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It is not news to anyone who knows me that I LOVE budgets, money and everything to do with organizing finances. Seriously, in another life, I was probably an accountant. I have been the primary budgeter in our family since our first budget together – our wedding budget.
I could go on and on about budgeting, ways to save money, and my latest great buy.
My husband, Brian, on the other hand, does not feel the same way. He agrees to live on a budget and he will discuss it briefly if he has to. But for the most part, he wants to live life and know our bills are getting paid.
I’m sure it goes without saying that I’m a bit of a control freak. Hence the tagline “control your controllables.” Pair my need to be in control with my love of everything money, and it was fitting that I would take the primary lead of our budget, bill paying, etc. once we were married. This has been our way of life for the nearly 13 years we have been married, until recently.
It all began on an uneventful March day when Brian informed me we needed a new grill. I’ll save you the details of that heated argument, but the main point is he thought we needed one, and I disagreed and didn’t want to spend our money. He went to work and after the kids were in bed, I got to thinking. I had a great idea, but I knew (given our heated argument) that I needed to present it in the right way.
I would entirely relinquish control of the budget for the following month.
We would switch roles – I would put my receipts in the “HOME file” and he would rectify them, along with the credit card statement, checking account, and update Every dollar.
I was not suggesting this as a way to prove a point or see him fail, though I knew that is how it would appear. I honestly thought if we switched roles we would be able to communicate about the budget and our spending better.
Honestly, I shocked myself with this idea.
Remember I LOVE budgeting, and I LOVE control, and I was going to give both up for a month completely. I knew it was the right answer, and I figured if nothing else it would be an interesting experiment that should at least allow us to communicate better. Plus, how much damage can be done in one month?!
Brian agreed immediately, even though I continued to justify why I thought it would be a good idea. He didn’t need any convincing. I said I would answer any questions he may have and offer assistance throughout the month as needed.
Okay, I tried to offer some unsolicited assistance throughout the month, but it was hard to let go. In my defense, the budget had been my baby for 13 years.
The outcome was . . . AMAZING!
He asked very few questions, and we stayed within budget for the entire month. Then at the beginning of May, I said we needed to have a budget meeting. It was time to review our current year spending and plan for the rest of the year and set some goals.
For the first time, Brian was agreeable to this meeting.
I credit five things to this change:
- I gave him warning that we needed to schedule a budget meeting. He knew it was coming and it was a proactive rather than a reactive meeting.
- I prepared all of the documents that we would need to review to have a productive meeting. This included annual budget reviews from 2016, 2017, 2018 thus far, and an estimated budget for the year to come.
- He was more invested and knowledgeable about the budget because he had been in charge of it for the previous month.
- I met him where he was at, literally. Brian was relaxing in the hammock in the backyard, and I suggested we hold our budget meeting right there. He agreed, and I quickly ran to get the materials before he changed his mind. I pulled up a lawn chair, and we hashed out our finances right there comfortably in the backyard.
- It was Mother’s Day. Can he say no to his wife’s simple request on Mother’s Day?!
After April came and went Brian approached me with an idea for how we could divide and conquer budgeting and financial management moving forward. I was shocked that he wanted to keep doing some of it, and I was surprised that I was okay giving up the control indefinitely.
Now we both have a role in the family finances, which allows us to keep each other accountable and understand the process better. He still has to remind me to let him do his part and not interfere or micromanage.
Brian was able to bring a fresh perspective to the budget and suggest positive changes about how to streamline some of the processes I was doing.
He asked some of the tough questions, “Why are we doing it that way? Do we need to do that twice? Why are we spending so much on XYZ?”
Sometimes you get stuck in a rut of doing something one way because that is the way you’ve always done it. I did get a bit defensive. I’m trying to get better at accepting his insight and appreciate the fresh perspective. He has challenged me and the process to ensure we were efficient and effective.
The best part about this is it will be easier to convince Brian to have a monthly budget meeting. He doesn’t love having them, and in the past he rarely had questions. He just wanted to make sure there was money for what we wanted to do. Now that he’s the primary on the budget we have to meet so he can explain things to me. I have lots of questions, and he would much rather meet once a month than have me ask questions every single day.
After this last budget meeting, I was energized. It felt great to have a conversation about financial goals, plan our spending and even be challenged in our past expenditures.
Similar to parenting we may do things differently, but both ways get the job done.
Our budget just like our children is better because of the different styles we bring to the situation.