How to Follow a Budget With Your Partner and Still Remain Friends


How to Follow a Budget With Your Partner and Still Remain Friends
This post is brought to you by You Need a Budget.
Images by Chelsey Werth

Master your budget with You Need a Budget. Try it free for 34 days here

Every couple has its strengths and weaknesses. Before Joe and I got married, an acquaintance much older than me said that she wished someone had told her the qualities that made you fall in love with the person would be intrinsically linked to the qualities that will frustrate you a few years later. Joe and I can both attest to that, and thankfully that piece of advice makes it a little easier to bypass resentment. But…we’re only human. Marriage IS choosing to love each other each and every day and, contrary to our more naive impulses, the only person we can change in a marriage is ourselves. Especially when it comes to spending habits. 

Money is often a source of friction for couples. Two savers might feel the regret of missing out on the trips they wish they would have taken before kids, and a saver and a spender might miss where their values do align because their relationship with money is vastly different. And if you and your partner are both spenders like Joe and me, you might find yourself frustrated with the accumulation of things you didn’t need nor really want, and the looming cloud of ever-present disorganization. 

As Joe and I have grown our family, the spender dynamic has become a source of greater disagreement. The financial hangover from spending frivolously was becoming a festering source of anxiety for me and a source of avoidance for Joe, and I found myself wishing someone in the relationship was better able to keep our financial health in check. When this thought crept in, I often went into protector mode and put the hammer down, stating we needed to cut back completely and obsessively checking our statements. I put weekly check-ins on our calendar that neither of us honored and we would slip back into bad habits within a few months.

Like so many of our internal struggles, I kept repeating the same “fix” until I was exhausted and desperately wanted a new way to manage our money. I knew I couldn’t ask Joe to be someone he wasn’t, or expect him to solve the sense of insecurity that was deeply connected to how willing I was to part with my money. 

It was around a time like this that I signed up for my free trial of You Need A Budget (YNAB). I didn’t tell Joe about it until I had taken some classes and messed around with our categories. I wanted both of us to feel the freedom to spend; after all, experiencing new things, going out to dinner, traveling—these were all parts of our relationship we treasured. I wanted to find something that took the friction and financial hangover out of the equation. 

I think Joe could sense something had changed in terms of the way I thought about our finances, or he could hear the excitement in my voice, because the first time I asked him to sit down with me to review our YNAB budget, he didn’t stall. He was curious about our categories and had great insights on what to increase or decrease. 

Instead of fighting, he was bringing his strengths to the table, looking at ways we could get more out of our money now rather than focusing on our regret about what we had spent in the past. I get a little teary when I think about that moment because for all the times I had wished someone would save me from my spending habits, the guy I needed was right here; we just needed to find a way to not look solely at our past mistakes and instead look at ways to make different choices in the future…together. 

Anyway. The emotional relief on its own is a huge win, but I can’t stress how helpful YNAB has been for our day-to-day lives. Joe will share purchases with me now; instead of hiding them (I’m guilty of this too), he will say, “You might have seen a new purchase in my clothing category!!! I got a new hat—and only paid $30 for it.” In the past, this would have never happened. We both noticed the guilt of purchasing was gone, and the need for buying things that didn’t fall into certain categories evaporated. We both feel protective over our travel budget, and cheer for each other when we make choices that align with our YNAB budget.

How to Follow a Budget With Your Partner and Still Remain Friends

Much like many things, having a third party help with something as tricky as finances has been a godsend. Here are some insights for other couples who might be struggling with similar issues: 

  • We created different customized categories that are worthwhile to us. We’ve got our basic utilities and spending categories, and we can choose custom goals to save for too.
    • His big spend: shoes
    • My big spend: furniture 
    • We don’t need to fight about where the money goes if something comes up because we have a category for unexpected things! I highly recommend this!
    • Not ready to merge everything yet? You can still have separate accounts!!
  • YNAB keeps us on the same page every day. I’m the manager of the budget, and Joe can easily view it daily without messing up the categories or labeling!
  • This is a living document; things can and will change. If something happens (like, say, our washing machine and furnace break at the same time) we are able to look at the budget, make adjustments as necessary, and determine how to cover the costs. 

Even if you don’t have a partner, YNAB is a great option for financial planning. When I was single I always had the internal debate of whether to spend or not (guess which won most of the time…). Something like YNAB would’ve taught me how to save with a goal-oriented mindset vs. operating primarily from a mindset of restrictive spending.

Ready to give it a try?
Try it free for 34 days here.

Editor’s Note: This post was sponsored by You Need A Budget. The compensation we receive in exchange for placement on Wit & Delight is used to purchase props, hire a photographer, write/edit the blog post, and support the larger team behind Wit & Delight.

While compensation was received in exchange for coverage, all thoughts and opinions are always my own. Sponsored posts like these allow us to continue to develop dynamic unsponsored content. Thank you for supporting our partners!

BY Kate Arends - April 27, 2021


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