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How to Balance Savings and Fun as a Married Couple

We’ve all been there.

You sit down with your spouse for a budget meeting. Everything’s sunshine and roses until you get to the big stuff. That’s when the tempers flare.

Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, 31% of couples say money is a major sore spot in their relationship.

So how do you and your spouse get on the same page? Let’s look at an example of how one couple did it.

Seth and Marta: Future vs. Fun

With no debt and a healthy emergency fund, Seth and Marta thought they’d hit smooth sailing. But ever since they reached Baby Step 4, stress has been creeping back into their budget discussions.

31% of couples say money is a major sore spot in their relationship.

After giving and household expenses, there’s $1,800 left over each month for savings. They both know retirement is non-negotiable. The part they can’t agree on is how much to sock away each month.

  • Marta wants to throw all of their extra dough toward their nest egg, with the occasional splurge on a home improvement project.
  • Seth thinks they should live a little now that they’re no longer on a beans-and-rice budget. He wants to travel while their kids are young, and he wouldn’t mind a car upgrade.

Here’s how they worked through their money differences.

Start With Feeling

The next time they sit down to talk about their budget, Marta tries a new approach. Instead of criticizing Seth, she brings out the big guns: her feelings.

  • Marta explains that the idea of running out of money in retirement scares her because she sees how stressed out her parents are due to a lack of planning. Seth never realized the future instilled so much fear in his wife.
  • Seth tells Marta he feels burned out after three years of scrimping and saving to get to where they are today. A little fun would motivate him to keep working toward their financial future.

Putting their emotions on the table diffuses the tension and enables the couple to give each other grace moving forward. 

Attach a Number to Your Retirement Dream

The one thing Seth and Marta both agree on is that they want to spend lots of time with family in retirement, with a little travel on the side. They just don’t know how much money it will take to make that dream happen. That job calls for an expert!

No more money fights! Get on the same page with your money!

Their investing advisor works with Seth and Marta to figure out how much income they’ll need to support their retirement dream, making sure to account for potential healthcare expenses. From there, they can calculate a specific retirement goal.

Based on their pro’s advice, Seth and Marta decide to work toward a $2 million nest egg. There’s no arguing with math. If they want to hit their target by age 65, they’ll need to set aside $925 each month for the next 30 years.

Take Turns With the Rest

That leaves $875 a month to spread across other savings goals. So who wins the pot? They both do! Seth and Marta take a classic lesson from toddlerhood and practice the art of sharing. Here’s how.

Marta knows Seth could use some fun to get him motivated again. Since home improvement projects and car upgrades aren’t a pressing need, they decide to prioritize a family vacation. For the next four months, they put the whole $875 toward saving for a trip, giving them $3,500 to work with.

After a week of much-needed rest and relaxation, Seth is more than happy to let Marta buy the new couch she’s been pining for. It takes them two months to save up.

Then it’s Seth’s turn again. His car is worth about $10,000 right now and still has life in it. They decide to put $500 a month toward a new-to-them car, giving them an additional $6,000 to work with at the end of a year. In the meantime, they let the rest of the savings pile up so they have a good stockpile for their next family vacation or home upgrade, whichever comes first. 

This system works for Seth and Marta because they each get a vote. They can’t both win every time. But they know they won’t lose every time either. That’s the beauty of compromise.

Let’s Get Back to You

This is all well and good for Seth and Marta, but what about you? You might not have $1,800 to work with each month, and that’s okay. You can still use the power of compromise to bring peace to your budget meetings every month.

If you’re not sure how much to invest for retirement, 15% of your household income is a good place to start. Of course, it’s always best to pull in an expert. A good investing advisor can help you and your spouse identify the dreams that matter most to you and will work to turn those priorities into a plan. You’ll both feel confident having a concrete number to fix your eyes on.

Need help finding an investing professional you can trust? We can connect you with an advisor we recommend in your area.

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners.