Want to Spend Time Together? Try Working on Your Budget.
by David Gibson
Did it ever occur to you that preparing a family budget together might be one good way for a wife and husband to spend some quality time alone with each other? Not if you’re like me. But financial writer Tim Maurer got me thinking about it with a Jan. 12 column titled “10 Ways Budgeting Saved My Marriage.”
Budgeting their money forces Maurer and his wife, parents of two young children, “to collaborate,” he explained in the column, published by Forbes.com, a service of the noted business and financial magazine.
Maurer suggested that while it may seem strange, working together on a budget helps to counteract a certain risk at his home. How so?
Given the level of their multiple commitments not only to work, but to school, sports activities, the church, etc., it seems he and his wife found themselves left to function “more as independent business partners than spouses.” And they tended to find themselves “in short supply” when it came both to “adult conversation and genuine collaboration.”
Fortunately, then, working on their budget provides a context for the couple not only to converse as adults, but truly to work together, he said.
Maurer is a financial planner, educator and author. In these career roles, he considers it his vocation to help the people he serves connect who they are with what they do. His philosophy of money holds “that personal finance is more personal than it is finance and that money has no value other than that which we give it.”
Time Together Builds Intimacy
Maurer is not alone in pointing out that preparing a household budget represents a chance for a couple to spend time together. A book reviewed last August for this website made a similar point. In “Stress-Proof Your Marriage” (Our Sunday Visitor), Cory and Heidi Busse wrote:
“Budgeting is making the choice to take your marriage’s head out of the financial sand. Budgeting is about acknowledging where the money goes and making changes (if need be). Budgeting is about working together.”
It is of no small importance that couples find ways to spend time with each other. That point was clear in the new “State of Our Unions” report,” titled “And Baby Makes Three,” which I discussed on this website last week.
The annual report, released Dec. 8 by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families, based in New York, examined 10 factors in “contemporary social life and relationships” that “appear to boost women’s and men’s odds of successfully combining marriage and parenthood.” Quality family time was among those factors.
“Intimacy is more likely to emerge and be sustained when couples have time for one another, especially after they transition into parenthood,” the report said. It stressed that both “time spent alone with one’s spouse and time spent with one’s children” serve to “predict higher levels of marital solidarity.”
When a wife and husband “spend time alone together, talking or sharing an activity,” they are “significantly more likely to be happy in their marriages and less likely to be vulnerable to separation or divorce,” according to “The State of Our Unions.”
Budgeting for Evenings Out
One of Maurer’s insights was that the time busy married parents set aside for budgeting can represent authentic, adult couple time. But like so many couples, he and his wife also wanted to spend time together in other enjoyable ways.
Of course, some of these enjoyable ways of spending time together cost money. I found it noteworthy, therefore, that their budget set aside money precisely for a bit of time away from home – a date night, for example.
Maurer recalled asking a client, an older husband and father, “what his secret to marriage and parenting was.” The happily married client responded that he and his wife always set time and money aside for themselves “as a couple.”
The client made the case that a wife and husband become “better parents” when they set time aside to be together alone – time for a date night, a weekend away, even a week’s vacation.
Like many couples, however, by the end of most months the Maurers already had spent their discretionary money “on the rest of life.” So they worked a solution to that predicament into their budget.
The Maurers realized the budgeting process had a way of highlighting their dependence on each other and its value.
They also realized their budget needed to assure some measure of spending independence for each of them. Thus, they developed the “His” and “Hers” sections of their budget.
Finally, however, to secure time for themselves as a couple, the Maurers budgeted a sum called “Ours.” This budget element helps to protect them from feeling they are taking money away from something else important when they arrange for a baby-sitter and go out for an evening.
In no way is budgeting romantic, Maurer concluded. But he said budgeting can help to “promote and preserve” a couple’s romance.
About the author
David Gibson served for 37 years on the editorial staff at Catholic News Service, where he was the founding and long-time editor of Origins, CNS Documentary Service. David received a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in Minnesota and an M.A. in religious education from The Catholic University of America. Married for 38 years, he and his wife have three adult daughters and six grandchildren.