There’s no hiding from the statistics that show that the more often a couple argues about money, the more likely they are to get divorced. Granted, couples disagree about a lot of things besides budgeting. Research shows that the frequency of arguments about money is the best predictor of divorce. Money isn’t everything – and it sure doesn’t bring happiness. But not being on the same page about finances can cause disagreements in relationships.
Right after we got married, Joseph and I decided to combine our bank accounts and credit cards. We both didn’t bring any debt into the marriage, which was (and is!) a huge blessing. But when we started our marriage, we didn’t have a set budget. Later that Spring, Joseph read Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, and we took a more intentional approach with our funds.
We use the Every Dollar Budget system, and, thanks to intentional stewardship with our money, we’ve been able to face some pretty significant financial issues together just within the first ten months of our marriage. Between hospital bills and car repairs, we’re thankful that we switched to a budget system that we work on together.
You don’t have to wait until you’re married to start budgeting, though. In fact, if you’re a single adult, there is no time like the present to take a look at your finances. Doing so can actually help your future relationships!
If you’ve already set financial goals for yourself and are knowledgeable about budgets, that’s awesome! We should probably sit down over dinner so you can give us some pointers. But maybe you’re just starting to think about finances and budgeting. Here are six ways that being smart with your financial decisions now can only help you down the road.
1. Budgeting helps you talk about your goals with someone
Every month, Joseph and I sit down and chat about our monthly budget. We keep track of what’s coming up in the days ahead. Joseph and I and remind each other of birthday gifts, date nights, or vacation goals. Then, we set out budget for the month. We regularly go through our credit card and bank statements to update the budget as we spend and deposit money throughout the month. We talk about money quite a bit in our house. Those conversations have helped us to be on the same page about our spending and savings goals.
Both of us are so excited to travel to Italy sometime within five years, so each month we put back a portion of Joseph’s paycheck to save for that trip. We also know that we’d love to own a house (and a dog, let’s be honest), so we put almost everything I make between freelancing and podcasting directly into savings. Because we talk about money in our conversations together, both of us are aware of the goals we have for our relationship and for our fiances.
If you’re single and discerning marriage, having a budget can help you talk about your life goals with others. Your life does not wait to start until you have a wedding ring on your finger. Don’t wait until you’re in a relationship to set savings goals and paying down debt. When you meet someone, confidence in your goals will convey to them that you’re a driven individual.
2. Budgeting holds you accountable
If I had no budget, all of the money I made would either go to new books or dresses from Francesca’s. And lattes and doughnuts, if we’re being honest. But because Joseph and I set a budget with our money together, we remind each other about what goals we have together. Yes, it’d be fun to book a week long hiking trip to Colorado when we see ticket prices drop, but spending that money wouldn’t get us closer to the bigger goals we have. Even though these accountability conversations aren’t fun all the time (who likes being reminded to not buy so much coffee?), they’re part of a healthy conversation that we continuously have about our shared finances.
When you’re single, it can be easy to set aside thoughts of savings and paying down debt for later in life. But having a budget system holds you accountable to what you spend. In college, I didn’t realize how much money I spent on coffee until I started categorizing our spending. Seeing how much I spent on certain items held me accountable to how I was using and spending my money.
3. Budgeting gives you a chance to celebrate
Following Dave Ramsey’s plan, we began saving for our emergency fund – 6 months of coverage for all of our expenses. When we met that goal, we were so excited and were able to celebrate that together. Now, whether it’s a really good paycheck that we deposit or turning in our rewards points on our credit cards for Christmas money, there are so many little celebrations that we get to have together that we never would have had if we kept our finances separate or didn’t talk about money.
Whether it’s paying off college debt or putting funds back for retirement, budgeting your money provides lots of opportunities to congratulate yourself for healthy financial habits.
4. Budgeting helps you become more generous (and a better steward of what God’s given you)
Money will never bring us happiness – that is a hole in our hearts that is filled by God alone. But being good stewards of the finances that He’s given us is a way that we’re able to get to know Him better and realize the dream that He has for our marriage. We set up a separate checking account for our tithing funds and 10% of paychecks go directly into that account. We’re able to support missionaries, sponsor children, tithe to our parish, and pick organizations to support with that money. Because we know how much money we have available and how much we have in our tithing account, we’re able to intentionally support others with the money God has given us.
Your budget as a single man or woman may not have the typical categories that married couples (especially those with kids!) have. This season of singleness provides great opportunities to be generous with your finances. You don’t have to wait ’til you’re married to honor God with the gifts He’s given you.
5. You’ll be prepared for financial surprises
After a trip to the emergency room. we were left with a hefty hospital bill. When Joseph’s transfer case in his car needed replaced, it wasn’t a fun bill to get. But because we’ve saved back, those bills haven’t left us scrambling for funds. Because we keep track of what we spend on our credit cards, the statements don’t surprise us when they come in the mail. This means that, even when those big bills come due, they’re not a source of stress on our relationship.
Financial emergencies occur at all stages of life, unfortunately. You can start saving back for those worst-case-scenarios as a single adult now. Without an emergency fund, you could find yourself racking up credit card debt, or applying for loans. Avoid these pitfalls by putting a little bit back into savings each month.
6. Having a budget encourages honesty
In Joseph and I’s marriage, if one of us wants to buy something, or wants to make a savings goal, we have to let the other person know. We don’t have separate budgets or credit cards, so everything we spend and those dreams we have are all out in the open. But instead of being a burden, those goals and dreams are something we get to honestly share with each other. We take each other’s desires into consideration when adjusting the budget during the month.
Don’t be fooled – it’s not all sunshine and roses. There are multiple times during the month when one of us (usually Joseph) will say, “We need to update the budget,” and the other one of us (usually me) will say, “Ughhhhhhhhhhh. Do we have to? Let’s just drink coffee.” But that’s part of being honest with each other. And when the budget is adjusted and the stress is lifted with some adjustments in our budget, it’s totally worth it. And sometimes we drink coffee while we adjust the budget, and everyone wins.
When you budget on a regular basis, you’re aware exactly of what every dollar in your budget is doing. This will allow you to transparently explain your budget system and goals to your friends and family. Keep getting invited by co-workers to after work happy-hours that are draining your budget’s funds for restaurants? An honest conversation about your budget system will be a great way to start conversations and help you spend responsibly as a single adult.