Whether you’re considering merging finances with your significant other (SO) or you’ve already been married for years, you know by now that the money talk is necessary. You just might be tired of having it.
That’s where a regularly scheduled finance or budget meeting can help.
Money is no longer a daily topic of conversation. By setting aside time weekly or monthly to talk about long-term goals, you and your SO can find yourselves living them without having to say a word.
Here’s why you and your significant other might gain value from a recurring meeting, along with a four-step plan for trying it out.
How to have a successful finance meeting with your SO
When my wife and I started thinking about how to have a finance meeting, we thought about what made meetings work at our day jobs. We wanted ours to be about action — to help us make a financial plan and track our progress.
These four steps got us started.
1. Set aside time and stick to it
It’s easy to put off a conversation if you don’t want to have it in the first place. Your first finance meeting might feel like homework, and you might be less inclined to stick to the routine for subsequent meetings.
To combat this, set a recurring meeting time and stick to it. My wife and I meet before dinner on the first of every month, no matter what.
Meeting regularly also helps you get on the same page when it comes to spending and saving. Before my wife and I got married, we used our meeting to evenly divide regular expenses using the Splitwise app. Now, we’re better at budgeting as a couple using Mint.
Set a length for the meeting as well. Having just an hour, for example, forces you to be organized about how you use the meeting time. You might set a timer so you can focus on your agenda without watching the clock.
2. Customize your meeting agenda
To make the most of your time, organize the discussion before it starts. You could even use your first finance meeting to discuss how future meetings should be run.
My wife and I created a shared document online to organize our meetings. The agenda is structured so we review the following:
- Action items from our last meeting
- Our monthly budget
- Mid- and long-term savings goals
- Financial lessons we learned over the last month
We also like having an open forum at the end of each meeting so we can bring up any questions or concerns related to money. I’ve used it as an opportunity to talk about big, out-there ideas, such as retiring early to travel the world.
Your meeting might include obvious items, such as your budget, but it also should include categories that are specific to your situation. You might discuss responsible use of a joint credit card, for example.
And if you or your partner is in the process of paying off student loans, you might use five to 10 minutes in each meeting to track your repayment progress.
3. List action items and deadlines
My wife and I pay off our debt at the beginning of each meeting. Usually, that means zeroing our credit card balances. In one of our more memorable meetings, my wife paid off her $5,000 student loan for her master’s degree.
We cross off other to-do’s during the meeting as well. One time, for example, we outlined a cooking schedule to save money each week.
But to be honest, if we finished every task during the meeting, we’d never leave our kitchen table. Some to-do’s take considerable time.
So, even though your finance meeting should be a working session, you might have to give each other homework.
Action items from our meetings have included:
- Making an extra student loan payment
- Picking the right bank for our emergency fund
- Closing unused credit cards
- Taking a defensive driving course to save on auto insurance
Make sure your tasks are specific to the growing pains of your household’s finances. Then, set deadlines so they get done. My wife and I assign as many as five to 10 tasks evenly and aim to complete them before the next month’s meeting.
4. Be a good partner — and make it fun
Even if you’re the “money person” in your relationship, remember that the point of the meeting is to give both you and your partner the chance to speak up, be heard, and join forces. This process is about you as a couple, not about you as an individual.
Your listening skills will be put to the test when your significant other wants to make a big purchase you’re not so sure about. Make sure you hear them out. Then, ensure you both understand how a big purchase fits into your short-term budget and might affect your long-term goals.
It’s OK to disagree initially, but try to work toward a consensus before the meeting ends.
Also, try keeping the meeting fun. My wife and I are competitive, so we use our meeting to check in on who has the higher credit score. That playfully competitive moment in the meeting can defuse any disagreement that came before it.
Start talking about money with your SO
Talking about money might not be your favorite pastime. It’s definitely not my wife’s. But we’ve found that through a regularly scheduled meeting, talking about money is much easier.
Once you get on the same page with your significant other, you’ll both be working toward your mutual money goals.
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