Budget Meetings: How To Get Your Month Lined Out without Losing Your Mind
Budget Meetings: Plan Your Financial Future Without Losing Your MindChris and I have been having monthly budget meetings since we decided to get serious about paying off our debts. We set aside a nap-time hour on either Saturday or Sunday before the next month starts and, being that I am the queen of spreadsheets around here, I do all the prep and present the next month's budget for discussion.
These meetings are SO important for the health of our finances because it keeps us on the same page constantly and he always knows exactly where we are financially during the month and what is happening with our money when we make our debt snowball payment.
Before we started Dave Ramsey, I would just check the bank account online every other day or so and write down all the new, random, unplanned (and unnecessary) charges, and then at the end of the month wonder where the heck all our money was.
Now that we are on this written budget, I hardly even have to check the bank account anymore and I know exactly where every dollar is, will be going, or has already been. I've written out a map for our money and it is no longer a lost little tyke in the woods, looking for a place to land. We've given it a GPS and a Corvette to get to the finish line as quickly as possible, and cleared all the traffic to avoid any delays.
Anyways, I happen to love all the organizing and planning and detailed work that comes with this. Chris, however, does not, and understandably would rather play Playstation for an hour than do math and I can't really say I blame him. Not everyone is as nerdy as me! ;) So to make it fun for him (and even more fun for me if that were even possible) here are a few things we do for budget meetings!
Get Some Colorful Tools
My "Live With Intention" notebook was a gift from someone and I'm so glad I hung on to it - we have had it for about three years! I can never seem to find a reason to not need a pretty notebook! Anyways, it is perfect for this because the cover reminds me to choose to be intentional every day and the inside is color coded! This is our budget notebook and everything money related goes down in here. Our debt snowball plan & timeline is listed in here, our monthly budget, budget meeting notes, goals, and even our grocery list and master price list is in here. If there is any question about any kind of money in our house, the answer lies in this book. It is fun for me to keep track of everything because it is all nice, organized, and fun to look at! Score one for Skye!
Talk About Things You Want During the Month
Chris and I have made it a priority to take care of the things that we need first and to talk about things we want later. In January, I had a haircut scheduled that I could have easily cancelled and just dealt with my hair. A haircut is not really a need - and for me that means I'm not going to die if I don't have one. Now - I will definitely be really cranky about my hair but it is not a life or death decision. But I really wanted it! So we talked about it, added it to our budget, and allocated the cash for it. Chris wanted to keep his subscription for Bowhunter magazine going and he really enjoys reading it (and it is pretty cheap at $10/year) so we added it in to the budget and renewed it.
Living on a written budget does not mean getting rid of all the fun expenses! It means planning ahead for them, being intentional about where your money goes, and prioritizing the ones that are really important to you. It is more about making smart, planned, intentional choices with your money than just spending willy-nilly on things that weren't part of your plan.
Plan with The End Goal in Mind
Every financial decision we make is now openly discussed between two people who are on the same page financially and have the same end goal in mind. Would I love to be spending money on a new outfit once a month? Well, no if I'm being honest I would rather have $100 every month to shop with wild abandon at Trader Joe's. But that does not align with our shared end goal, which is to get out from underneath our student loans so we can start saving for retirement. Everything is pitted against that and when you look at it with a long-term point of view, $100 worth of food from Trader Joe's, no matter how delicious it may be, does not make sense.
Have a Treat!
We have only been out to eat twice in the last 45 days. TWO TIMES. Somebody pinch me. That is a big deal for us because we love to eat out and it is so much easier to grab something on the way home than cook a meal, eat it, and clean the kitchen afterwards. I have to say, I am pretty proud of us for this! So, in that light, we always like to indulge ourselves a little bit for a budget meeting. And by this I mean, we get a shake from Sonic or grab some yogurt or maybe have a few cookies from the grocery story bakery. It is always $5 or less but it is something sweet to look forward to during the meeting!
Chris instilled this part of the plan and that is to always, always, always get naked after our budget meetings. Being married is so hard even on the really good days, and when you're shoveling yourself out of a mountain of debt, you can sometimes lose sight of other important things, like laughing together, exercising, and being physically intimate. This plan to get debt free has made us so much closer in all the aspects of our marriage - and because Chris suggested that at the very beginning, it is also bringing us closer together physically! Score One for Chris! (yes, pun totally intended.)
I'll be back tomorrow sharing a peek at our budget and debt snowball so far! What are some of your tips for monthly budget meetings?
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