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Monthly Family Budget Meetings

by Amanda on March 2, 2008
category: Finances,Inspiration

coupletalking.jpg In the past ten months my husband and I have both quit our regular day jobs. We know that it wouldn’t have been possible to pursue our dreams if our finances were out of control. About three years ago we were both were working full-time jobs making more than the national family average and we had nothing to show for it. Our net worth was negative. We decided to take charge of our finances and learn about money. Since then we have paid off more than $50,000 of debt. The biggest tool that got us under control was a budget. This post is not about how to make a budget, but simply the act of getting together and trying to set a budget for your family.

Around the first of each month my husband and I get together and have a family budget meeting. We discuss how we want to spend the money that we are going to earn that month. Famous financial guru Dave Ramsey, says that when you budget, you’re spending on paper, on purpose, before the month begins. We use a zero budget and give every dollar a name. We never have to wonder where all our money went, because we knew where it was going before the month even started.

Getting together monthly helps us to plan out our calendar and our finances accordingly. We look to see if there are any birthdays or holidays that we want buy gifts for. We always know when Christmas is coming, so we know we need to save for it. Looking at the calendar also helps us be on the same page with how we are going to spend our time.

Our finances reflect our family and personal goals. We both want to lose weight, so we spend money on a gym membership. We both want to get out of debt, so we spend everything we can to pay off the student loan. We want to travel, so we save for a trip. It is important to talk with your spouse to determine and agree on your priorities. For us, we decided that traveling and technology takes priority over furniture and fixing up the house. It is easy for us to make decisions with our money, because we both know our priorities.

No matter who does the actual act of paying the bills, both parties need to participate and agree on where the money is being spent. Dave says that there is always a “geek” of the family who does the number crunching and bill paying. My husband is definitely the “geek,” but I know that my vote counts. I believe that this does amazing things to build trust and strengthen our marriage.

When we meet we both bring a list of all the things that we want and need to buy in that month with a dollar amount attached to it. Then we prioritize the list. This month I need new contacts, so that is pretty high up on the list. I also want to buy Ace an Easter outfit and get some pictures taken this month. So we fit it into the budget. I know I may not get everything from my list that month, but we will either start saving up for it or we will get it the next month. For spontaneous items we keep a small “blow money” category for each of us. I know I am going to get a couple bucks in cash every month to buy whatever I want. I don’t keep track of where my “blow money” goes.

It has taken us a long time to figure out our budget and how we go about creating our spending plan. Meeting on a monthly basis works for us. I have read about others that meet weekly. It doesn’t matter when you meet. The important thing is that you meet with your spouse. There is amazing peace in your marriage that spills over into your family when you aren’t fearful about money. We set the example for our kids. I want to instill good financial skills in my daughter, but I know I need to model them first.

Here are some pointers from Dave Ramsey about budgeting:

  • Give it 3-4 months to start working. It won’t be perfect the first time you do it.
  • Spend every dime on paper before the month begins.
  • Over-fund your groceries category. Most people underfund that category.
  • Husbands (if applicable) need to loosen up and quit using the budget as a whipping tool on their wives.
  • If married, spouses need to do the budget together. The preacher said “. . . and you are ONE.”

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13 Responses to Monthly Family Budget Meetings

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Heidi Gin
    March 3, 2008 @ 12:24 pm

    My husband and I never heard of Dave Ramsey until we moved to TX. I don’t know if he just happens to be big in the South, but we know many Dave Ramsey advocates (especially where my husband works). We don’t follow Dave Ramsey because his methods seem to be geared toward individuals with large amounts of debt, but of those we know who follow Dave Ramsey, we know he’s made a tremendous impact in changing their finances completely around.

    My husband always had a save & invest mentality so when we were a dual-income household, my income went straight into savings while his income was spent on bills and spending. We’ve never had debt other than our school loan (we don’t consider our mortgage as debt even though others do), so my spending at times was excessive. After I quit my job to stay home with our son, we didn’t adjust our spending so we were having to withdraw money from our savings account every month to cover our expenses. Seeing our savings decrease every month started to stress us both out, but I didn’t want to adopt a budget my husband had suggested numerous times.

    Since succumbing to the idea of a budget, it’s given both of us great amount of peace. Our savings balance is back to where we want it and we don’t have to dip into it anymore, and it’s made me evaluate and prioritize items I want to buy. Because of the society we live in which brainwashes us with ideas of instant gratification, needing to have the best of this and that, and not emphasizing saving, it has made it difficult for me at certain times. Sometimes I just want to splurge!!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Sara
    March 3, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

    Josh and I are on the Dave Ramsey plan. We didn’t have a lot of debt like others just due to the fact that I am a stay at home mom and he is our only source of income. But the program did help us know where our money is going to (like Amanda said). Right now he is deployed so it makes it hard to involve him in a monthly meeting about the budget. He knows our goals for the year and I make it happen back here. It seems to work for us. But I can’t wait till he returns so we can get together at the end of every month and discuss the next month’s budget. We even started our son on the Jr. Kit by Dave Ramsey. It teaches him how to save, plan and give back to God. Which is great because tithing was not something we were taught as kids. And it was much harder for us to learn as adults. It was also awesome to see him save up to $50.00 and go buy him his own toy at Target. That was a good learning lesson for him. He carefully decided on a lego set after about 1 hour of looking and inspecting every single toy in the store. He wanted to make sure the toy was not a cheap toy and going to break in a few days. And the best part was explaining to him he had to have enough to cover taxes. In his own words “that’s a rip off”.

