One of the main things that married couples fight about is money and how to handle the household finances. Creating a budget together can help both of you discuss financial goals as well as curb impulse spending. When accurately maintained, a budget can also present a visual representation of finances through monthly reports and charts so couples can see exactly where money is going and adjust accordingly to meet goals.
Set Up a Budget
Sit down together to plan and set up a budget. Gather all documents that show income and expenses for the household, such as pay stubs and recent bill statements. Go back at least six months for any monthly bills that vary, such as the electric bill, so you can average the expense amount on the budget. Set up the budget on a computer spreadsheet or with financial software, instead of pencil and paper, for a more accurate and easy to maintain budget. Follow the instructions for input on a financial software program or set up a spreadsheet titled "Household Budget" and create sections labeled "Income," "Expenses" and "Misc." Input all current income and expenses, including fixed monthly bills, loan payments and miscellaneous spending. Subtract the total income from the total expenses to get an accurate depiction of the current financial situation. A negative number means you are living above your means; adjust accordingly until the number is positive. Cut back on luxury expenses, for example, or negotiate a lower rate with your insurance or cable company.
Maintain the Budget
Maintain the budget on a daily or weekly basis to keep it up-to-date. Save all receipts, pay stubs and bills. Manually expenditures on your budget spreadsheet, or -- if using financial software -- download information from online accounts, such as bank and credit card accounts. Enter all spending. Never hide receipts or purchases from each other, which defeats the purpose of a budget. Take turns entering or downloading recent financial activity so responsibility for the budget is shared by both individuals.
Couples should sit down together at least once a month to discuss the household finances and go over short-term and long-term goals. The talk should entail a brief review of the budget so both parties see the current finances and a discussion of any problems, such as overspending. Also note the current status of goals, such as saving for a new car. Couples can adjust categories on the budget to help meet goals. You might cut back on eating out, for example, to save more money for an upcoming vacation.
Budget Flexibility and Goal Planning
Allocate a small amount of money each month for luxury or entertainment spending -- call it "mad" or "fun" money -- to curb impulse spending and allow for some flexibility in the budget. Decide on an amount to use together for entertainment, such as eating out or going to the movies, and a small amount for personal spending for each individual. Plan any big-ticket purchases and long-term goals together, such as vacations, new cars and electronics. Agree upon an amount that cannot be spent without consulting each other to help stick with the budget.
Based in Lake Mary, Fla., Charity Tober writes mainly on finance, career, interior decorating, parenting and weddings. Tober has also self-published two children's picture books. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in business administration from the University of Florida.