Author Topic: Budget meetings with your SO-advice?  (Read 4083 times)

RosieTR

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Budget meetings with your SO-advice?
« on: March 11, 2016, 01:35:00 PM »
I have a confession to make. My SO and I have not really been doing budget meetings. Long ago, we did a Your Money or Your Life course, and we are both fairly frugal. We switch off each year who pays the bills, to make sure each of us remains engaged and at least kind of knows the login and rough amounts. At this point, we save 30-40% of take-home though I think this could be higher (because it's my year to do bills so it's more front-and-center).

Because of this nagging feeling, I was roaming around on the YNAB site and came across the idea of budget meetings. I had vaguely heard of this before, but this brought it up again. At one point early on, we had made a big goal to have a paid-off house and no other debt, which we achieved in January 2014. Since then, I feel like we've been slacking and it's time to do something to get a little more on track.

So I'm looking for some advice and experiences from Mustachians. Do you do regular budget meetings with your SO? If you do, when and why did you start? How often do you do this? Do you think it's helped you? If you don't, have you tried it and it didn't work? Or considered it but didn't do it for some reason? Do you have joint finances or separate? And finally, how do you track/budget: specialized software/apps like Mint or YNAB, regular old spreadsheets like Excel, or something else?

Zikoris

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Re: Budget meetings with your SO-advice?
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2016, 02:00:54 PM »
We don't have budget meetings - because we don't budget. We just put all our spending on credit cards, which are linked to Mint. I monitor that daily and keep everything categorized correctly. If some category is coming in higher than I think is reasonable, I mention it to my boyfriend as soon as I notice it, and we correct it.

v8rx7guy

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Re: Budget meetings with your SO-advice?
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2016, 02:16:25 PM »
I have a confession to make. My SO and I have not really been doing budget meetings. Long ago, we did a Your Money or Your Life course, and we are both fairly frugal. We switch off each year who pays the bills, to make sure each of us remains engaged and at least kind of knows the login and rough amounts. At this point, we save 30-40% of take-home though I think this could be higher (because it's my year to do bills so it's more front-and-center).

Because of this nagging feeling, I was roaming around on the YNAB site and came across the idea of budget meetings. I had vaguely heard of this before, but this brought it up again. At one point early on, we had made a big goal to have a paid-off house and no other debt, which we achieved in January 2014. Since then, I feel like we've been slacking and it's time to do something to get a little more on track.

So I'm looking for some advice and experiences from Mustachians. Do you do regular budget meetings with your SO? If you do, when and why did you start? How often do you do this? Do you think it's helped you? If you don't, have you tried it and it didn't work? Or considered it but didn't do it for some reason? Do you have joint finances or separate? And finally, how do you track/budget: specialized software/apps like Mint or YNAB, regular old spreadsheets like Excel, or something else?

We were very in to Dave Ramsey while getting out of debt and it worked great for us.  We followed his advice for buget meeting and it really helped us get on the same page every month.  Set the budget meeting for a consistent day of the month, such as the last saturday of the month or whatever you decide.  Do something to make it something to look forward to, like pizza and beer afterward or take-out thai food or whatever floats your boat.  We use an excel spreadsheet, but a program like YNAB or Everydollar is a great way to go if that's your style.  We are married and use joint finances and couldn't imagine it going smoothly any other way.

Lucky Girl

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Re: Budget meetings with your SO-advice?
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2016, 02:21:58 PM »
We don't do formalized or regular budget meetings, but we have a different division of labor.  DH pays bills and updates the financials spreadsheets (all maintained in Excel).  I do the "budgeting" and more long range planning.  Roughly once a year, we discuss the budget as I'm setting it.  But we don't strictly follow the budget as a must spend type deal.  Some months we go over, some months we're under.  When I am doing my annual review I assess how we did against the budgeted amounts and make adjustments, and we discuss those to assess our comfort level and what is important to us. 

I would say that it sounds like you are doing great already, and you probably don't have to change anything unless you feel that you aren't on track to hit your goals.  If you really want to up the savings maybe a conversation or two is appropriate to see what you and your partner are both comfortable with adjusting.  Sounds like you may not have a clear next financial goal now that the house is paid off, so that may be a good place to start.

ketchup

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Re: Budget meetings with your SO-advice?
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2016, 02:22:27 PM »
We don't have budget meetings - because we don't budget. We just put all our spending on credit cards, which are linked to Mint. I monitor that daily and keep everything categorized correctly. If some category is coming in higher than I think is reasonable, I mention it to my boyfriend as soon as I notice it, and we correct it.
This is basically what I do with my girlfriend.  We'll also mention to each other if we're planning on spending on something out of the ordinary, and either talk ourselves out of it or solidify the decision.  And I check mint a lot less than daily.

