MY BIG, FAT IMPORTANT WARNING: I’m not gonna lie–reading this article (and doing nothing about it) will probably make you feel MORE stressed about money. BUT (and there is a but), if you print this monthly budget meeting agenda and start going over these items once a month (if you need a reminder, sign up here), about a year from now, you will feel significantly more knowledgable and confident as you improve your financial situation.
Get the printable version of this Monthly Budget Meeting Agenda
Monthly Budget Meeting
On every first Sunday of the month, my husband and I have a Monthly Budget Meeting when we discuss all things financial (well, almost every first Sunday–we’re human). This habit started during graduate school when we took a personal finance class together. <Insert rant here about how every high school and college should offer or require a personal finance class.>
Stressful Money Fights vs. Powerful Financial Team
If finances are only brought up when one partner has issues or resentment, you fall into the role of opponents engaged in stressful money battles. In contrast, when you have a scheduled huddle about your finances, you feel like you’re a team working together towards shared financial goals.
When both partners agree to participate in a planned monthly budget meeting, neither partner feels attacked and instead, a safe space is created to collaboratively solve financial issues.
What Is The Best Day To Hold your Monthly Budget Meeting?
The best day to hold your monthly money meeting is . . . the day you’ll actually do it! Meaning, it doesn’t matter. Just pick a day, put it in your calendar on repeat, set an alarm or email trigger to help you remember and just do it. You can always change your meeting day later. I like to do the first Sunday of the month because it gives my husband and me a chance to review the previous month and plan the budget and goals for the upcoming month.
I know Dave Ramsey recommends holding a family budget meeting before the month starts. Personally, I find my husband and I are much more serious about making our next month’s budget work after we’re forced into a reality check after reviewing the actual amounts spent in the previous month. If you want a reminder to hold your Monthly Budget Meeting, I’m your girl.
Monthly Budget Meeting Agenda: What To Discuss
Get a Printable Version of this agenda to use at your Monthly Budget Meetings.
Some topics you should discuss at your monthly budget meeting are:
- Progress Towards Long-Term Financial Goals
- Reconcile Last Month’s Budget
- Plan Next Month’s Budget
- Brainstorm and Plan For Upcoming Large Expenses (e.g. cars, home repairs, electronics)
- If needed: Increase Income or Cut Expenses
Topic #1: Long-Term Financial Goals
Before you get into the nitty-gritty of the budget, spend a few minutes talking about the big-picture: Analyzing your progress towards long-term financial goals.
Focusing on your WHY will help you gain the motivation to follow through with the HOW.
What long-term financial goals should you have?
If you don’t know what long-term financial goals you should have, my 12 Money Fit Moves are a good start (although I am NOT a Certified Financial Planner and don’t pretend to be–get a professional involved when you need to). To receive a printable of these 12 Money Fit Moves, join my email list. You’ll hear from me once a month to remind you to hold your Monthly Budget Meeting.
Work on your long-term financial goals ONE at a time, in order. I recommend starting with:
- Get proper insurance (health, disability, life) and a legal will
- Pay off your debts (besides mortgage), one at a time
- Build an emergency fund with 3-6 months of expenses
- Get on track for retirement, saving ~15% of your pre-tax income per year.
- Save for your children’s college fund
Topic #2: Reconcile Last Month’s Budget
Go over last month’s income and expenses in whatever budget tool you use. You can track your income and expenses in a spreadsheet or budgeting app that automatically inputs your transactions like YNAB (my favorite, but not free) or Mint (the free app I’ve used the most)–more info on my favorite budgeting tool in my Money Fit Resources page.
But once again, the best budgeting tool is the one you’ll actually use. You’re not painting the Sistine Chapel. When it comes to budgeting, check your perfectionism at the door. “Good enough” is infinitely better than nothing.
Topic #3: Plan for Next Month’s Budget
Pretty straight forward. Look over the budget for the upcoming month(s) and make sure it includes all the upcoming expenses. The most essential part of this is so important that it has it’s very own topic #4. . .
Topic #4: Brainstorm and Plan for Upcoming Large Expenses
All too often we (1) Wait until expenses come and then (2) Hope we can pay for it (Steve Martin and Amy Poehler even did an SNL Skit about this failing financial mindset). A better way to handle those large irregular expenses is to either:
- Break down the cost into a monthly amount and include it in your monthly budget. Each month you can slowly set money aside so when the expense comes due, you are prepared. (If you’ve tried doing this before and have struggled, the budgeting app YNAB has a really great way to set money aside for various expenses without having to open a separate bank account)
- Actually transfer the amount to a separate savings account so it doesn’t get mixed in with your regular monthly budget items.
