Budgeting As A Couple

Budgeting as a Couple: Tips To Avoid Strangling Each Other 2022

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Budgeting as a Couple

Whether you are newlyweds or if you have been married 50 years it is never too late to start budgeting. Even if you already have a budget, there are always new things to learn about budgeting. Budgeting is one of the most difficult things to do since we all have different wants and needs, even as a couple. We will go over some principles of budgeting, how to start budgeting, how to continue budgeting together, and how to grow together through budgeting. 

Get our FREE budgeting printables to download.

Getting Ready to Start A Budget 

What a mess! Either one or both spouses will exclaim this or something similar when looking at the family’s finances. That’s usually how a budget starts out. This is where we get started with the questions about how to budget as a married couple. This can lead to arguments because there can be a lack of communication and conflicting ideals when it comes to budgeting. It is important to keep level heads and respectful attitudes as financial conflicts are one of the leading causes of divorce. 

When beginning a budget, especially for the first time together, it is important to be realistic with what your wants and needs are. There are going to be things that you may not agree upon. It is imperative to set ground rules before starting to budget. If the discussion gets too heated, one of you may need to walk away or call a time out. Remember you are on the same team. 

Budgeting Principles

First, in order to get a clear grasp on budgeting, you will want to learn how to budget money as a married couple. One of the most basic principles of a budget is to not spend more than you make. Of course, that is easier said than done in many cases. You want to manage your budget from a realistic point of view, one that does not expend every penny but also one that covers all the family’s expenses while allowing for some wiggle room. Budgeting is one of the areas of life that you want to have a pessimistic outlook on since an optimistic outlook can spell disaster for your budget. 

How To Budget As A Couple

How to Start Budgeting

Once you are ready to sit down and get serious about the budget it is time to get some numbers together. Look at all the income that is coming into the home. You may want to do this per pay period or by month. Take into account any money that you get on a continuous basis. This can be from a job, side hustle (if it is a steady source of income), alimony, child support, and any other source of consistent income. You will not want to count any source that is not dependable since it really cannot be counted on consistently. Make sure that you are only counting the net income and not the gross income.  

You will then want to gather all your bills together. These will include anything that is recurring each month such as cable, cell phone, utilities, insurance, transportation, and rent or mortgage payments. These will be considered your consistent payments since they will either not vary at all, or they will vary just a little bit. Then you will want to take into consideration entertainment (think date night), household items, personal wants/needs, and so on. Finally, you will want to focus on debt that you have outside of the standard monthly bills such as credit card debt, and building your savings toward retirement and as a safety net.  

Check out the Honeydue couples budgeting app.

Setting Up the Budget

One of the most popular methods of budgeting as a couple is to implement the 50%, 30%, 20% method of budgeting. This means that the standard monthly recurring charges take 50%. It is usually assumed that a good reference point is that housing, whether rent or mortgage, only takes 30% of your income. The other 20% should cover the rest of the monthly bills. 

For the 30% of your income, you will need to address your discretionary income. This is what you do on couple date nights, entertainment, anything that you need for the home, or if you want a new outfit. Whatever it is, it should not exceed 30% of your income. 

The final 20% of your income should be used to pay off debt and to be used towards savings. While it is not easy to take a full 20% of your income for these items, it is beneficial to the home if you are able to do it. You can pay down any extra debt that you may have outside of what is called traditional debt that you are paying off on a monthly basis. You will want to use this portion of your income to also start savings and retirement accounts. 

Related content: Free budgeting cash envelope printables

Credit Card Debt

While overall credit card debt has been steadily decreasing in the U.S., it is still a problem that millions of Americans face. If you do not have credit card debt, do your best to keep it that way. If you do, then it is best to try to take care of it as soon as possible. 

You may want to investigate ways of paying off the debt such as the debt snowball method. This method instructs that you take any extra money that you have at the end of the month and apply it to the lowest balance then move that amount to the next lowest amount, kind of like a snowball, hence the name. 

Different Types of Savings

When developing a savings strategy, it is of the utmost importance to ensure that all your bases are covered. You will want to develop a rainy day and an emergency fund. Why? Because life happens. 

