Everyone needs a plan for their money. That’s why everyone needs a budget—and a family budget meeting.
This is simply a time when you sit down and tell your money where to go before the month begins. But with the hectic pace of life, it can be hard to find the time to do this.
We get it. And we’ve got you covered.
It’s the small wins that will lead to the bigger ones.
Here are nine easy steps for making your next (or first!) family budget meeting better.
The Family Budget Meeting Checklist:
1. Mark your calendar. Imagine sitting down on the couch after a long day, expecting to watch a movie, and your spouse decides it’s time to budget. Yeah. That’s a recipe for disliking this time together. Your budget meeting shouldn’t be a spur-of-the-moment thing—mark it on your calendar before the month begins.
2. Set a timer. There’s no need to spend an hour together creating your budget. That will lead to boredom and frustration. Depending on if this is your first budget or your fiftieth, set a realistic time limit (give or take 30 minutes) and focus on the task at hand.
Why do you handle money the way you do? Take our quiz to find out!
3. Limit distractions. Put the kids to bed. Get the dishes done so that greasy casserole pan isn’t taunting you. And turn off your TV. Invest in this time—it’s only half an hour a month! You can do it.
4. Have snacks. Because everything is better with chips and queso. Or chocolate chip cookies. Or hot cocoa . . . you get the idea.
5. Ready your tools. We’re not talking handsaws and hammers here. We’re talking pen and paper or a great online budget tool, like EveryDollar. Decide what you’ll use to make your budget and have it ready to go. Also, log in to your bank account so you have an accurate picture of your monthly deposits and payments. No guessing!
6. Order matters. Start your budget by filling in your income. Then divide everything up from there. First comes giving. Then necessities. Then debt payments. Then saving. Then fun money. This way you know you can pay for the pizza delivery with confidence and without guilt.
7. Plan for disagreements. Here’s a common scenario: One of you will need to spend $50 on a haircut. And the other will think that’s crazy. Hey, don’t judge. Budgeting with your spouse is all about give and take. You are a team. You’re not engaged in a battle. If one person wants a pricey haircut, make up for that cost in another category (like coffee or clothes). Compromise is key.
8. Stick to your time limit. If you’re frustrated and approaching your 30-minute cutoff time, take a break until the next day. It’s okay to need a little more time, especially with the first few budgets you make. Sometimes, you just need to sleep on something to get a little extra clarity (and to calm down, let’s be honest).
9. Track your spending. A budget is great, but it won’t do you much good if you leave your meeting without a specific way to stick to it. Figure out how you’re going to track your spending over the course of the next month. Maybe you get cash out, or maybe you keep up with your transactions with the EveryDollar app, or maybe it’s a mix of both. How you do it is up to you. Just be sure to do it.
Stay Focused, Stay Positive
You might need a few emergency meetings during the month because your plan was a little—or a lot—off. That’s okay. That’s normal, in fact!
Fix the occasional hiccups, but don’t fixate on them. Instead, at your next meeting, congratulate yourself for the stuff you did right. Like paying off that small debt. Or transferring money into your car fund. Or simply not overspending on groceries.