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In our last blog post, we discussed the best strategy to convince your spouse to budget. But that’s only half the battle.
Once you finally establish a realistic budget, how do you make sure you and your spouse stay on the same page?
Nick and I identified 4 tactics that keep us acting like a team when it comes to our money and marriage.
#1 – Get Rid of the Spender vs. Saver Label
It’s the norm to label yourself as a spender or a saver. But I think we’re all a mix of both. You may like spending money differently than your spouse, but I think we’d all be lying if we said we don’t like spending on ANYTHING.
Saving is the same way. Maybe saving comes naturally to you, but not so much for your spouse. But there’s SOMETHING that will motivate EVERYONE to save. For you, it may just be seeing your net worth grow. For your spouse, maybe it’s growth in your Caribbean vacation fund (I’m in the Caribbean boat). If you and your spouse establish your why together and set a realistic budget to work towards your goals, then the spender vs. saver labels should fall by the wayside.
Ultimately, it comes down to what Carol Dweck identifies as a fixed vs. growth mindset. In a fixed mindset, you believe that you have fixed traits and abilities with limited control over your own improvement/ accomplishments in life… you’re either a winner or a loser… a spender or a saver.
But in a growth mindset, you’re in control. Wanna get better at saving money? In the growth mindset, it’s well within your control to learn about finance and improve your own money situation.
Labeling yourself as a spender or a saver plays into the fixed mindset. It tricks you into thinking your success with money is pre-determined.
I’m sure there are people who could debate over mindsets and labels all day long, but it comes down to this… It does not benefit you to label yourself as a spender or a saver.
It is much better to track your money, look back on the past month and think, “Wow, I’ve been spending more money than I should. And I’m not happy with my savings. But I can change that! I’m going to take control of my finances so that I’m happy with where my money goes next month.”
You may be thinking, “Ok. I shouldn’t use the spender label, but I’m a saver. And that’s a good thing! So I’ll still use that one.” But that takes away the effort you put into being wise with your money!
Instead of labeling yourself a saver, look back at what you saved last month and think, “Wow! I worked really hard to be mindful about what I did with my money. And it paid off! I want to help my spouse get on the same page so he/ she can feel how rewarding it is to work toward and reach our money goals for the month.”
Labels will get you nowhere. But Carol Dweck’s growth mindset will get you just about anywhere you want to go.
#2 – Find a Tool to Keep You on the Same Page
This step is crucial! It doesn’t matter what tool you choose… it can be an app, the cash envelope system, or a beautiful Excel sheet that you color code to complement the feng shui in your living room… just pick a tool and stick to it.
If you’ve spent much time on our site, you probably know our tool of choice is You Need A Budget (YNAB). It can be a little complicated to set up, but the pay off is huge. Nick and I both have the app on our phone, so we have an up-to-date briefing on our budget everywhere we go.
Side note – If you’re looking for a little help setting up your YNAB account, check out Nick’s step-by-step video here. If you’re still trying to figure out if YNAB is right for you, check out Nick’s review of the software here.
If I’m at TJ Maxx and find a french bulldog onesie I’m dying to buy, I can instantly check how much spending money I have left for the month. It gives me the freedom to make a wise decision without calling Nick and asking “permission” every time I want to buy something. And it grants him the same freedom!
In short, YNAB (or whatever tool you choose) is to your budget what a double sink is to your master bathroom… a marriage saver. So don’t skip over finding the right tool for you and your spouse!
#3 – Celebrate Milestones
I come from a family of die-hard Alabama fans. And if you know anything about college football, you’ve probably heard the name Bear Bryant… a man whose wisdom stretches far beyond the realm of football. Years ago, my dad printed a copy of a letter The Bear sent to a football recruit and highlighted this quote:
There are no easy ways but there are ways to enjoy the journey and we must find them.
This quote applies to football, marriage, personal finance, and life in general. There are no easy ways, but you can still enjoy the journey.
So how do you figure out your finances while enjoying the journey? Identify your long-term financial goals. And celebrate your small successes on the way to achieving them.
Maybe you’re trying to save $20k for a down payment, and you were able to save an extra $500 this month because you spent less on groceries and decreased your fun money budget. Celebrate by treating you and your spouse to a coffee shop date. Talk about what a great month you had, and write down the things that made it such a success. Then write down ways to make next month even better.
Celebrating small wins keeps you both motivated and on the same page with your finances and long-term goals.
Maybe you and your spouse naturally talk all the time. Or maybe life is so hectic it’s hard for you to get past the “how was your day?” small talk. Either way, you should schedule a time where you and your spouse spend quality time talking about your finances one-on-one.
Ideally, Nick and I like to sit down at least every other week to have a focused conversation about our finances. Sometimes we even treat ourselves to Waffle House or dessert out to make budget talks that much more fun! ;-)… Sometimes we all need a little extra encouragement to tackle a finance discussion.
It’s a Journey… Failures Don’t Define You
Establishing and sticking to your budget will be HARD! There will be days when you want to throw in the towel. And there will be months where disaster strikes and you can’t even see your budget in the rearview mirror. When that happens, remember another piece of advice from Bear Bryant’s letter:
…win with humility… and take [losing] with dignity while planning to come back.
A great team wins, and loses, well. They learn from their successes and failures. And that’s exactly what you and your spouse should aim to do.
Marriage makes you and your spouse a team. But it’s up to you whether your team journeys to greatness or mediocrity.
We are so glad you’re here, and we appreciate you taking the time to read this post. If we can help you in any way, don’t hesitate to reach out using our contact page. We’re always here to help!
So get rid of those fixed mindset labels, find your tool, celebrate your milestones, and take every opportunity to have intentional conversations with your spouse. And ALWAYS find ways to enjoy the journey! 🙂