    Just a tip I did to plan for gifts throughout the years was sit down and write down every single gift I knew we were going to buy throughout the year. Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter baskets, Birthday, Anniversaries everything and everyone I could think of. Then I placed a budget for each gift. I totaled them all up which was more money than I thought we spent and divided it by 12 months. Now we budget that money into our monthly budget so we know at least we will have enough money to cover gifts throughout the year. I kept the list and once I buy the gifts I place the exact amount of money I spent on it so that way next year it will help me plan my budget again and see if I overspent and need to add more money or not.

    I am a big fan of the zero budget. It gave me a whole new meaning to the word budget.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Kristi
    March 3, 2008 @ 1:59 pm

    Just an FYI the girl in the photo needs to budget a little extra for a belt because her undies are showing. J/K!
    I think it’s a great idea to have a budget and follow it. We need to re-do ours for 2008. The thing I find the hardest is the grocery part. I try to eat healthy but healthy foods are so darn expensive. I cook almost every meal and we don’t go out to eat very often but I still end up spending way more than I want at the grocery store. I think it’s also because the price of everything like milk,bread has gone up big time. I have a SAM’s membership but I haven’t been there this year. I am planning on going this week and seeing how much I can actually save buying in bulk.
    Anyone have any grocery saving tips?

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Daniel
    March 3, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

    I said the same thing about the exposed underwear! But this was a better picture than a boring calculator, pencil and paper.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Kara
    March 3, 2008 @ 3:18 pm

    Dang – I was totally going to comment on the exposed underwear/diaper that lady is wearing, but Kristi beat me to it. Sigh…….

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Dawn
    March 3, 2008 @ 4:15 pm

    Sara, I do the exact same thing re: gifts budget! It is a LIFESAVER!!!

  • Comment by Amanda
    March 3, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

    @Heidi – That is awesome that you guys were able to eventually come together on your finances and have peace. Budgeting is hard work!! But it is awesome when you see your savings go up!!

    @Sara – That is an awesome idea to sit down and plan out the year and then keep using each subsequent year. We just do it on a monthly basis. We keep our Christmas budget from each year and I have found that to be helpful. Thanks for sharing your insight on Dave Ramsey Jr. program. I want to use with Ace when she gets bigger.

    @Kristi – We ended up increasing our grocery budget and we also have an eating out budget too. It is so true that it is easy to bad for cheap, but healthy is way more expensive. We decided a while ago that we are going to spend money now on good healthy food, rather than medical bills later.

    @Dawn – I love my gift budget. The problem is Daniel usually wants to spend more than I do! And my problem is that I want to give everyone a gift!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Deb
    March 3, 2008 @ 8:28 pm

    This is really helpful, thanks for posting.

    My husband and I are having our first official budget meeting soon and I could really use this info.

  • Comment by Sharon M
    March 4, 2008 @ 3:28 am

    @Kristi – This was a problem for us too; meat and dairy are especially expensive. And when you have kids that drink a lot of milk, that can add up really quickly. So, a couple of money-saving tips:
    1. Some grocery stores will mark milk down if it’s close to the expiration date. If your kids (or you!) drink a lot of milk, sometimes it’s worth going to the store more often to buy milk. We had a place in Denver that would mark down a gallon of ORGANIC milk to $1 if it was going to expire the next day. And boy, we used every drop of it!
    2. Cut down your meat intake by having one or two “vegetarian days” a week. We did this during Lent last year and liked it so much that we do it year-round!

    Great post Amanda, thanks!

  • Comment by McKenna
    March 4, 2008 @ 3:37 pm

    @ Sharon, We’re cutting down on our meat and seeing a big difference. There’s a lot of alternatives…for instance, we had chalupas last night instead of tacos. I also make some healthy soups that are not very expensive. I love the idea about the milk! We go through milk so fast, that we will have to try that! Our problem is everyone’s on a different milk…Connor’s on whole milk, my husband and I drink skim, and Darah’s on Lactaid. But, if we can do that with the half gallons, it would totally work!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Cassie
    March 10, 2008 @ 9:00 pm

    My husband and I are in week 4 of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University..I am so excited about it…We don’t have tons of debt, but a significant amount that I want rid of…We have created a budget for this month…and Have done pretty well..Of course there have been 3 or 4 things come up, that I didn’t account for…and it is so frustrating…Seems like my “meetings” with my spouse keep ending up in an argument also…I just want this to work!!

  • Gravatar October 13, 2008 @ 8:29 am

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  • Gravatar January 1, 2009 @ 2:42 am

    [...] Have a monthly budget meeting with your spouse before the first of the [...]

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