Six Steps Forward
Budgeting is hard enough without throwing another person into the mix, let alone a family.
Have you been fighting with a partner about financial decisions? Here are six steps to start moving forward:
1. Is it Really About the Money?
Of course, it is about the money, but what else is it about? This can be hard to work out. Respect? Control? Freedom? Take time to reflect on the emotions that are at play when you have been talking or fighting about the issue. What desires are motivating you? Fear? What unspoken expectations are underneath the words you have said? Get clarity on those things separately, then come back and discuss the things you were not saying. If you feel like you shouldn’t need to say it, then it probably needs to be said – no one is a mind reader!
2. Stop Yelling and Running Away
When I said discuss, I meant with mostly calm voices. It is ok for the discussion to become a little passionate, but if it gets to raised voices then a real resolution won’t happen. Usually, it also triggers one person to run away or withdraw and go silent. As soon as you begin to get louder, take a breath and think about why you are raising your voice. What is the point you are trying to make, and how might you express that without yelling?
3. Start Listening and Reflecting
Yelling is usually also a sign that no one is really listening. So once you get quieter, begin to actually engage with your partner’s opinion. Stay quiet while they explain their position. Then reflect back on what they’ve said to confirm you understand. Again, no one is a mind reader. You should assume that you do not understand until they have said, “Yes, that’s right.” Be curious and ask questions about what they think. Remember: Exploring an idea does not mean that you agree and will carry it out. But it does communicate respect and care. And who knows maybe there is a brilliant idea there that just needs a bit of nurturing. Then ask them to do the same for you. This takes practice and it may require a third party for it to happen effectively. This is a good place to seek the help of a counsellor (hello 😊) to help mediate and navigate.
4. Think About Your Goals and Align Them
Once you have heard each other out, you may have found some solutions. If not, it may have brought up differing expectations and longer-term financial goals. This is a good place to take some time to think and get clarity on your goals for the future. Do you want to pay off the mortgage ahead of schedule, or on time? Do you want to upgrade the car next year? What about a holiday? Is there an investment opportunity to investigate? And what about the weekly shop? What expectations about brand name groceries or allowances for clothing or entertainment, need to be talked about? Go through the same process of listening and reflecting. This will give you a good understanding of each other’s hopes. It wouldn’t hurt to write these down so that you both have clear goals to work towards in the next step…
5. Create a Budget
You knew this one was coming! Now that you have talked through what your priorities are for your finances, it is time for a plan. Without a budget (a plan) to achieve your financial goals, disagreements about money decisions will continue. This might seem overwhelming at first if you have never looked into budgeting. But think of it like learning a new skill. No one knows how to play the piano or fly a plane without lessons, and it is the same with budgeting. What could you do to learn more or take the first step towards budgeting? Maybe it looks like doing a google search for free budgeting tools, buying a book like Barefoot Investor, or talking to an accountant or financial advisor.
6. Talk About Your Progress Regularly
Now that you have a budget in place, commit to talking about it on a regular basis. Depending on your situation, regularly might mean weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Ask questions like, are we progressing towards our goals? What unexpected expenses have popped up recently? Can we increase our income? Is there something we forgot to budget for? What about being generous and setting a donation goal? How can we celebrate achieving a goal, or making progress? By checking in regularly you can begin to proactively problem-solve instead of reactively fight.
Finances can put a big strain on relationships. They can be the focus of relationship counselling. While debt counselling helps you create a practical financial plan, it can also to help improve the relationship. By alleviating financial stress, you will have more energy to spend investing in your relationship goals.