One of the biggest causes of stress between couples is money, and having disagreements on how to handle money can have a harmful effect on any relationship.  If you’re in a relationship that is having troubles because of money you’d do well to set up a simple budget so that, when bills start coming due, there’s sufficient cash to pay for them and your stress load is reduced.  (Of course if money isn’t the only problem you may need a couples counselor, and we’re not the experts for that.) If you’d like to set up your average family budget as a couple we have a few great tips below that will help you.

First you’ll want to calculate approximately how much each of you makes a month.  If this isn’t easy because you or your partner’s income is variable you can use what you made last year and divide by 12 to find the number you can use.

Gather together all statements and receipts for the last 1 to 2 months and , using Excel or another program, separate these expenses into categories like rent, utilities, cell and cable bills, car payments and the like.  These are your fixed expenses.  Find out your variable expenses by adding the receipts for restaurants, clothing, food and other costs that change every week or month. Be as thorough as possible.

Add the variable and fixed expenses and subtract this number from your combined monthly income and you’ll immediately see if you’re making more or less than you spend every month.  (Note; most couples make less than they spend.)

From here it’s time to look at your variable expenses and decide which of those that you can easily curtail or cut out completely. Food, clothing, entertainment and other non-essential items can usually be lowered.  If one person spends more than the other of course you’ll need to discuss how to reduce that without being insensitive.

Fixed expenses are a little more difficult but still can sometimes be reduced.  Cable and phone plans can occasionally be lowered, especially of you have a higher plan but don’t use the minutes or watch all the channels.  Utility bills can be lowered by conserving energy and water.

Together you can then set spending (and saving) goals together as needed and separately too, depending on your future plans.  If you don’t pool your money then assign expenses that either you or your partner will be responsible for each month.

If you can do this and do it consistently you’ll find that your money problems lessen as well as your stress.  Now as for your overbearing mother-in-law to be we’re sorry but that’s really out of our hands.