Budgeting Together: Who Does What?

When we talk about "budgeting together" it doesn't actually mean both people have to do everything. So what does the division of roles in budgeting with a partner actually look like?

It doesn't have to be a situation where both spouses are completely and totally devoted to the all the daily nuts and bolts of the budget. The odds of that happening are like one in 250,000. More likely, one of you will do the heavy lifting of the budget and the other will be involved in pieces of it. So, what you want to do is just recognize each other's strengths and call it good. You'll find divisions along several different lines of thinking:

You Might “Own” Certain Categories More Than the Other

You will see that one person tends to kind of own one category more than another. For instance, Julie owns the grocery category; she owns the clothing category because I don't even know how old my kids are, let alone what clothes they need; she owns the vacation category, in the sense that she tells me we need more in it. (I'm just kidding, Julie, but I know you'll never see this.) She owns the interior/house category -- that has to do with improvements she wants to make. Occasionally a repair invades the category; she doesn't like that, but that's part of it.

I own the exterior; I own saving for the car; I own the... let's see... Well, I own my own fun category and she owns hers -- that's a lot of fun. I own the fixed bills category, where I lump ALL of our fixed bills for the year all together and break out the monthly amount that needs to be contributed to make sure we have plenty of cash for every single one of them whenever they land -- so, life insurance, property taxes land there, car insurance premium... Just fixed bills, nothing really exciting, but it's all one big, lumpy category because I found no value in breaking it up -- that's mine, I own that one.

To a degree I own the vacation category because I do the math to figure out how much we need to set aside to make sure we can do the things we want to do. That is kind of the division of categories and that happens fairly naturally; it's pretty easy to see who leans or gravitates toward one or the other.

You Don't Have to Manage the Actual Budget With Equal Effort

There will be a division of responsibility as it relates to keeping the budget up to date. I firmly believe -- and I hope that you can -- if you get your reluctant spouse to record transactions on his or her phone when they have bought something, everything will be easier (or if you use Direct Import, that they at least know how to check the budget before spending).

I finally got Julie to do that when we launched the mobile app, and I showed her that it would pre-populate the payee based on your GPS location, and I showed her literally how easy it is. Because she'd say, "Jesse, I'm busy, I've got these kids." She is busy, she does have all those kids -- and she would say, "I'm busy, I can't do that. It's crazy. It's crazy at the store." And I showed her, "Here's what you would do. Add transactions -- amount -- check it over -- save." I turned her around and now she's a trooper about putting stuff in the budget.

I do the reconciliation. I tried to turn it over to Julie last year, I think -- there was a podcast about it. We gave up. She quit. She wasn't buying it. It wasn't working. So, I'm back doing it myself and it's fine. Once a month I go in, reconcile everything and we do our budget meeting -- no big deal.

So, that's kind of how we divide our roles, and it's okay for you to divide yours. It's okay if there's one person that enters in all the receipts or even one person that adds all the transactions. It's really okay.

Choose Your Priorities Together

Just make sure that there is one place where there is no division -- and that is when you are deciding what to spend where. When you're doing Rule 1, Rule 2 -- Rule 3, we'll talk about next time because that one's tricky -- when you're doing that, make sure you are a united front in choosing your priorities and making sure that each person is equally represented in what they want, and that you're pushing forward toward those goals together.

Until next time, follow YNAB's four rules and you will win financially. You've never budgeted like this.

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Budgeting Together: Who Does What?