All the good financial systems in the world won’t do you any good unless you turn them into good financial habits. Here’s how I made managing my money a habit, and continue to maintain it even though I’m not in charge of paying the bills anymore.
So let’s start by admitting that I can be a bit obsessive when it comes to money. When I first got married and it was decided that my husband would manage the day-to-day money while I took care of investing and taxes, it made me a little crazy. I hate not knowing exactly how much money we have every day. So, first I made sure he adopted all my financial systems, then I made new habits to manage my money neuroses.
If you pay the bills, then your regular check-ins can occur at your weekly bill paying time, but you should also review your finances overall every month to see where your spending categories have changed and why that might be. Some, like fuel, are unavoidable, but you might also discover just how much you’re spending at the cafeteria now that you have a new job. It will also keep you in touch with your actual financial picture so you’re less tempted to overspend, or not so panicked that you’re afraid to spend any money. I call this “looking at the money” and I probably do it more than necessary, but it makes me feel better about our financial picture.
Schedule Money Talks
If your spouse manages the money, set aside some time once a month to discuss your financial goals and review your budget. That way you’re both motivated to maintain your course. It’s also important in case something happens to one of you. The other one has to be ready to step in and take over the bills at any moment.
Be Obsessive for a Couple Months
Like an exercise program, it takes a while to turn your systems into a habit. With the gym, they usually say that making it going for two weeks is enough to make it into habit. Since you probably don’t deal with your money as often as you go to the gym, I suggest being obsessive about your system for two months. Schedule set times to review the money and mark them on a calendar. After a couple months of practicing your entire system, it will become habit and you’ll be less likely to forget to pay a bill on time.
Of course, once you’re done obsessing, you also need to be flexible to changes in your financial status. Getting married, having kids, buying new software, and earning more money can all change your financial habits. Give yourself time to adapt and find new ways to manage your money. It took me a while, but I’ve learned not to stress about my husband paying the bills, at least most of the time.
Managing money isn’t a chore once it becomes a habit. It’s just a thing you do because you’re an adult and not independently wealthy. It’s sad, but it’s a fact we all have to accept.