Here’s the truth, you guys: Everyone needs a plan for their money. That’s why everyone needs a budget—and a family budget meeting!
Now, when you hear “budget meeting,” you might think that sounds like a blast or the most awful thing ever (depending on your personality). Regardless of how you feel about it, this meeting is actually so important because this is the time when you sit down and tell your money where to go before the month begins. And you need to do that so you can make sure you and your family stay in control and on the same page when it comes to your finances.
But I know, with the hectic pace of life, it can be hard to find the time to sit down together and do this. That’s why I’ve got you covered with 9 simple steps for making your next (or first!) family budget meeting as awesome as possible.
The Family Budget Meeting Checklist:
Before you even have your budget meeting, it’s super helpful to think through how you want to do it. You can make it a fun experience—there’s no reason for it to be boring! Here’s how to make the budget meeting a success:
1. Mark your calendar.
Imagine plopping down on the couch after a long day, expecting to watch Netflix and order pizza, and then your spouse decides it’s time to budget. Yeah, that’s probably not going to make you love this time together. Your budget meeting shouldn’t be a spur-of-the-moment thing—mark it on your calendar before the month begins.
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And here’s a note for all my single friends: You still need a budget, and you can still have a budget meeting! Find an accountability partner, put it on your calendar, grab yourself a latte, turn on some fun music, and get it done.
2. Set a timer.
There’s no need to spend two hours creating your budget—that’ll only lead to boredom and maybe even some eye rolls. Whether this is your first budget or your 50th, set a realistic time limit (30 minutes should be plenty) and focus on the task at hand.
If you’re frustrated and approaching your 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 (it usually takes about three months to really get the hang of budgeting).
3. Limit distractions.
Put the kids to bed. Get the dishes done so that stack of plates in the sink isn’t staring at you. And turn off your TV (yes, even if Friends reruns are on). 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.
I’m talking pen and paper, an Excel spreadsheet, or an online budgeting tool like EveryDollar (my personal favorite!). 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. Talk about your dreams.
Before you get into the actual budgeting part, take a minute to dream together and talk about your shared goals for the future. Dreams fuel your savings goals by giving you something to work for. You’re able to have direction and purpose instead of floating around not really aiming at anything.
So, whatever your dreams are—a beach vacation, sending your kids to a private school, or retiring early—start your meeting by talking about them so you can find a way to make them a reality by using your budget to its full potential.
7. Keep it zero-based.
Okay, now it’s time to get to work! Step one of your budget should be filling in your income. Then, list all of your expenses for the month in order of importance. First comes giving, then necessities, then debt payments, then saving, then fun money. This way you know you can pay for that date night with confidence and without guilt.
And remember, this should be a zero-based budget—so when you subtract your expenses from your income, the total should be a big fat zero. Give every dollar a job to do, people!
8. Plan for disagreements.
Let’s face it: You and your spouse are different people with different money tendencies. One of you might love doing the budget (that’s my husband), and the other might not get excited about the process of budgeting but love the freedom it gives (that would be yours truly). One of you would rather spend money on a family day at the zoo (aka an experience), and the other would rather spend money on a fancy vacuum (aka a thing). Maybe one of you would rather pay more money for one high-quality item, and the other would rather shop the dollar aisle to get more items for less cash.
And guess what? That’s okay! Our differences make us who we are, so give each other plenty of grace and know that budgeting with your spouse is all about give and take. You’re a team. You’re not engaged in a battle. If one person wants a zoo day, see if you can make up for that cost in another category (like coffee or clothes). Compromise is key!
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 withdraw the exact amount of cash you’ll need for each budget category and keep it in labeled envelopes, or maybe you keep up with your transactions with the EveryDollar app, or maybe it’s a mix of both. It’s up to you! However you decide to do it, make sure you and your spouse are on the same page and totally open with each other about all your purchases.
Stay Focused, Stay Positive
As you’re getting into the swing of budgeting, you might need a few emergency meetings during the month because your plan was a little (or a lot) off. That’s normal!
Fix the occasional hiccups, but don’t obsess over them. Instead, at your next meeting, high five each other for the stuff you did right, like paying off that small debt, or not overspending on groceries, or being more gracious toward your spouse as you learn about why you both handle money the way you do and how to use that information to make some serious progress with your finances.
And that’s what I want to help you do with my upcoming book, Know Yourself, Know Your Money! Preorder your copy today and get over $150 in free bonus items, including the audiobook, e-book, a free call with a Ramsey Preferred Financial Coach, and an exclusive video lesson from me.
About Rachel Cruze
Rachel Cruze is a two-time #1 national best-selling author, financial expert and host of The Rachel Cruze Show. She has appeared on Good Morning America, TODAY Show and Live! With Kelly & Ryan, among others. Since 2010, Rachel has served at Ramsey Solutions, where she teaches people to avoid debt, save money, budget and how to win with money at any stage in life. Follow Rachel on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube or online at rachelcruze.com.