1. Step back and consider how the item fits in with your values.
Sure it might sound good to buy lunch every workday, but when you stop to consider the bigger picture, you might decide that it’s not as important as getting out of debt or saving for your kids’ college education. Looking at your shared values will help you to prioritize your spending.
2. Wait on making a decision until you’re working to zero-out the budget.
When you’re disagreeing on how much to spend on something, set it aside and revisit it when the amounts of the other budget items have been determined. There may be enough money to cover that item. Or, there might not be enough money anyway. In the end, the bottom line has to equal zero, so if you want to spend more money on one item, you may have to spend less on something else.
When you just don’t agree:
3. Research how much is commonly spent on that item e.g. check USDA for average food expenditures.
Sometimes it’s useful to know what most other people spend on a budget item. For example, if a husband is expecting his wife to feed their family of four for $400 a month, the document “Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels U.S. Average, January 2012” will show that that amount of money is unrealistically low.
4. Offer a fair exchange, i.e. “quid pro quo.”
If there’s enough money, perhaps you can make a deal: “You can have that much money for golf if I can have this much money for my craft supplies.” Or, “I’ll take over the responsibility of walking the dog for you if we can pay someone else to groom her.”
5. Give it a try and reevaluate it after a set time.
Even though you’re not excited about funding a budget item at a certain level, you can give it a try for a while and then reevaluate it. If it turns out that paying for that item means there’s just not enough money to cover other, more important things, then you two can work together to change the plan.
When there’s not enough money:
6. Put in a line item, even if has to be $0 for now.
Often times we’ll want something but just not have enough money for it right now. If it is really important to you, put it in the budget now even if the amount is just $0. Come up with an agreement on when that item will be funded, e.g. when you get a raise, when a debt is paid off or another commitment is fulfilled.
7. Take turns.
This month she gets money to go out with her friends, next month he gets money to go out with his friends. It’s one way of sharing.
8. Save up for something if you can’t afford to have the whole thing every month.
Another version of sharing is that you both get some money toward what you’re wanting, even though it’s not enough to buy it in one month. Set the money aside and save up until you can do or have what you want.
9. Get creative.
I call a common budgeting mistake “jumping to solutions.” Find the real thing or outcome that’s desired (e.g. time alone together, a night off from cooking, some fun entertainment) and brainstorm alternative options. Often times there’s less expensive and even better options than the original one.
And when all else fails:
10. Do “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to see who wins.
Hey, it’s better than boxing gloves!