DebtFreeBy25

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Re: Budget meetings with your SO-advice?
« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2016, 04:47:04 PM »
I would say that it sounds like you are doing great already, and you probably don't have to change anything unless you feel that you aren't on track to hit your goals.  If you really want to up the savings maybe a conversation or two is appropriate to see what you and your partner are both comfortable with adjusting.  Sounds like you may not have a clear next financial goal now that the house is paid off, so that may be a good place to start.

I second setting a new goal to work towards. My husband and I were also a bit aimless after paying off all our debt, including the mortgage.

We handle finances much differently than most couples. First, we don't budget. We're both devotees of the "spend a little as possible" method. Careful budgeting would likely encourage us to spend more by outlining allowances in each category. Second, we don't share accounts. We've been married for over 5 years and have no intention of fully merging finances. We opened a joint account, presumably for bill paying, four years ago and found it easier to continue splitting bills than to use the joint account. We continually negotiate who pays for what, and both have a thorough understanding of our household expenses regardless of who is paying the bill. We talk about finances always and never because earnings and expenditures are just a normal part of our daily dialogue.

We only have a specific conversation when one of us wants to change something. For example, a recent conversation was about cutting the cable and what we would do instead. We also talk about how to handle major expenses, both planned and unplanned. Our method probably would not work for most people. It works for us because we're both natural, lifelong savers who value autonomy and independence.

SomethingFishy

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Re: Budget meetings with your SO-advice?
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2016, 05:02:21 PM »
We do an annual "state of the union" review meeting. I put together a slide deck that walks through the past year's accomplishments, savings, spending and taxes. I also include a few slides on my thoughts about goals for the new year. I try to make sure I've included goals I think DH has, and not just what I want. Once we've agreed on those goals, including budget targets, I track net worth and expenses monthly and send DH an email that walks through progress to goals. It's helpful in keeping us both on track with saving and spending, and I think it's really helpful in making course corrections when things aren't going as planned. DH reads the monthly emails and reacts to them. If he didn't, I'd probably aim for face to face meetings.

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Budget meetings with your SO-advice?
« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2016, 06:46:36 PM »
We don't have budget meetings - because we don't budget. We just put all our spending on credit cards, which are linked to Mint. I monitor that daily and keep everything categorized correctly. If some category is coming in higher than I think is reasonable, I mention it to my boyfriend as soon as I notice it, and we correct it.

Do you have a sister or something ;)

Vanguards and Lentils

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Re: Budget meetings with your SO-advice?
« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2016, 06:54:15 PM »
We do an annual "state of the union" review meeting. I put together a slide deck that walks through the past year's accomplishments, savings, spending and taxes. I also include a few slides on my thoughts about goals for the new year. I try to make sure I've included goals I think DH has, and not just what I want. Once we've agreed on those goals, including budget targets, I track net worth and expenses monthly and send DH an email that walks through progress to goals. It's helpful in keeping us both on track with saving and spending, and I think it's really helpful in making course corrections when things aren't going as planned. DH reads the monthly emails and reacts to them. If he didn't, I'd probably aim for face to face meetings.

An annual meeting with slides, and monthly progress emails? Sounds like something Leslie Knope would do - I love it!

Kitsune

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Re: Budget meetings with your SO-advice?
« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2016, 07:04:44 PM »
We don't have budget meetings - because we don't budget. We just put all our spending on credit cards, which are linked to Mint. I monitor that daily and keep everything categorized correctly. If some category is coming in higher than I think is reasonable, I mention it to my boyfriend as soon as I notice it, and we correct it.

Do you have a sister or something ;)

How my husband and I work too! No big formal Talks, just a 'hey, we're close to the agreed-upon max, let's cut down' and then we do. (Or, alternately, "we met the savings goal for x, let's do it!", which is much more pleasant.)

Zikoris

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Re: Budget meetings with your SO-advice?
« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2016, 07:11:02 PM »
We don't have budget meetings - because we don't budget. We just put all our spending on credit cards, which are linked to Mint. I monitor that daily and keep everything categorized correctly. If some category is coming in higher than I think is reasonable, I mention it to my boyfriend as soon as I notice it, and we correct it.

Do you have a sister or something ;)

Lol! I do actually - she just had a very Mustachian courthouse wedding a couple of weeks ago though.

RosieTR

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Re: Budget meetings with your SO-advice?
« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2016, 09:57:30 PM »
Thanks for all the responses!

