Budgeting & using YNAB with my spouse

I've been using YNAB for over 3 years now.  In that 3 years, I've never really been able to get my wife to be an active participant in it's use.  I think her view is "I'm on top of the finances and she leaves that alone".

From a personality perspective, I'm the OCD/Anal attention to detail freak, and my wife is much less so.  In addition, I'm more of the saver where she is the spender.  

Having said that, my wife does not by any means spend excessively or frivolously.  When we were saving for the house she cut back on her discretionary pieces to the budget.  In her case, it's less frequently a planned push/pull.  That can leave me to WAM'ing from a variety of places.  

Now that we just bought a house, and have 2 kids, we really need to have more regular and transparent discussions about the expenses so that we can prioritize jointly.  We inherently have a larger expense base between some wants like kids summer camp, Home Improvement projects, and needs, like House Maintenance.

My wife has been resistant to be the one categorizing the YNAB transactions, or in the app at all.  

Where that leaves me, is often feeling like I'm the budget police constantly saying we can't afford to do that, or delivering a negative message.  My consistent message has been that if we discuss the budget jointly, then my wife would have financial freedom to pull from discretinoary categories.  It's just a function of the priorities.  I've also told her that I'd prefer not to be the budget police constantly nit picking about spending concerns, and saving.  This obviously puts a strain on our relationship.  

I've tried the "budget date" meeting planner on our calendar, but more often than not, it just never happens.  

I'm reaching out to the forum for overall advice:  

  • Success Stories for those of you who were in a similar situation, but now successfully manage the budget together
  • Success Stories for those of you who take a joint approach to YNAB budgeting/tracking and how the two of you do it.  What's the format of your budget meetings?  How do you manage finances on a daily basis?  

My wife is constantly asking things like, what money do we have after our commitments (Rent, Child Care, Bills (although that's a guesstimate), and subscriptions.  Is there a way that you frame your budget to show this? 


Thanks in advance!  

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  • To the last part of your question...

    Deciding together what to do with that "extra" money available after our commitments is the most fun part of budgeting and has been great for our relationship.  

    I use an "income for next month" category instead of budgeting into the future so on the 1st, or as near to, we budget the goal amount for each category then decide together where the "excess" funds will go. Great insight into his priorities and plans, gives him a say, and playing with those few extra dollars available after the obligations are covered makes us feel rich! 

  • Only recently has my wife taken a more active interest in YNAB, as far as consulting it, and actually putting transactions in.  Not usually at the time of sale, but usually the evening of, she'll get out the receipts and put them in.  Even though she has the app on her phone, she'd usually call or text me and ask if we had enough money for X or Y, or how much money do we have in the Z category?  Now she's actually opening the app and seeing for herself.

    So sometimes it takes a while.  I guess the more interactions you have together around YNAB,  the more she'll get used to it.  Not only "budget meetings" but even just comments like, "I was thinking about getting X today, but I looked at YNAB and it'll probably be another couple months before we reach our goal, so I'm holding off on it for now."  Or maybe, "Hey, Babe, I'm busy with this over here, but I was wondering, could you check the YNAB app, and see how much we have in Movies?  I was thinking about picking up the DVD of (whatever)."

    just give her some exposure to it, and see if she isn't too resistant to it.

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  • My thing was to stop being the budget police and frame this as a spending plan.  So I had to loosen up on some categories that I think are stupid or do not need that amount of money. But then once we’ve decided he is free to spend with wild abandon- up to the total.  No explanations required. I also had to let go of micro categorizing things. For example let’s use Target. Have a a Target category  with an amount available. Is it housewares? Is it groceries? Is it clothing? I don’t care. It’s just Target. Finally maybe set certain categories that are “hers” and give her the cash to fund them in full each pay/month. See no transactions required beyond one to categorize the cash. All very scary things for those of use who get a high from reconciling to the penny. I found that once I relaxed, after a while he leaned in.  Now he even enters all his transactions and often with a funny note for me.

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  • Good advice from others on this topic. One thing that we do is that we have a budget meeting each time we are paid. We are lucky because he is self employed so he synchronized his paycheque to coincide with mine. So, we meet every other Friday/Saturday because we are not one month ahead yet. I have found it gives us both better control even though he does not enter transactions generally. I have a good oversight on it so can keep it in check.

    First, we had to develop an overall budget that we agreed to. We recently went through and reorganized our categories into different themes that helped us. But, no matter what you have, I would highly recommend you have the outline of what you want to achieve and what must be paid (rent, food, children stuff)

    I ensure that I have reconciled prior to the meeting so that all of our accounts are up to date and we know that it is an accurate reflection of what we have. We have been having issues with one credit card import due to a change in card and YNAB issues so we reconcile that card together at the beginning of the meeting.


    1. Go through all of our actual expenses that have occured since the previous meeting. Keeping the meeting every other Friday/Saturday helps because it gives us a shorter time to look at. We don't generally make decisions on any changes here but rather go through the status. I always go through expenses first and then come back to the credit cards. That way, if there is overspending due to the categories, you see it there and then come back to the credit card.

    2. For us, I will WAM during the downtime so will explain if we look like we are not on track or where things are going. For example, we recently bought a washer and dryer unexpectedly. I better understood where the money would come from so I managed it and then explained. 

    3. Make decisions on where to move money if necessary. CAUTION - Try not to be defensive about questions as the "keeper of the budget". It is sometimes easy to slide into the questions being attacks on your actions rather than clarifications or understanding. I can have a sharp tongue sometimes when I think that it is obvious what I did will help us or keep us to what we agreed to but it is really me taking it personally. 

    4. Review the longer term items such as debt paydown, savings goals. It could be a simple, we are still on track. We need to start putting some eyes on this because it is not going in the right direction for our plan.

    Celebrate a well done meeting. The meeting takes about an hour or so. 

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