Family Budget Committee Meetings

With the month of March coming to a close (that was fast), my wife and I sat down yesterday to hold our monthly budget committee meeting.  It occurred to me that in the sixteen months or so of writing here I’ve never mentioned them before.  I’ll save you all the boring details, but will share a few of the types of things we discuss that help keep us on track going in to the next month.

Budget Committee Meeting Minutes

Balance checking account.  The first item addressed is our checking account, which by this point in the month could usually use a quick balancing and reconciliation with our online account.  We make sure all outstanding checks are accounted for before “closing out” the month’s final balance and begin tracking the new month.

Review last month’s budget.  It is also at this point that we perform a final review of our budget categories together to determine where we missed the mark, and where we were successful.  The review for March revealed I spent too much money on eating out.  My excuse was that I was on the run a lot visiting my mom (who remains hospitalized), but really that’s a poor excuse – I could have packed something to eat or waited until I got home.  Sometimes you just can’t account for everything when setting a budget a month in advance.

Update personal balance sheet.  If we have stuck to the plan this part is always something to look forward to, but if we have spent more than we should, or not saved as planned, we usually dread this review.  Take an inventory of all your debts and update their balances in whatever format you use to track your net worth.  We use a simple Microsoft Excel worksheet with a column for each month and a list of debts and assets down the side.  Looks like we are on track as our debts continue to get smaller, and our savings continue to grow.

Modify budget amounts for next month’s expenditures.  Some months we just carry forward the budget amounts from last month, but it’s rare.  There always seems to be something happening, especially when you have kids in school.  Yearbooks, camp registrations, clothing, and spring pictures were all mentioned yesterday and affected a couple categories.

When my wife and I first married I handled all of the bills by myself.  After a couple years my wife began to take a passive interest in the finances, but was never particularly interested in knowing all the gory details of debt, account balances, etc.  Basically she just wanted to know how much was in the checking account at any given time.  I recognized that to pull off our financial turnaround I would need her support, and started holding these monthly meetings to discuss our finances.

At first the budget meetings seemed like a chore, but over time my wife enjoyed having input in the process, and I certainly appreciated her input.  With us working together we were blindsided far less by unexpected expenses.

If you are not currently doing something similar with your spouse, I highly recommend sitting down tonight and reviewing finances together, even if it means missing the latest episode of Desperate Housewives.  That’s what TiVo is for!

Comments

  1. I like this article. I don’t have a spouse or a significant other I share finances with but, seeing it laid out like this makes it easier for me as well. As a single woman trying to figure out how I might need to do things to make monthly budgeting work for me your article here (and your blog) are making that achievable.

  2. I wish my husband cared about the money. He says it’s his job to earn it, and that it’s my job to take care of it. He actively doesn’t want to know how we’re doing, financially.

  3. My husband and I also meet once a month to review our “Family Balance Sheet” as well as our business finances. It always amazes me when couples don’t talk about finances. I think it is so important to the success of their marriage and building their personal wealth.

  4. Yes – this is a great thing to do with your spouse. I don’t do it as regularly as once/month but from time to time I update our spreadsheet of income versus expenses, with big expenses itemized, and email it to my husband. This recently came in handy when he needed to know how much he could spend on some yardwork that we needed. He opted against hiring someone and is doing it himself because we realized we just couldn’t swing it comfortably. The great thing is that it shows what our income will be for the month ahead, which we can’t always forsee since our income and expenses fluctuate a lot.

  5. This was a really open and honest view of the Family Budget Meeting. This is almost word for word what happens in our house, so I connected really well with the post.
    This type of meeting has done wonders for our marriage in addition to our finances. Being able to come together, get on the same page, and take a good look at our goals and our progress is something I really look forward to every month.
    Great post, keep ‘em coming!

  6. We’ve been having “budget meetings” for years now and I believe it’s helped my kids understand CASH FLOW and also “entitlement”
    We’re in the midst of setting up “personal” budgets since my son started a job a few weeks ago. He’s set up his budget to maximize company benefits with 401K and ESOP as well as sock a good amount into an ING account each month. He had some student loan debt, Mom debt, and a small amount of CC debt.
    My daughter also has a plan for savings and paying expenses and she’s well on her way to her “down payment” when she finishes college next year.
    I will need to redo MY budget as soon as I get through some IRS stuff. I need to have my income tax completed before contacting the home affordability folks. I’m also being audited for medical expenses in 2006 and would like to get that overwith.
    I hope by now you’ve discovered the employee cafeteria at the hospital. The food is usually subsidized and the prices are reasonable. Portions are large enough to split sometimes. I used to pick up breakfast for about $2.00 and take my tray up an eat with my Dad. (I had the early shift) We found that most Dr’s do their rounds very early with the hopes that the patient has their mouth full and can’t ask any questions. In Dad’s case, he was getting confused and we could rely on him for information, so we set up a TRAP for the Dr’s.

    I think you will be pleased with how well your children deal with money matters as they get older. Keeping them involved in budget meetings and cost saving initiative’s really works!

  7. My fella would not understand what a budget meeting is. Sometimes I feel very alone in all this frugality and such. We see things completely differently which is why we’ve never combined incomes. I am really glad of that.
    Thanks for helping me not feel quite so lonely in Frugalland

  8. I have so much trouble trying to stick to a budget. However, I’m currently using this free trial at CheckingFinder.com. It’s a trial membership to Dave Ramsey’s MyTotalMoneyMakeover.com (Renown Personal Finance Advisor). So far, i’ve had so much more success than anything I’ve tried before. Just wanted to pass it along!

    J Swoboda

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