4 Couples’ Biggest Budget Stressors -- Solved!

4 Couples’ Biggest Budget Stressors -- Solved!

Financial experts set out to solve the big budget concerns of four real-life couples.

By Kelly Bryant

Money is one of life’s necessary evils. We need it to live, but it makes our lives more complicated. We brought the biggest budget concerns of four real-life couples to Mark and Lauren Greutman, money management pros who also happen to be married, to get their take on these all-too-common problems. Their practical, sound guidance may help you, too.

Couple #1: Jenny and Michael A., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Problem: “The most difficult budgeting issue we have is handling things other than the bills we pay every month (like mortgage and car payments). For example, we might spend $50 per month on average on clothing, but that means some months, we will spend none, and others, we might spend $200. Keeping track of how much is available and making decisions in these categories is hard to keep track of, and it feels like we don’t know where our money is going.”

The Solution: “We went through that by recognizing that each month is different,” says Mark. “We recommend looking [forward] rather than always just looking back and tracking. Before the start of the month, talk about what that month looks like and what expenses you can expect to have, and then, plan those into your budget.”

If you want to ensure the allotted budget for something like clothing is there at any given time, Lauren advises, “Put $25 aside every single month into a savings account or even an envelope in your drawer, and then, when you need it, it’s there.”

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Couple #2: Patti and Carter S., Providence, Rhode Island

The Problem: “It's the unexpected expenses that sneak up and wipe out what we've been saving. This winter both of our girls had several sick visits and one hospital visit, and Carter had surgery. Since our insurance only covers 20 percent until we reach our deductible, it drained what we've spent so long saving. We did put a little money into a flexible spending account, but it wasn't near what we spent. Or it's finding out that you need to replace your car’s brakes to the tune of $1,000. We used to be great at investing money each year, but after the kids came, we feel like as soon as our bank account starts to look healthy, it's gone because of an expense we didn't foresee coming.”

The Solution: “Things happen, and there’s no way to know when,” acknowledges Mark. “That’s why it’s really important to have an emergency fund set aside to absorb those types of things that can happen. The first thing we recommend people do is put $1,000 in an account to cover those types of expenses that come up so you don’t have to reach for the credit card every time something bad happens. When something does happen you have the money to pay for it, and it doesn’t crush your normal monthly budget. You can take the money out to cover whatever came up, and then over the following few months, pay yourself back.”

Couple #3: Sophie and Seth M., Los Angeles, California

The Problem: “For the past two years we’ve struggled with job losses and unemployment. Having to dip into our savings as well as putting some expenses on credit cards has been incredibly stressful. Now that things are looking up a bit financially, we’re having a hard time deciding which is more important -- to reestablish our savings or pay off the credit card bills completely.”


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The Solution: “We recommend doing the short-term savings – the $1,000 emergency fund – first, and then, tackle all of your debt,” says Lauren. “Once your debt is gone, start putting more money into savings. We find that if people don’t do that and something comes up, a lot of times they’ll put it on credit again, and then, it’s a cycle.”

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Couple #4: Michelle L. and Ryan T., Kansas City, Missouri

The Problem: “We’re about to get married, but Michelle’s spending over the years has been pretty excessive and she hasn’t done the best job of budgeting and saving. We are having a hard time figuring out how to combine our finances so that we both feel comfortable with the situation going forward into our marriage.”

The Solution: “We have the people we work with fill out a financial bucket list,” says Lauren. “It’s designed for couples to sit down and do together. It’s basically what you want to do with your money for the rest of your life. We find that when people do that, it helps them start to get on the same page financially. It’s not about the actual money; it’s more about the values behind it, and they need to figure out, as a couple, where they want to go together, and the money will follow them.”

It might be the first time you have to consider another person in regards to your spending, but as Mark points out, it’s a symbol of the priorities you and your partner share “Money is simply a reflection of what you value, and your spending is a reflection of what you value,” he says. “You’re getting married, so I can assume you want to value the same things in life together. Money is a part of that.”

What’s the biggest budget concern you share with your spouse?

Kelly Bryant is a freelance writer and pop culture junkie. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband and their two sons. Follow her on Twitter @MsKellyBryant.

Image ©iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

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