Tips for Setting Financial Goals with Your Spouse

Working alongside another person to create and reach financial goals is a challenge. As a married couple, it’s important for us to be a team. When we allow our finances to negatively affect our marriages, we are taking away from our ability to work together to do the most good with what we have.

If we can’t talk about money, how can we agree on how to use it?

Finding Common Ground on Financial Goals as a Married Couple

Making and striving for goals together sounds like a great idea, but for many of us, it also means a struggle to agree on working in the same direction.

There are two people in a relationship and each person comes with their own perspective and should have an equal amount of input, regardless of who makes more money.

Doing some preparation before sitting down to make decisions can help to smooth potential conflicts. Before we can agree on goals, we have to see them all laid out on the table and give both people in the room a chance to explain their goals and why they feel that they are important.

Before having a financial goal-setting meeting, each person should:

  • Write down their ideas for financial goals (include big and small ones)
  • Rate each goal’s priority on a scale from 1-10 (ex: buying a home may be high priority, while a trip to the coast may be lower)
  • Give yourself time to really brainstorm the reasons behind the goals (ex: family history, medical expenses, lifestyle preferences, etc)

Only after taking all of that into consideration can negotiations and priority levels be set.

Many times, financial goals are centered around the concept of stability. It might be worth the time to discuss how large of a priority stability should be.

If we have family that depend on us, a stability-focused financial plan might be more important. Our background and family culture also plays a role in how much stability matters to us.

Try not to see a spouse who values stability as boring or scared of life. In a similar vein, try not to view someone who values adventure as immature. Instead, come together and consider the benefits of putting some money towards spontaneity without leaving gaps in the foundational savings that help to prevent financial emergencies.

It’s important that both parties feel that their financial goals are included in the prioritization plan, even if it means some compromise.

The 2 Types of Financial Goals

Now, not all of us are goal-oriented people, but most of us have “dreams” of things we’d like to accomplish in life. When it comes to financial dreams, it can be a good idea for us to put them into two categories.

When we categorize our goals or “dreams,” it helps us to set a timeline and some expectations for how we can strive to move forward.

Of course, there are financial “dreams” that might not ever come true, ex: owning a private island and living a never-ending vacation. But when it comes to saving for retirement or funding family trips, assigning a timeline and priority level gives us traction.

Short-Term Financial Goals

Examples of short-term financial goals:

  • Saving for a vacation
  • Saving for small home improvements
  • Putting money aside for potential vehicle repairs
  • Budgeting for Christmas gifts
  • Paying off debt — depending on amount (student loans, mortgage, medical bills)

Long-Term Financial Goals

Examples of long-term financial goals:

  • Paying off debt — depending on amount (student loans, mortgage, medical bills)
  • Saving for retirement at a specific age
  • Budgeting to pay for kid’s college
  • Large home renovations
  • Moving to another home/state

Stress-Free Finances Comes Down to Discipline

It’s been said time and time again, but discipline is an important ingredient in the recipe for stress-free finances. Disciplining ourselves can FEEL stressful in the moment, as we have to fight our inner voice that says we really need one thing after another.

When we continually question our purchases and analyze “wants” vs “needs,” making the disciplined decision becomes easier and easier. (Not to mention, it increases the excitement of getting closer to hitting our short and long-term financial goals)

It might sound obnoxious, and I am definitely not suggesting we go through all of these questions when staring at a box of granola bars at the grocery store — but when we find ourselves looking at something we’ve determined is a “want,” we should try and ask some of these questions to get our minds in the right spot to make a disciplined decision.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before “Unnecessary” Spending:

  • Do I really need this?
  • If I only want it, will I enjoy/use it frequently?
  • If I am only going to use an item every once in a while, is it really worth investing in right now?
  • What does this item/purchase solve for me? Is it a problem that really comes down to my own laziness?
  • Is there even a small part of me that wants this purchase just to impress others?
  • If my spouse made this purchase and told me about it afterwards, would I feel like it was a wise decision?
  • If I make this purchase, will it be difficult to move other budget items around to fill the gap it creates?

Being Present in Your Financial Life

We hear a lot about being present with our families, and living in the moment when we’re going about our daily business. Another important way to practice being present is by being in control and aware of our finances.

When we are constantly looking forward to achieving financial goals (like funding a retirement account, saving for a down-payment on a house, etc) we lose the opportunity to live in the moment.

Living in the moment when it comes to finances is being aware of what we can or can’t spend, having control over spending impulses, and remembering future goals without becoming obsessed with them.

We should aim to truly live wherever we are, financially. Even if it’s in the middle of a struggle. We can’t always control the things that go on in life, and our finances are not immune to disasters. However, we can always choose how we respond in the midst of struggles and successes. Being present means we refuse to hide from or ignore our financial situation.

We shouldn’t live just waiting for the future. We can’t away from financial problems. Instead, we should set goals, learn to control impulses, and communicate with our spouses.

Start Making Firm Financial Goals

Whether you’re on a journey to find common ground with your spouse when it comes to finances, or you have been fighting to stay on track with your financial goals. Keep going.

My husband and I have made an effort to remember that money, however much there is, is just one of many tools we have available. It’s our everyday conversations and decisions around how we use our money that have an impact, whether positive or negative.

Read more about how we talk about money in the context of our marriage and our future, being careful to avoid starting arguments. We’ve become better friends along this journey and we are still learning every day.

Do you have any short-term financial goal success stories? Share them in the comments!

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