If you are like me, there are only a few things which truly test your marriage. Running out of coffee and deciding on meals are definitely near the top. Despite this and many other nuances within most marriages, budget planning takes the cake.
Unless you married your doppelganger, your views, priorities and overall goals aren’t always 100% aligned. And that’s absolutely fine – the uniqueness is what challenges us and creates dynamic conversation even 20 years into a marriage.
But I digress, back to budget planning. Budgeting can be a daunting task for any couple, but with so many other things vying for attention, it can be especially difficult for military couples to find the time to plan their budgets together. The key is to figure out your goals, find related resources (like Caliber Military) to help guide your steps, work out what is best for you and your spouse, and do that!
There is absolutely no one-size fits all for this topic and I am not a financial planning expert. However, I have managed to stay married for 14 years and have tried just about everything during our journey. What works for us may not necessarily work for you, but the hope is that it will spark the conversation to build your own way.
Since I began dating my husband way back in 2005, he has always kept a running ledger in a small spiral notebook. In the ledger, which is divided in half with a 1st and 15th heading for each section (to represent pay periods), he has always listed every single bill, the amount and when it was paid. I used to make fun of him but then again, I was a 20-year-old and not so smart financially just yet. To this day, we use this. Why? At any given time, we can glance at it and see where we are and ensure bills are always paid on time.
We also have multiple accounts for different needs. I remember friends thinking we were nuts for separating our checking accounts, but we really did this strategically. We have a bill checking account, his checking and mine. Each time we get paid, the money for bills immediately gets transferred into the bill account and then we know what we have left for savings, investments or personal spending. We never have to worry who’s using their debit card too much and accidentally overdrawing our accounts. It’s always very clear and easy to understand.
We have a house savings account, vacation savings account and one for each of our children. The house is for improvements, projects or things we may have to replace as homeowners.
Though it seems like a lot to manage, it really gives us a clear view of where we are and what we can do with what’s left over after we are done adulting.
The biggest piece of advice I can give as you begin to budget plan with your spouse is to make it fun. Sit together with a pad of paper and pen and dream up all the things. Maybe you want to go to some exotic country or replace the windows in your house – write down the things that are important to each of you, then determine what you have left over to save for it.
This will take a commitment from both parties. It’s easy to constantly be in the Starbucks line after the morning school drop off (guilty) but what if that $40 a week could add up to a romantic weekend away? Because it can.
The other thing to consider is how budget planning can contribute to your future. Depending on your servicemember’s plans of wearing the uniform, there’s a timeclock constantly ticking away. I’ve talked to so many military families who never planned for retirement or leaving the military unexpectedly.
It can be catastrophic.
But if you’ve always budgeted and made sure your bills were within reason while also saving, it doesn’t have to be so scary. Figure out exactly what amount of income you need for the life you want to build in and out of service.
We’re in the twilight of my husband’s career. He’ll be retired within the next five years, most likely. This means we have prioritized vehicles being paid off, savings padded and knowing we can manage without struggle once he retires. And take my advice, it’s never too early to plan for this!
Though I wish we had a crystal ball to tell us the future, we don’t. But by budget planning effectively with your spouse, you can be one step ahead of anything that comes your way. Happy planning!
For more information on future-planning and financing, visit Caliber Military.
This communication is intended to convey general information only and not to provide any legal or accounting advice or opinions. An attorney or accountant should be consulted for specific information.
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