- For example: Before my husband and I started using YNAB, we transferred an amount each month for our semi-annual expenses (property taxes, life insurance, and car insurance). Our property tax bills and insurance bills never caught us by surprise. We simply wrote a check from this separate account.
Brainstorm and Start Saving
We don’t know every expense that will hit us (that’s why we have an emergency fund–a topic for another day, it’s Money Fit Move #4); however, we can predict a lot of expenses. For example, if our car is on its last leg, we know we’re going to need a new one soon.
Examples of large irregular expenses:
- Property Taxes (If not rolled into your mortgage expense, I definitely recommend accruing each month in your monthly budget)
- Insurance Payments (e.g. car insurance, life insurance, etc.)
- Home repairs
- Medical expenses (e.g. If you’re planning on having another child)
- Veterinarian expenses
- Dental work and braces
- A new car (or preferably gently-used-and-therefore-less-expensive car)
- Car repairs (I recommend including a monthly average for car maintenance and repairs)
- Kids extracurricular programs (sports, dance, camps, etc.)
- Annual memberships (e.g. Costco, gym, pool, etc.)
- School Tuition or other educational expenses
- Electronics (laptops, phones, and tablet don’t last forever–start saving now or be frustrated later)
- Upcoming events and/or travel
- Gifts (e.g. Christmas gifts, if you’re not already including this in your monthly budget amount)
- Clothing (e.g. Back to school or winter coats)
- Income tax for supplemental or self-employment income (i.e. money you received without having tax withheld)
I know! It’s panic-inducing. But don’t hyperventilate–PLAN! I know it’s tempting to curl up in a ball and pretend these expenses will never happen but recognize that any effort you make towards saving for these inevitable expenses will lower your future financial stress.
How to Plan for Upcoming Large Expenses
An Example. Let’s say our current car is struggling, so we know we need to save for a new (to us) used car.
We have three options:
- Start aggressively saving for the car
- Wait until our current car dies and start taking the bus
- Finance a new car with debt and a car payment (not ideal)
The first option is pretty obviously the best. So let’s do a little math and research to figure out:
(1) How much your next car will cost (we like using CarMax as a haggle-free way to find a nice used car–much less expensive than buying a new car) and
(2) How much you can save each month towards that new car.
Then solve for x. If your new car will cost $15,000 and you can save $300/month, it’s going to take 50 months or a little over 4 years to save up. That long savings timeline may make you want to give up. Don’t. Getting a car loan is not a magic wand, it’s debt and you end up paying even more money in interest. If your current car isn’t going to last 50 months, you can either get a cheaper car or start walking dogs or do whatever it takes to save extra money each month towards that new car.
Topic #5: If Needed: Increase Income or Cut Expenses
Are your expenses too high for your current income? Often when individuals reach this conclusion, they give up and stop budgeting. They don’t like what they’re seeing so it’s more pleasant to just stop looking–in the short term. In the long-term, this exacerbates the problem and leads to major stress and marital strife. Luckily, you’re not “most people.” If you’re reading this blog, you are a Money Fit Mom. That means you don’t give up, you think of solutions.
There are two ways you can make ends meet (1) Lower Expenses or (2) Increase Income:
- Go back through your monthly budget items and see what you can live without or creatively lower the cost of.
- Look at your upcoming expenses and see if you can work out a deal. For example, we moved to a new house that desperately needed air conditioning. I found out my HVAC contractor needed bookkeeping services, so we were able to work out a deal and save cash for other needed house repairs.
- Go back to work, either part-time or full-time
- Start a side-hustle – I’m not talking about joining your friend’s multi-level marketing venture. Usually, the best way to get extra cash is an old fashioned job. The example Dave Ramsey always uses is walking dogs (it pays better than you think!)
- Consider additional job training, certification or a marketable degree to increase your take-home pay — Avoid going into a huge amount of student loan to do this. Your current employer may be willing to pay for a degree or certification. If you’re footing the bill yourself, go to a school you can afford.
It Gets Easier–I Promise!
That’s it! I know, it’s exhausting. The truth is, you won’t need to talk about each of these items in depth every month. The first few monthly budget meetings will be the longest, but as you begin to gain confidence about the pace you are saving for upcoming large expenses, you won’t have to spend so much time going over those items. And eventually, you won’t have to discuss the last item (about making ends meet) at all because you’ll be making your budget work for you, month after month.
p.s. If you want a printable version to use for your Monthly Budget Meeting Agenda, here you go.
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