A rainy day fund and an emergency fund are two different things. A rainy-day fund is money that you both will set aside that is used to pay off something that comes up unexpectedly. This can be something like a water heater issue, the air conditioner not working, or a car repair.

An emergency fund is quite different. The emergency fund should be at least six months of living expenses. Things happen and if there were to be an injury or illness to one or both of you or if there was a layoff, the emergency fund would be a lifesaver for your financial situation. An emergency fund is outlined as the amount of money it would take to pay all of your bills for a specific amount of time. You always want to have at least one month of expenses saved in an emergency fund, but six months is ideal. 

Related content: Free budgeting apps for your phone or desktop


Many people do not tend to think about their retirements when they are young. When people tend to think about their retirement is when it is too late to do much about it. Let’s face it, we are all heading toward retiring from the workforce someday. Will social security be there for us? We don’t know. The one thing that we do know is that it is our responsibility to plan ahead for our golden years. 

If you work for a company that offers a 401k or other such savings plan, it may be a good idea to contribute at least as much as the employer is going to match. It’s free money at the end of the day and a dollar-for-dollar match is a pretty sweet deal. Next, you will want to look into investments such as IRAs. These long-term investments will be there for you when it comes time to say goodbye to the workforce. Another option is to invest in the stock market. While this is a much risker proposition, the rewards may potentially be much greater as well. A newer, and albeit much risker proposition is to invest in cryptocurrency. With cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin making people millions of dollars it is worth looking into. The risk is associated with the relatively short amount of time that it has been in circulation, but it is worth your consideration. 

Related content: Download our debt snowball worksheet

Sample Budget for Married People

One way that you can envision what your budget will look like is to write it out. You can do this by using a traditional method of pen and paper, a spreadsheet, or there are even apps that are available for you to use. Whatever method you use, be sure to become as familiar as you can with it. 

You can use something like the spreadsheet below to get started. 

Basics 50%    
Cell Phone   
Discretionary 30%     
His Needs/Wants   
Her Needs/Wants    
Home needs   
Debt & Savings 20%   
Credit Card Debt   
Other debt   
Rainy-Day Fund   
Emergency Fund    
Remainder for debt snowball   

This is just something basic that tells you what you are paying and what percentage of your income it should take. You can make it as fancy or simplistic as you like. Remember, this is something that is unique to you two as a couple and it will come to define how you budget as a married couple. 

While there are several different software offerings for budgeting money as a married couple such as Mint, You Need A Budget (YNAB), and Acorns to name a few, they each come with their challenges that you may or may not want to take on. The learning curve and limitations to the software offerings are just two that come to mind and there are surely others. 

If you are comfortable with a spreadsheet program or a simple piece of paper and a pencil (because pen doesn’t erase), that may be your best option. You must decide what works for you to start budgeting as a couple. If it doesn’t make sense to the two of you then it won’t make sense in the long run and one or both of you will abandon the budget. 

It Takes Two

When you said I do it meant that you will eventually have to learn how to budget as a couple as well. You must be as committed to the budget as you are to one another. In order to start budgeting as a couple, you must be willing to admit it when you make a mistake. They will happen. What you do with them is what is important. If you learn from them then they will have served their purpose. If you do not learn from them then you will be doomed to repeat them. 

Once you learn from your mistakes and learn to make adjustments in your budget then you will be able to say that you know how to budget as a married couple. Work together. This is something that is new for either one of you or both of you. Accept the fact that your significant other may not catch on as fast as you did to budgeting as a couple. That’s ok.

Related content: Free credit card debt payoff printable

Pass it On

Once you and your spouse have learned how to budget, pay it forward. Take a young couple (or not-so-young couple) under your wing and tell them the stories about when you learned how to budget as a couple. Let them know where you were when you learned how to start budgeting. Share the trial and triumphs that you experienced. Most of all let them know that they are not alone. 


Budgeting is something that is very difficult to do. Companies hire teams of accountants to do their budgets. We don’t have those same options, so we need to work together to learn how to budget money as a married couple. We need to appreciate our differences and the unique perspectives that we bring to budgeting as a couple. You and your spouse want and need to feel accepted and loved throughout the process as you develop a budget. Remember you are learning how to budget as a couple together. This is just another adventure in your lives together. 

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