How I Convinced My Wife to “Budget Party” With Me

I was listening to a ChooseFI podcast with Andy Hill, a young family man I met at FinCon17 who happens to have his own site and podcast titled Marriage Kids and Money.

Andy was articulate (he’d better be — he is a podcaster, after all) and he also had a great grasp of family finances. In the conversation, he mentioned the concept of a “budget party” that he and his wife had made a regular habit.

I had heard of the monthly budget meeting before. My wife and I have never held a monthly budget meeting because it sounds so dull and lame and I would never subject the woman I love to such a thing.

A party on the other hand? We like to party. And with good food? Alcohol, too? Yes, please!

I knew Andy was on to something with this concept. I reached out to him, and asked if he would write up his budget party experience for a guest post. He said “yes,” and invited me to be a guest on his show.

The results were this podcast episode on MKM and the article that follows. Cue the 2Pac. “Ain’t nothin’ but a budget party.”

 

How I Convinced My Wife to “Budget Party” With Me

 

Have you ever heard the word “budget” and “party” in the same sentence? No?

Yeah, neither had my wife Nicole when I brought it up to her 8 years ago.

Nevertheless, “Budget Party” was the name I gave to a proposed monthly date for Nicole and I to review our family finances. I was incredibly determined to rid ourselves of our $50,000 of student loans and car debt before our first child came into the world.

The financial freedom and wealth building I had read about from gurus like Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey was super alluring. If it required me to put some marketing spin on the traditional family budget meeting to convince Nicole to join me on this debt crushing crusade, then so be it.

Since staring at spreadsheets was not exactly my wife’s cup of tea, I knew that my super-awesome date name could only get me so far. I had to put the party into the “Budget Party”. I needed to make this get-together fun, exciting and worth showing up for.

That’s exactly what I did … and 8 years later, my lovely bride still attends this “party” every month.

 

budget party

The Hill Family from Marriage Kids & Money

 

Here are 10 ways I livened up the traditional couple budget meeting and created a “Budget Party” that strengthened our family tree and our marriage:

 

Have a Drink and a Slice

 

Nicole and I like to have a nice glass of wine every once in while. Why not combine a glass of wine, a slice of pizza and some budgeting? For us, this made it more of an event.

Sometimes we’d deprive ourselves of pizza for the entire month, but then on the monthly “Budget Party” night, we would indulge. Talk about an excuse to show up!

 

[PoF: I checked with Andy, and he confirmed that it would be acceptable to substitute craft beer or a cocktail of choice for the wine at your budget party. Best not to have all three at the same party, though, if you want to move forward with your financial goals.]

Review Financial Dreams Instead of Financial Process

 

Instead of talking about the process of paying off debt, reducing our expenses and living on a budget, I eventually learned that it was better to talk about our financial dreams instead.

For example, reducing our weekend dinner spending was the process, but becoming debt-free so Nicole could stay at home with our newborn daughter was the dream.

When I purely spoke about reducing our spending, she would become disengaged and uninterested. I’ve been most successful in our meetings when I’m bringing it back to why we’re doing this process in the first place.

 

Put the Results First

 

Goals are fun to accomplish, especially with someone you love. Early on in our “Budget Party” process, I would make sure to put our financial progress up front to keep us both motivated. We did this by making a big deal out of changing our debt number on a big white board that we looked at daily. It was motivating to see the number decrease each month and even more satisfying to erase and replace it using a big Expo marker.

As we were closing in on our daughter’s birth, we watched our debt numbers decrease from $50,000 to $20,000 to eventually $0. Our relationship grew as our debt shrunk.

 

Have a Leader, but Share Control

 

It’s okay to let one person drive the budgeting process as long as you’re both participating and each person feels that they have a voice. It would definitely not be a “party” if one spouse was making all of the financial decisions without their partner’s consent.

Through trial and error, I learned this marital budgeting reality. It may be obvious by now, but I am more of the saver and Nicole is more of the spender. Even though she didn’t necessarily want to develop and manage the budget, she wanted a say in how it was allocated. My dreams of financial prosperity needed to balance with her desire to enjoy our lives today. That’s why I think we’re a good team.

Each month, I took the lead on coordinating when and where the party would take place and assumed the seat at the computer first. Once we got going, we’d both provide our feedback on how much money should be saved, spent and what it should be spent on. It’s only when we both participated that we really felt the good vibes of the party.

 

Use a System That Makes it Easy

 

If the budgeting process is cumbersome and complicated, no one is going to show up to the “Budget Party” (even with that cool name)!

For the past 6 years, Nicole and I have used Mint to track our budget. The system automatically imports your bank, credit card and investment information into your monthly budget. Originally, we were using a regular spreadsheet to track our spending and that took me hours to prepare. I’m so happy we discovered Mint.

If you’re not into Mint, there are now dozens of helpful FinTech tools out there to consider. Here a few of my favorites:

 

 

Get Out of the House

 

As soon as we had two kids, a simple “Budget Party” on the couch in our living room just wouldn’t do anymore. Our two little ones wouldn’t let Nicole and I finish a complete senten…

bankofamericaIt was time to leave the couch and get inventive. Here are a few out of the box ideas we used so we could keep partying:

  • Coffee Shop: Free wi-fi and some coffee
  • Indoor Playground: Kids run and play while we work on our financial dreams
  • Restaurant: Sit on the same side of the restaurant booth and crank out the numbers
  • Backyard: Kids are occupied with outdoor activities, we’re sipping wine and moving our lives forward

 

Stay Consistent & Persistent

 

There have definitely been days over the past 8 years where I just don’t want to do the “Budget Party”. Perhaps I had a rough week at work or I’m just not feeling it. Surprisingly enough, it is now my wife that keeps me on task to show up for the party. (Man, I love this woman!)

