Money Talks, So Should You

Q&A: How do I approach my spouse about setting up a household budget?

Mechel Glass
by Mechel Glass, Dimespring Contributor  (@CredAbility)

It doesn’t take long for couples to realize that some important marital issues must be approached delicately; finances are one of those. If you have some concerns about reaching your financial goals  or that you and your spouse have different goals  it’s important to find ways to discuss your spending priorities and savings plans. If you don’t, eventually one person may resent the other and cause irreparable damage to your relationship.

If you’ve had difficulty speaking with your spouse about financial issues, here are some tips that may help you come to the table to start that conversation:

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Set aside time to speak to your spouse about your short- and long-term financial goals. Write down and share your goals with your spouse, whether it’s saving to own a business or a second house on the beach. Let your spouse know that you need their help to achieve these goals. If you have young children or want to start a family, discuss your desire to send your child to college. Let your spouse know that it’s important to talk now about long-term goals. It will enable you to plan and make any necessary short-term sacrifices.  

Meet your spouse more than halfway. Offer to reduce your spending by a specific amount and challenge your spouse to do the same. Start with a small amount, such as $10 or $25 a week. Show your spouse you are doing your part by giving up a weekend movie and cutting back on other items. Once you are able to engage your spouse in reducing your debt, broaden the discussion to create a comprehensive household budget. Let your spouse know that to achieve your goals, it’s important to have a handle on the family’s financial well-being. Offer to save money to create a joint emergency fund, save for a down payment on a house, or even to build a joint retirement nest egg.

Order your credit report and credit score. If you plan to buy a new car or a home, it is crucial that both people know and understand your credit profile. Everyone is entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies every 12 months. Log onto www.annualcreditreport.com to obtain copies of your reports and consider purchasing your credit score from myfico.com for $19.95. Once you have this information, sit down with your spouse and examine both of your credit scores and debt-to-income ratios. Lenders will use this information when assessing loan applications.

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Let your spouse know you will help them achieve their goals. You’re in this marriage together, so give equal weight to your spouse’s career and financial goals. Ask your spouse about their long-term financial goals and how they expect to achieve them. Once you understand your spouse’s financial goals, it will be easier to create a comprehensive household budget.

Calculate your net worth and share that information with your spouse. Develop a list of assets and liabilities that show your family’s net worth that provides full-, part-time or supplemental income, monthly expenses, and existing loan and credit card debt, insurance policies and investment accounts. Share this information with your spouse so that together, you can develop a road map for your financial future. Laying out your current financial situation and goals shows that you care and are willing to work with them to achieve your combined goals.

Mechel Glass is vice president of community outreach for CredAbility. She is responsible for coordinating community outreach and financial education activities across the agency’s regions and developing new education programs for both classroom settings and online. Glass, a U.S. Army veteran, is also co-author of “The Veteran’s Money Book,” scheduled for publication in April 2014 by Career Press. The book can now be ordered on Amazon.com.