I think DH would maybe be a little freaked out by a slide presentation, though my "inner nerd" really likes the idea, SomethingFishy! Maybe I just like more guidelines while DH is more of a "spend as little as possible" type. Except that doesn't always happen-he is more likely to encourage spending than I am, which leads to waste and too much stuff. But with no guidelines I get paralyzed in making a decision.

So, at least if I put something on the calendar we'll revamp our goals discussions of yore, and hopefully have a roadmap for either making more progress, or doing some side goals along the way. Not sure if it will be monthly-maybe I can try that out. I was very interested to hear that it's mostly an Excel crowd. I tried Mint and was kinda meh on it, but not sure I wanted to sign up for YNAB (esp now it's subscription instead of just a straight buy the program!).

EcoCanuck

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Re: Budget meetings with your SO-advice?
« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2016, 11:13:03 PM »
I think budget meetings all depend on what stage you are at with debt/savings/goals. If you're in debt you probably need more 'budget meetings' to stay on track and remind yourself of the progress. Otherwise I think budget meetings are only necessary if you want to shake things up and need to make some adjustments, such as planning a trip or changing the investment strategy or an unexpected expense, etc.

What my SO and I typically do is look at what we've projected in our savings and check to see if we're on track and adjust as well as we can, typically around paydays. We're both pretty good at saving and putting off purchases till necessary so we don't hold regular meetings we just discuss it as part of our regular conversations when they come up naturally.

ender

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Re: Budget meetings with your SO-advice?
« Reply #13 on: March 12, 2016, 06:48:31 AM »
I have a confession to make. My SO and I have not really been doing budget meetings. Long ago, we did a Your Money or Your Life course, and we are both fairly frugal. We switch off each year who pays the bills, to make sure each of us remains engaged and at least kind of knows the login and rough amounts. At this point, we save 30-40% of take-home though I think this could be higher (because it's my year to do bills so it's more front-and-center).

Because of this nagging feeling, I was roaming around on the YNAB site and came across the idea of budget meetings. I had vaguely heard of this before, but this brought it up again. At one point early on, we had made a big goal to have a paid-off house and no other debt, which we achieved in January 2014. Since then, I feel like we've been slacking and it's time to do something to get a little more on track.

So I'm looking for some advice and experiences from Mustachians. Do you do regular budget meetings with your SO? If you do, when and why did you start? How often do you do this? Do you think it's helped you? If you don't, have you tried it and it didn't work? Or considered it but didn't do it for some reason? Do you have joint finances or separate? And finally, how do you track/budget: specialized software/apps like Mint or YNAB, regular old spreadsheets like Excel, or something else?

I'll share our experience. We have shared finances, use YNAB for monthly tracking, and have a google spreadsheet for our yearly view (which also has columns for each month's income, taxes, 401k, checking account balances, etc). Having both a monthly and yearly picture is really helpful for us.

At the end of every month, we have a "budget date" where we:

  • Reconcile our yearly spreadsheet with YNAB spending
  • Update spreadsheet and verify actual account balances match "spreadsheet"
  • Update above steps until they match
  • Talk through next month's budget
  • Make month-end transfers
  • Talk about any questions we might have for each other
  • Look at the goals we have on our spreadsheet

When we first started, reconciling was... surprisingly hard. We would frequently have to spend a fair bit of time trying to understand why our checking account was off from what it "should have been." Sometimes it's medical expenses, sometimes we forgot to put transactions, sometimes we get random money we forgot to add, sometimes we have cash somewhere we forgot, etc.

The first few months were maddening - why couldn't two mature, responsible adults figure out how to get numbers to line up? My wife is such a great detail person - she wants to know why if we're "off" by more than a few dollars :) Don't be surprised if you start doing this and you feel like it's really hard.

But after a while and now well over a year, the process is streamlined.  It doesn't take very long anymore to do a budget date (maybe an hour? at most?).

I think it helps a lot. Especially because prior to meeting my wife I was WAY more interested in money related things. It is a good place for her to learn about my hobby as well as for us to be on the same team. It helps me feel my wife is onboard with money planning.

It also helps me significantly because I am a big picture person and my wife is a detail person. She relentlessly wants to understand every aspect of our monthly spending and make it all reconcile - I have always been a lot more flexible on this and "ehhh close enough"ed away lots of saving potential prior to being married.

RosieTR

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Re: Budget meetings with your SO-advice?
« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2016, 09:09:02 PM »
Wow, that's really helpful Ender! I definitely feel like more of the money geek of the family...totally can relate to things not reconciling and finding that frustrating. We did do some more strenuous tracking back in the day but have let that slide as things got more complex and automated.
Will definitely use some of this info for our meeting!