Through my gentle nagging and persistence, the spender now sees the value in this monthly financial get-together.

I believe our consistency has helped us to achieve some major financial and relationship wins. For example, in 2014, we were able to work out a Stay-at-Home Mom situation for Nicole. The bond she’s developed with our children is priceless.

 

Related: Early Retirement Bliss: Getting Your Partner on Board

Don’t Just Talk About Money

 

With two kids aged 6 and 4, our date nights are limited. We need to take advantage of any time we have together to chat about more than just our money.

Our “Budget Party” nights have become more of a check-in time for Nicole and I lately. We discuss what’s going on in our lives, what are our plans for the upcoming month and what we can do to progress in our relationship together.

 

 

Plan the Monthly Fun

 

We definitely use our “Budget Party” as a forum to plan for our long-term goals like lavish vacations or that future hot-tub, but it’s also a great way to stay on top of the smaller fun things like dinners out with friends and shopping for new clothes. We both started really looking forward to “Budget Party” once we got ourselves out of debt crushing mode. It meant that after we set the budget for the month we had some money to start spending in those more fun categories.

And, if we happen to come in under budget from the previous month, we’d celebrate by purchasing something off of our “wants” list before the night was over. This way it was incentive to come in under budget and a fun way to end the party.

 

Celebrate Money Wins

 

We kept up our debt crushing ways and finally paid off our mortgage in late 2017. This was a huge accomplishment for my wife and I as we had been working hard on this goal for many years.

It was time for a celebration! We popped some champagne and toasted to the next chapter in our family financial journey. The kids even joined in the fun by whacking a pinata we made out of the mortgage papers. This was a memory we will all remember for years to come.

 

 

And that was the point! By commemorating the big moments in our family financial journey, we’ll be motivated to continue the “Budget Party”. So far, this little monthly meeting helped us to:

 

And now, this little party is helping us move toward our next family goal: Financial Independence. Now that’ll be a reason to party!

 

[PoF: I wish you success in your FI quest! Readers, be sure to visit Marriage Kids and Money for more insights from the Michiganders. You can also find his podcast here.]

 


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Do you have a regular money meeting with your partner? How about a budget party? Do you celebrate your money milestones? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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11 comments

  • What a great idea!

    I’ve certainly thought about having concrete goals and celebrating when we achieve them, but not turning a monthly budget meeting into a party. We have not been great about meeting monthly to discuss budget items and instead try to “buy only what we need” and discuss the “wants” when they arise to make sure they fit in with our aligned goals.

    This is a much more intentional way to go about things, and I love intentional.

    Thanks for the great idea!

    TPP

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  • Sounds like you have a great partner on board financially that is honestly the key to your financial success.

    It is important to have partners share a common goal and sounds like the bond between you grew stronger as the goals were met.

    Congratulations on paying off your mortgage and becoming debt free. That was the best moment of my life too. Wish I thought of the pinata with my mortgage papers, brilliant idea.

    Solid advice for anyone that both parties need to be involved. Not just one taking over and the other being a forced participant. When both feel they are contributing them both feel invested and want to make it work that much more

  • Thanks for sharing this story, POF! I sent this over to my wife to read 😊

    Ill try and head down to Brits Pub next Thursday – it’s been awhile!

  • Awesome idea. I think I’m going to try this as well. My wife and I do a good job of sitting down at the beginning of each year to discuss financial and other goals, but it would be good to check in more often throughout the year. Of course, while I’m really into this stuff, she just isn’t. Making it more of a “party” is a great idea and I think we’d both be able to get lots of value from it.

  • Budget party! I love it! It’s a great idea to put a enthusiastically positive spin on a topic that is generally mundane. Setting the ambience (wine and/or craft beer), and talking about your dreams and goals are great ideas. We will probably employ the get out of the house idea when my kid gets old enough to play outside! Congratulations on reaching your goals 🙂

  • Sounds a lot like date night, with a purpose. Anytime we make a task fun, it increases the likelihood that we will continue the process. Thanks for the story.

    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
    Prescription for Financial Success

  • Ha! I’ve been trying to get this off the ground with the husband, but he’s not so interested. Maybe if I add beer and pizza to the mix it’ll change his mind.

    One thing I am realizing is that it is a process to bring a spouse on board. I’ve been interested in this stuff for awhile, and making changes in my financial life, and it’s probably unfair to expect him to change course just like that to fit in with my (new) ideas.

  • Lynne

    The budget party was a fabulous idea. Anytime you can add fun to a task that some view as drudgery you’re more likely to get your partner on board.

    That was a LOT of debt to get paid off. FI won’t be far behind with that kind of determination.

  • Great article containing some real nuggets. I think once we negotiated what comes now vs what comes later, and established a time frame (i.e., we will commit to redoing the deck before the big family reunion we plan to host in two years) it helped eliminate resentment and move us onto the same page.

    Wish I’d been this wise when I was that young.

    Fondly,

    CD

  • You know you’re officially a “grown-up” when you look forward to talking with your spouse about finances! My wife and I don’t have anything specific set up like that, but it would be a great idea to do so, if for nothing else than pure bonding time. Life with small kids is asvbdknv n k dscscnsdcn.
    Sorry. Damn those little fingers are fast!

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