If you are in a relationship, you talk. You communicate about the kids, what to have for dinner, your in-laws, where to go on vacation. However, do you talk about your finances? More importantly, do you discuss your budget?
When we were first married, my husband and I pretty much just let me take care of the finances. We didn’t really ever talk about it. I guess we both assumed (and you know what happens when you do that), that we were doing OK and that as long as the bills were being paid, we were doing well.
When we decided to begin our own debt free journey in 2007, we realized then, how much we were not talking about our overall financial picture. He didn’t realize we had some of the debts, which upset him and I in turn was upset that he didn’t realize how badly we had gotten into debt. It was then that we figured out one key step to have a budget and financial plan to work is to communicate. You can’t have one without the other.
I actually had a reader share this with me on Facebook, and I think it says so much about what many go through financially.
7 years ago, I started having anxiety attacks about money. I had handled all household expenses until that time, and had a budget so specific, even my husband’s cigarettes had their own line in the spreadsheet. None of our utilities had been shut off. Everything was paid on time or in advance.
I had to hand everything over to my husband. Not just because of the anxiety (I would physically throw up while our bank account was loading on the web page), but also because I needed him to learn how to manage if for some reason I was no longer around. He didn’t use my spreadsheet, but did well for 6 years. Sure, now and then we would have no water or electric because he simply forgot to pay the bill. But he would immediately call and get it taken care of.
The last 12 months, something went wrong. And he didn’t want to tell me. So he pretended everything was fine. And it wasn’t. Our electric got shut off, and I had to borrow money from a very close friend to get it turned back on. That was embarrassing enough, but then 2 weeks after my father passed away, my 20 month old car got repossessed. Three months behind in payments, and I didn’t know. It was in his name, so he got all the phone calls, all the letters.
A week after that, our landlord knocked at the door. Two months behind in rent. How did this happen? How did it get this bad? He didn’t know. I have no clue.
So I drew up a spreadsheet 4 weeks ago. Listed out everything. Overestimated electric and water, and also phones just in case I had an international call or text. I told him which services needed to be reduced and gave him no room for negotiation (goodbye, premium cable channels).
Sadly, we were unable to “save” my car. My oldest child knew that it was going to be his first car, as it would be paid out a year before he was to start driving. It was my plan to give my children a car this way, which my parents were never able to give me. He has wide open eyes now. I hate that it happened, but what a great opportunity to teach my son, almost first hand. And I told him, “this is what happens when you don’t make your payments, things get taken away.” He was shocked, and asked a lot of questions. I believe in teaching moments and being honest, so I answered them honestly.
My husband made a catch-up plan with our landlord. Thankfully, the landlord is working with us. It could’ve been so different. And only 4 weeks since our spreadsheet has come into play, we have managed to get another vehicle, and all bills are caught up. By the end of February, we will be slightly ahead.
A budget is so important! (And so is communication.)
I admire this reader for not only sharing her experiences with me, but allowing me to share them with all of you. I hope it helps you realize that you are not alone and what can actually happen to someone if you don’t talk about your finances.
SET A “DATE” NIGHT
Unfortunately, this date night isn’t the type you will probably like. Set up a date with your spouse (or significant other) at least once a month (twice can be even better). The two of you need to look over your budget together (learn more about setting up a budget). Take time to examine your debts, if you have any. Look over your bank accounts and financial statements.
The rule my husband and I have set is that we are not allowed to raise our voices when we talk money. It can easily make you feel anxious and/or upset, but yelling at one another will not fix anything. If we find we are getting upset for any reason, we take a minute, calm down and then continue our talk as rational adults. We’ve been able to make some great decisions by making sure our emotions are not directing our finances.
This helps you both know exactly where you stand, financially. You will see where your money is being spent and if you need to make changes to your budget, you can do so together. If you find that you are running short to cover the rent or the car payment, you will both know about and can work together to make the changes necessary to ensure you don’t get behind.
Not only do you get an overall picture, you both know where to find documents. Make sure that you both know the passwords for your financial institutions (if you’ve changed them). Take a minute and talk about these important issues, should the need arise for one of you to take over and cover this part of your relationship (in the instance of an accident or unexpected trip due to work, etc).
As in the case of our reader above, failure to communicate can result in less than pleasant endings. Setting up the time to talk to one another makes all the difference. If you don’t talk about finances, you can build up resentment (or other feelings) against one another. Just keep your lines of communication open to ensure you can achieve your financial goals —- together!
Need help setting up your own budget? Make sure you read more about How to Create a Budget That Works!!