spent on groceries and going out to eat,” she said, “and it’s not like they saved the receipts.”