This money workout will help you put an end to budget conflicts—and improve your bottom line.
Ellie Kay, a Moms Money Clinic advisor for Parents and mother of seven, guest blogs regularly to answer mail about personal finance issues. Today she offers ideas for a money workout that will help you and your partner get on the same page financially.
Q. My husband and I argue a lot about money. Is there a way we can talk about it calmly, or is it time to find a couples counselor?
A. You're not alone in disagreeing about financial matters. In fact, the number one reason cited for divorce is "arguments over money." That's why I developed the Sixty Minute Money Workout. The key is to find an uninterrupted hour (I know, not easy for parents to do, but important) and complete these exercises together. Get a timer ready, because you'll want to set it for each section. Ready? Go!
1. Make up your mind warm-up (5 minutes)
Begin by taking your partner's hand, looking into his eyes, and say something positive. Then select your money workout topic for the week (whether it's debt, budgeting, what car you want to buy, etc.). When the timer goes off, re-set it for 10 minutes, and continue with the next section.
2. Couple meeting strength training (10 minutes)
- Write down your goals on paper so that you'll have a tangible and objective standard to work toward. Decide:
- What do you want to accomplish during today's workout (i.e. set up a budget, assess debt, or plan a vacation)?
- How would you like to see the topic resolved in the next six months?
- What is your desired outcome (i.e. becoming debt free, funding your retirement, etc.)?
- What are the obstacles that have kept you from achieving success in the past?
3. Budget burn (20 minutes)
In this step, you set up a step-by-step plan for achieving your objective. Make it realistic, and be sure to allow for give and take when discussing the topic with your mate. Once you've settled on an approach, write down your goals. Some tools that might help you nail this exercise: the budgeting site and app Mint.com, AnnualCreditReport.com, and BankRate.com.
4. Take your heart rate (20 minutes)
If you've made progress in the previous section, continue the good work. However, if you've gotten bogged down, redirect the conversation in a more positive direction. This is also the time to fine-tune your plan. For example, order credit reports on line, do some "plastic surgery" (i.e., cut up credit cards), set up auto pay for bills, etc.
5. Congratulations cool down (5 minutes)
You started on a positive note, and you need to end one too. Tell your partner one thing that you appreciate about today's workout and what you've achieved. Also set up your next money workout time and topic.
I've found that couples who complete this money workout weekly are more likely to achieve their financial goals—and to do so without arguing. This makes for a happier (and richer) household.
Ellie Kay is a family financial expert, the author of Heroes at Home and a mom of seven. Read more of her advice at elliekay.com.