Honestly, the budgeting process largely looks the same for singles as it does for couples, but instead of one person’s financial goals and financial issues there are two variations. I want to share tips that have helped Rachael and I since we got married.
1. Put Everything on the Table
Before you can even create a budget, you need to be honest with each other about how you think about and deal with money, as well as what your goals are with money. Only after you’ve discussed these things can you actually create a realistic budget for yourselves.
Are you a spender? A saver? What makes you uncomfortable when it comes to money? What will make you sleep well at night?
As Rachael and I started working on this, we realized we are pretty similar when it comes to how we think about and deal with money, but we have some areas that we differ. Knowing those helped us create a budget that made us both feel good.
For example, Rachael is much more conservative when it comes to investments. When we got married, I brought along a rental property which I talk about more here. Rachael was a bit nervous about this, but we talked through why it was important to me and how it could impact our money goals positively. After doing so, we also agreed that we wouldn’t overextend ourselves by acquiring tons of properties. We own our current residence, and we have one rental property. Our main focus is paying that property off first before acquiring another.
As another example, Rachael is more of a shopper than I am. She also prefers to buy high quality items that will last a long time. She likes to buy for value, but sometimes that comes with a higher price tag that I’m used to. If I was living alone, I’d almost never go shopping (this includes things for the house that we need like pots, pans, furniture, etc. as well as clothes). Spending money on these things felt wasteful to me. However, just like with the rental, she talked about the importance of these things, and we created a budget amount for shopping each month. That way, I never get uncomfortable buying stuff because I know it’s a part of our budget and the overall budget is helping us meet our savings goals too.
During this discussion, you can talk to each other about the things that you tend to splurge on versus the things that you tend to skimp on. For Rachael, she would eat every meal at home so that she can have more money to go shopping. For me, I would never go shopping so that I could eat more meals out, particularly at Chipotle. These financial priorities need to be balanced. However, they can’t be balanced unless you disclose them so make sure you have an open and honest discussion about your financial priorities.
2. Create the Budget Together
As I talked about in this post, creating and tracking the budget together is extremely important. By doing so, you’re making sure that you’re creating your money goals together and creating budget categories and amounts that you’re both comfortable with.
At this time, you can make sure that your financial priorities are balanced against those of your spouse. If one person creates the budget without the feedback from the other, only one person’s financial priorities will be taken into account. Further, creating the budget together helps both people “buy in” or become invested in not only the creation of the budget but also following through with it month to month.
Once you have the budget set, you can have one person track it monthly, but if you haven’t agreed on what you’re going to spend money on and how much you’re going to invest and save, someone will always feel frustrated or left out. Take a few hours to create your budget, and you’ll feel much better. Then at the end of each year, if someone got a raise or your income changed in a negative direction, you can make the necessary adjustments and keep moving forward.
Your budget isn’t a “set it and forget it” sort of thing. You should do your best to hold to your budget for the year, and then determine whether or not any changes are needed going into the new year. One of the few reasons to adjust your budget mid-year is if you aren’t bringing in as much money as when you started the year. If that’s the case, you’ll need to cut from certain categories.
3. Track Your Budget Together Throughout the Month
It’s nearly impossible to stick to your budget if you don’t track along with your budget throughout the month. At the very least, total up your receipts every two weeks so that you know where you stand. This allows you to game-plan for the rest of the month so that you don’t go over in any of your categories.
We recommend tracking the budget together for a couple of reasons. First, having two sets of eyes on the budget, credit card, and bank accounts help ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. Second, tracking the budget together ensures that one person is not left trying to temper or stop the spending of the other person. You don’t want to have to be the person in the couple who is constanly reminding the other person that they cannot spend more money on X or Y.
We realize that this is a time consuming task and having two people duplicate the task seems inefficient. However, your budget is one of the most important, if not the most important, thing to running your home and keeping your life under control. Take 10 minutes every week or so to add up the categories during lunch or during halftime of the football game. Having an active hand in your budget is invaluable.
4. Assess Your Risk Tolerance Individually and as a Team
When creating your budget, it’s important to identify what your individual risk tolerances are. Typically, in a partnership someone is more tolerant of risk, even if both people are very conservative or very risky. Rachael tends to be more conservative than I am. I feel like I’m pretty conservative, but Rachael is definitely more so.
Because of this, we created our savings and investment strategy around Rachael’s risk tolerance. Why? Because then we both sleep well every night. I’m definitely not worried, but she isn’t either. If we made our decisions based on my risk tolerance, Rachael might feel uneasy or nervous at times about our financial situation. Our experience has been to eliminate this feeling from both of us so that our overall financial stress levels are very low.
Risk tolerance is not something that will affect your monthly budget categories but is something that should be considered and underlines big financial decisions and long-term financial goals.
5. Aim for a 25%+ Savings Rate
A lot of financial experts recommend saving 5% of 10%, or even 15% of your money. We recommend aiming for 25% or more. Today, people tend to be very wasteful with money. If you create a very intentional budget, I think you’ll find you can save a lot more than you think. If you’re paying off student debt or credit card debt, this savings rate can be tough, but it’s still a good target to shoot for. With two people earning wages, and no kids, you should be able to sock away 25%. Make it a goal and stick to it. You’ll be glad you did when you start to have kids (or even if you don’t have kids).
Developing the habit of saving aggressively will ensure a lifetime of stress-free financial situations and perhaps an early retirement.
What do you think of these tips for dual income couples with no kids? Would you add any?