[Editor's Comments: Lara McElderry is the host of the Married To Doctors Podcast. We have no financial relationship. The podcast (and blog) aims to “make successful homes happier” through sharing stories and hearing from experts in marriage relationships. Lara has supported her husband through medical school, residency, a specialty change, fellowship, and raising five sons! Being a spouse of a doctor comes with many demands and challenges, just ask my wife! Many people have asked me, “How do you do all this WCI stuff and practice medicine?” The truth is 95% of that answer is “Katie.” Happy Valentine's Day! ]
Is there a romantic side to budgeting? I believe there is. It’s not that spreadsheets are sexy; it’s that budgeting can help us feel more connected to our partners when we both understand our financial picture. Making a budget and speaking about money may be uncomfortable at times, but it’s one of the best things we can do for our relationships.
At the risk of sounding gender stereotypical, when I married my husband I wanted him to deal with the finances and keep the budget. He was the math and chemistry major and I was working on a Master’s degree in teaching. Clearly, he should do the numbers!
With time, and his demanding specialty choice as a general surgeon coupled with our decision to have a family, the finances fell to me. Though I always kept the lights on, we needed a better plan and we needed some education. Not content to just get by anymore, I’ve made major strides in my financial understanding of what is best for our family, and the starting point was: our budget. Since then I’ve realized that not only does having a budget help keep my family more financially fit, but it helps to strengthen my marriage as well. Here are five reasons why.
5 Reasons Budgeting Helps Strengthen a Marriage
Having increased honesty is a benefit of budgeting together. The truth can hurt, but anyone who has been lied to will tell you the larger pain was in the disappointment that their loved one felt they couldn’t be honest. If you have a spending habit your partner is unaware of you should let them know and soon. If your net worth is negative (as it is for most physicians for several years) please say so when getting into a relationship. Don’t deceive, it’s not nice. Coming clean and being 100% honest clears the air and allows for new conversations otherwise unavailable. If you admit deception, you’ve made a hard choice and your partner may be upset. Expect that, and be okay with it. Admit you were wrong and own it. Give them room for some anger or confusion. It will pass and there really is no better time to come clean then now. Having financial secrets does not a happy relationship make.
2) Sharing Your Goals
Openly communicating about your goals can help you to decide where money fits into the picture. Too often, money becomes the picture and the rest of our life is but an appendage. Don’t let this happen. Put your goals first: family, travel, opening a private practice, taking in an aging parent, mission work, triathlon, or retiring early. Be genuine and be you. Remember money is a tool and neither good or evil. It won’t make you happy or sad. It’s your actions with that money that determine your happiness. When money is used toward goals aligned with your personal values, happiness increases.
3) Admitting a Weakness
What if one partner doesn’t like keeping a budget? What if (gasp!) we aren’t self-disciplined? People struggle with going to the gym, drinking less, eating right, etc. We are humans. Now, some people love going to the gym, some never drink, and some have eaten a healthy diet for years. Likewise, some people love spreadsheets and seeing numbers. Many of us don’t. We will never geek out and read all of the financial books recommended to us. Remember that when talking to a partner who isn’t a budgeter, it’s like exercise, we know we should, the intention is there, but the follow-through is so hard. Taking time to openly discuss the importance of budgeting and finding accountability methods will help. Expect setbacks, but still budget. Together. Even with a reluctant spouse. Together, together, together.
When the budget is made by and understood by both partners you will feel more connected to each other. There’s a lot of information out there on money and happiness in marriage. Guess what? When partners don’t have financial stress taking up brain space they can make room for intimate thoughts. This improves a marriage and makes greater satisfaction in the bedroom. Yes, I just told you to get your budget in order for the sake of your sex life. You’re welcome.
5) Take Action
Finally, when you are truly honest, you’ve shared goals where money is the tool, not the object, you admit weaknesses and keep trying, and you’re connecting more with your partner you will be able to take action. Decisions that were overwhelming before start to iron themselves out in the space you’ve now created with your partner. Big decisions like selling your home, starting your own practice, having children, or retiring are all more easily addressed when partners come together and work within a budget and a financial plan.
Relationships are tough and take effort. They also bring us great joy. I’m not suggesting my relationship was awful before we budgeted, nor am I suggesting that we now have a perfect marriage. But I am offering my experience, that when we took time to make a budget, our relationship improved. We all know that our portfolios are not a direct correlation to our overall happiness. Sometimes it is good old fashioned, sitting around the table with pencil and paper and a pile of receipts and sharing our weaknesses and heartfelt goals that get us the best results. In all of our studying and learning, let us not forget the ones we love the most. Be honest with your partner, share your goals, admit weaknesses, connect more, and take action. Doing so improved my marriage, and I believe the benefits of budgeting will make successful homes happier.
What ideas do you have about how to successfully work with your spouse on a budget? Did you find your relationship improving after implementing a budget and financial plan? Comment below!