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Everything you need to build your budget

Updated: Jan 4

Updated post: 9/5/23

Original post: 11/10/23

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Everything you need to build your budget

The most useful resource or tool spouses can use to build a budget is a complete history of your past financial choices. Before we get to that, let’s have an understanding of what you and your spouse hope to achieve.

I prefer to look at a budget as a spending plan. Planned choices to spend money are not a guilty pleasure; it’s planned happiness. A budget (spending plan) is not a long-term diet. It might be necessary to tighten your belts to pay down damaging debt obligations. After this is worked through, the approach to planned financial decisions should be a thoughtful balancing act between financial security and happiness now and saving for the future.

Every household has a different financial circumstance, but it can take hours to pull together what is needed to build a spending plan. Schedule time in your calendars for you and your spouse to get organized. Set alert reminders so you remember.

Collect your transactions over the past year

  • Credit card transactions. Most credit cards allow you to download transactions into a CSV file. Doing so will save you time and headaches when you organize your transactions.

  • Checking account transactions. Most banks also allow you to download transactions into a CSV file. If not, you’ll need to download the monthly statements in a PDF. This will capture all transactions through your checking accounts, such as debit cards, checks, and ATM withdrawals.

  • Savings account transactions. You can likely download your records just as you did with your checking account. Be sure not to double account. For example, if you moved money from checking to saving and then spent that money from your checking, this should only be one total withdrawal.

  • 3rd party mobile wallet transactions. Download withdrawals from contactless payment options such as Apple Pay and Venmo. You’ll need to cross over transactions to ensure they are not double-counted between the app and the connecting bank account.

  • Brokerage account transactions. These accounts are typically viewed as investment accounts commonly used to buy and sell securities (e.g., stocks, bonds, mutual funds). There are no penalties or limits for withdrawing, and some brokerage accounts have services similar to checking accounts.

  • Cash on hand. Whether it is the penny jar or piggy bank, you’ll need to estimate how much you spent using cash that is not reflected in any bank account withdrawals.

You’ll need to categorize each transaction as a debit (money out of your account) and credit (money into your account). Do not double count credits, such as paycheck deposits and transfers between accounts.

Choose your tool to organize your transactions

My wife and I use Tiller to manage our own personal finances, and we love it! Here are three reasons why:

1. Time saver! We have far too many transactions to track on an app or input manually. Time is at a premium. Once our accounts were linked to Tiller and we categorized three months of transactions, Tiller is updated daily without us having to invest any additional time. We actually get an email each morning with a review of each transaction from the previous day.

2. Safety! Tiller does not share personal data, advertise other products, or have detailed access to our financial accounts.

3. Budgeting! Tiller makes it super simple to recognize spending patterns and identify problem areas.

Mint is going away at the end of the year. Click here to learn how you can migrate to Tiller.


Categorize your expenses

To reduce your spending, categorize your expenses: fixed expenses, variable but automatic expenses, and variable expenses.

Fixed expenses do not change from payment to payment. Common examples of fixed expenses include fixed-rate mortgages and auto loan payments.

Variable but automatic expenses will be a great place to start cutting costs. These expenses are often paid automatically, but the costs can increase over time. Examples include subscriptions, insurance, and cell phones.

Variable expenses can vary day by day. Think about how frequently you or your spouse order from Amazon, eat out, or attend a sporting event.

Schedule a Money Date

You and your spouse are not spreadsheets. You are people with emotions, and it can be potentially contentious if financial infidelity has occurred.

Put time aside to build out your budget together. You will need to be in a comfortable and peaceful environment and schedule enough time not to feel rushed. Look at my previous post if you need to familiarize yourself with what a Money Date is or how to go about it.

How to start building out a spending plan

When you start to build out your spending plan, begin with what you each enjoy spending money on the most and work backward. Consider writing your preferred spending choices down separately and then coming together to find what you have in common. And that is the best place to prioritize how you should spend your money.


Learn More

Couples who learn more, save more, and spend more on what is important to them.

For engaged and recently married couples who want to manage money and the home as a team.

Self paced online courses for couples designed by national financial therapy and financial planning experts

Winning ideas from experts to manage money and the home as a team. 2023 Plutus Award Finalist: Best Couples or Family Content

🔔 Click here to listen and subscribe to the Modern Husbands Podcast on Apple.

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