Why budget?? I’ve asked myself that question a million times and when you think about it who really likes to budget anyway? When you hear the word budget you probably picture a boring spreadsheet that’s more trouble than it’s worth – it’s detailed oriented, restrictive, and time consuming!
But let’s be realistic; a budget truly helps couples prioritize their spending, set joint financial goals, and reduce marital conflicts. There’s no one size fits all method when it comes to budgeting so it’s important to find a budget approach that works for your family. This week in our Money Matters series Brad and Christy King talk with us about their approach to budgeting and how they make it fit their busy lifestyle.
Brad was working as a pharmacist at Bi-Lo about 17 years ago during Christmas time when he and Christy first crossed paths. Like many workplaces around Christmas time, things can get tight with people being out of town and not working regular hours, especially for those that are stuck working like Brad. Luckily for Brad, when one of his coworkers was out of town not only did they find a great back up pharmacy technician to fill the shifts, he also found his future wife! While working together Brad fell for Christy’s youthful charm as she was smitten by his dry sense of humor that kept her laughing.
Now after being married for nearly 13 years, Brad and Christy are still working together. No, not in the pharmacy where they first met – but as busy parents keeping up with their three children and full time jobs. They’ve learned a lot about each other over the years, especially in the area of finances. For example, they’ve found that Brad is better at seeing the entire picture and does not get as stressed as Christy does when dealing with money. Recognizing qualities like this about each other allows them to play to their strengths when developing and managing a budget. Read on to see how Brad and Christy continue to work together in managing their family’s budget…
Thinking back to when you first got married, did you start off with a formal budget? If not, when did you realize that you needed a budget?
We did not start off with a budget. We were living in a much smaller house with no dependents. We bought what we wanted, ate out all the time, and drove nice cars. We didn’t start budgeting our money until we started building our current house. The budget obviously changed with the human additions and their expenses.
Yes, the little additions are definitely game changers. Now that they are in the picture and you all have been married for some time, what are your most important long term financial goals that you hope to accomplish by budgeting and managing your money?
Our main goals are to be financially secure enough to send our children to college and retire at a reasonable age.
Alright so now you know you need a budget and more importantly what your goals are. Then comes the fun part. Trying to determine which budget method is right for you – between the Zero Based Budget, Envelope System, Simple Budget Method, and many other options it can be overwhelming. What does your approach to budgeting look like?
We look at our budget as a big picture. We don’t allocate a fixed amount to a certain category like food, gas, or entertainment. Instead we understand our income versus what we can spend.
It’s great to see you’ve found a budgeting approach that works for your family. It sounds like you use the Simple Budget approach. We’ve heard that this type of budget method works well for those who have a pretty good handle on their discretionary spending and can be less time consuming than approaches like a zero based budget. But still there is work to be done! When it’s time to sit down and manage the family budget do you all typically work on it together or does one person take the lead?
We equally share the responsibilities of our budget, however Brad manages the monthly bills so he has a better idea of how much money is leftover. We have found that it is better for one person to oversee all of the expenses, but to communicate with the other.
Communication is definitely a critical component to managing a household budget. One of the areas where communication is needed is when things change. How often do you have to tweak your budget?
Constantly! Things change on a weekly basis around here. We may have to spend a lot for one thing that wasn’t planned. This affects the rest of the budget. Because we do not use categories we know that if we overspend in one area we must decrease spending in another non-essential area.
Since you all don’t allocate amounts for each category, how do you prioritize your spending?
Our monthly bills are paid first, then needs, then wants. Amounts fluctuate depending on the needs, for example winter coats, field trips, school pictures, birthdays.
What are some ways that you all resolve conflicts surrounding your budget?
Communication is key. We prioritize our spending together so that no one feels slighted. We know what we can afford and what we can’t. Sometimes it takes one of us to point it out to the other. We don’t take offense to these comments because we know these decisions are in our best interests. We always make decisions on large purchases together.
Ok, so here’s the age old question…who is the spender and who is the saver in your relationship?
We realized VERY early in our relationship that Christy is the spender and Brad is the saver. No question! Sometimes it seems worse than it is because Christy makes ALL of our household purchases (clothes, food, décor, supplies).
Now that you’ve been paying closer attention to your spending for some time, overall how do you feel about budgeting? Do you find it to be too restrictive or time consuming?
No one enjoys having a limited budget, however it is necessary to plan for the future and make sure all of our family’s needs are met. Yes it is restrictive, yes it is time consuming, but yes it is extremely helpful!
While Brad and Christy’s Simple Budget Method is different from our Zero Based Budget, it reminds us that budgeting comes in many different forms and that it’s important to work together as a couple to find what style works best for your family and lifestyle.
If you’ve learned anything or want to share a few of your own budgeting tips, comment below—we’d love to hear from you.
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