I love you… Let’s make a budget together!
Budgeting… the 6th love language?
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a book about how individuals express and receive communications of love – 1) gift giving, 2) quality time, 3) words of affirmation, 4) acts of service, and 5) physical touch. We would add budgeting to that list. Yes! Budgeting is an expression of love. You could also call it distribution of resources. But, considering that disagreements over money are the number one cause of marriage stress and divorce, it’s only logical that making and following a budget is an expression of love. Here’s why!
When couples make and follow a budget, they have recognized that they share a limited resource that should work for them rather than against them. A very simplistic comparison… Have you ever shared fries or some other snack with your spouse when you were both pretty hungry? Whenever the Darkos share fries, there is usually an unspoken agreement that the fries will be shared to satisfy both of us. If one of us scarfs down most of the fries before the other can even chew three, that would be considered pretty selfish. Satisfying yourself and leaving your spouse hungry is not only mean, but shows blatant disregard. You both had a need, but only one of your needs were met. As you can see, an unspoken agreement even in a “fry-sharing” example can be a source of conflict. It’s the same with money!
As a couple, we quickly learned that making and following a written budget is just one way in which we express our love for each other. It’s an important way of showing each other that we plan to have a future… together. Through budgeting, we demonstrate the principles of cooperation, sacrifice, courtesy, support, and respect. Isn’t that love?
A budget in the Darko household is a written agreement of how our limited resource will benefit us both individually and as a couple. Our budget helps us dream, set goals, and meet those goals together. We see budgeting as less about money and more about working as a team to build our future. Once we started making a written budget, we got really financially focused. We both recognized that our debt was a source of angst and decided that in order to meet our future goals, we had to work within a budget. Six months later we had paid down all of our private student loan debt. In the next 3.5 years we plan on paying off our federal student loans, so we continue to write and follow a budget every month as if our life together depends on it. Truthfully, it does!
As a spouse, there are some things that you will have to sacrifice because your goals usually shift or at least get re-prioritized after marriage. Oh relax! It’s not like your spouse doesn’t want you to be yourself or have fun. It simply means that you will have to be more mindful of how much your fun costs and how it affects your goals as a couple. Renée likes the convenience of buying her lunch, however, when we added up the cost, it was more than we were willing to spend, especially when we are trying to pay down our debt. So, I (Nii) suggested that since she cooks most nights, that she packs leftovers for her lunch. This has worked out very well financially and it’s healthier!
Everyone has vices, something they love to do or have which is usually associated with a cost. When you’re single, you can get your fill on whatever that thing is, but marriage is different. For example, Nii likes all things technological… building computers, phones, etc. We have gadgets in the house that I (Renee) have no clue what they are and how they work. But he likes them and I like watching my husband do something that he enjoys. When we make our budget, we agree on what we can afford to meet his technological needs. He’s not asking permission and I’m not giving permission. He may forgo the gadget this month because there is something that I want and vice versa. It’s called being courteous.
This is one of our favorite reasons for making a written budget. It’s a great way to show support for a spouse who has an individual goal. We all have an achievement to which we aspire and there’s nothing like a supportive spouse standing in your corner to help make it happen. That goal might be going back to school, building a company, starting a band, or doing charity work. This is where you and your spouse can really connect about the things that are important to you individually and how, as a couple, you will help each other realize your dreams. See, it’s not just about the money; you’re relationship is getting closer.
Lack of financial respect is probably the real sentiment behind money fights and divorce. There’s only one way to show your spouse financial respect, but many ways to be financially disrespectful to the one you love. Simply put, if you and your spouse specifically plan and follow a budget, you’ve shown each other financial respect. The budget is a pact between the two of you to reach mutual goals and have a better life together. If one person in the couple disregards the budget and starts spending in a way which was not agreed upon, then the pact has been broken; trust is lost. Essentially, that spouse lied about wanting to reach those goals together, or doesn’t care about how it affects your family and your future. Respect the pact!
Also, too often, someone in the couple feels that the budget exists as a spousal control mechanism, or one spouse is actually trying to control the other with the budget. If that’s the case, you’re not budgeting with the right intentions. Be a spouse, not a child or a parent. Recognize that the budget exists to benefit you both. Making a budget isn’t easy. Yes, you will fight about some of the items. But, remember that you can adjust the budget month to month to meet varying needs. It’s your budget, so if it doesn’t work this month, agree on changes for next month!
For us, money is a tool, not a prized possession or a definition of character. Flaunting money or pretending we have it when we don’t can only lead to conflict. Oh! And we won’t meet the goals that will actually make our life easier and more fulfilling. It’s a limited resource, so once spent, it’s gone. Our budget makes us deliberately use our money to meet Team Darko’s goals. As Renée’s dad would say when he was teaching her how to drive, “Are you controlling the car, or is the car controlling you?” Developing a healthy mindset about money will help you and your spouse control where your money goes, fight less about money, and spend more time expressing the other five love languages.
We’d like to hear your thoughts on budgeting and love. Please leave us a comment. Thanks for keeping up with us! Until next time… Show your love. Make a budget!