Burgers & Budgets: The Meal that Changed My Marriage

You’ve heard the story before. It’s not unusual. Saver (me) is working diligently to get her finances in order. Spender (my husband) is working hard to live his life to the fullest. Opposites attract. They fall madly in love and walk off into the sunset together. That’s the end of the story, right? But, how do those wonderful opposites – both of which have their own strengths and weaknesses – create a financial life that they can both be proud of?

In most cases, they don’t. One person – one money approach – wins out. And, they both become resentful of one another. Those strengths they were once attracted to become stumbling blocks in their relationship. How do you get on the same page? You talk about it – not just once – but on a regular basis.

A few years ago, I heard an idea from friends of mine about doing a budget breakfast. They prepare a big breakfast at home and pour over their budget together. Everything is better with bacon, right? This monthly check-in with their budget has helped them both stay engaged with their financial life.

In my marriage, I was searching for a way to get my husband – the spender – more engaged in our financial life. He was happy letting me take the wheel and make most of our financial decisions. But “our” money was beginning to feel a lot like “my” money and I wanted to change that, so I decided to share this budget breakfast idea with my husband.

We chatted it over and he was open to the idea. I had visions of us sleeping in late, making a big breakfast together and pouring over our budget. He suggested that we go out instead of staying in. That would make it feel more like an “event” and it would help reduce distractions and his anxiety about talking about money. We decided to go to Doolittles – a place that is very near and dear to our hearts, we had our wedding rehearsal lunch there. The food is always good but still fairly reasonably priced. It turns out they don’t serve breakfast or brunch. So, we traded out breakfast for burgers and we haven’t turned back. We even work out together before hand so we don’t have to feel so bad about those burgers. ;)

The goal of budget breakfast is to answer two different questions: where are we at right now, financially? And, where are we going? We begin by taking a quick look at our budget and checking in with our cash flow. Then, we move into where we’re going. We talk about our goals, our values, and how we want to use any extra money that’s come in through the course of the month. The great thing is if a financial opportunity or concern comes up during the course of the month this gives us a great non-threatening environment to discuss it.

Budget breakfast has been a gift to our relationship as well as our financial life. It has given us mutual accountability for our finances and our goals. We are able to remind each other when we’ve strayed from our goals. And, we make decisions together so there’s no resentment. Plus, checking in on a monthly budget has helped us both to become more vigilant about our cash flow. Since we started budget breakfast, we have been way more on track with our budget and we’ve had less cash flow concerns than we had in the past. I’ve realized that my husband wasn’t the only person who needed to be reminded sometimes to focus more on the big goals than the small purchases. I’m grateful every time he reminds me to make a frugal choice today so we can focus on our larger goals.

But more than anything, I think budget breakfast has given us another platform to practice good communication and define who we are and what our goals are. Neither of us wants to spend our money aimlessly, we want to use it as a tool to create a fulfilling and generous life. Every burger moves us closer to that goal. It’s become one of my favorite relationship moments of the month.

Thinking about giving it a try? I encourage you to do to it and be intentional. I’d love to hear about your experience. Share your story in the comments below.