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Budgeting: a team sport

November 18, 2013 by Editor, InvestingForMe

Unfortunately, when it comes to our income and spending decisions (paying bills, banking, and making the financial decisions, etc.), more often than not, we’re on our own – when in reality budgeting should be a team sport. And typically this unfortunate arrangement places all of the financial stress and burden squarely on the shoulders of only one team member, when as is the case in many households, two people are typically earning and spending.


To be successful at budgeting requires that everyone in the household gets on board, sets agreed upon team goals, and works toward accomplishing those goals as a team. When one team member eats bagged lunches every workday while the other is feeding a Starbucks’ addiction and dining on sushi every lunch hour, no one wins. In this kind of scenario, you’re just playing tug-of-war, and budgeting and savings go right out the window. The team loses.

Recognize the signs of poor teamwork

If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re the one responsible for your team’s finances and your partner has taken on the role of a cheerleader …Yay, I’m all for it! - Oh, and I’ll have Grande Peppermint Mocha to go…

And we’ve all heard the excuses:

  • My partner just isn’t interested in budgeting and talking finances.
  • My partner is so bad with money; it would scare me if they were involved!
  • Talking about money just ends up with us fighting. It’s easier if I just do it myself.
  • We’ve just kind of drifted into our roles – I look after our finances and my partner does…

Sound familiar? If you recognize any of these excuses for not properly sharing the responsibility of working towards financial goals, chances are you’re not going to succeed. If you’re going it alone in your household, your financial goals are going to take longer than it should. In fact it will decrease your chances for success, and it sets you up as the bad guy in the relationship.

Time to draft team players!

It doesn’t matter if you’re single or have a partner. Financial decisions are much easier if you’re part of a team. So, if you don’t have a one, it’s time to draft some team players and make some serious changes to your financial game.

If you’re single, try building a team with a group of buddies. Chances are they’re facing the same financial choices and decisions as you are. A team of like-minded friends can increase your own financial success, as each person in the group will have strengths they can contribute to the team. Maybe one of your buddies is great at saving on groceries, another is great at finding and negotiating a great mortgage interest rate, and someone else really likes the challenge of hunting for the best cell phone, Internet or insurance plan. Make budgeting-get-together-nights a regular event like monthly book clubs and your chances of meeting your financial goals will greatly increase.

But whether you’re single and draft a group of friends or if you’re in a relationship, you need to act like a team to increase your chances for financial success. That includes having regular pep talks with your teammate(s) to make sure everyone is on the same page around your team’s goals and game plan.

Team building exercises

Here’s a couple of ways to improve teambuilding in your household to help you move towards your financial success:

  1. Approach the touchy topics of budgeting, financial decisions and financial goals using the team metaphor (talk about how you both play on the same team, each player has a responsibility to the team to work hard and stay focused on the team’s goals, and how when one player doesn’t pull their weight, the other players and the team suffers).
  2. Just as you would with a team sport, try to make your financial goals fun! Don’t focus on the negatives (the hard work, the tediousness of watching every penny, the sacrifices that need to be made, going without the wants, etc.). Focus on the fact that each player is part of the team. Try incorporating some of these ideas:
    • Set your team’s goals together. (Make a list together of the not-so-fun-debt and savings goals and then the more fun holiday or retirement goals that you can reward each other with after!)
    • Encourage each other on the individual efforts. (Come up with a fun (inexpensive!) reward system … winner gets excused from a household chore for a week; winner gets favourite (homemade!) meal, etc.)
    • Celebrate your accomplishments – no matter how small!
    • Review areas of weakness with a focus on future actions. Don’t dwell on the past’s lack of results. For example, if you failed to kick your daily Starbucks’ habit last week, then set a new, more achievable goal, say, cutting your daily visits to 4 next week, followed by 3 the next, and so on.
    • When one team goal is achieved, set a new goal for the team.

Focus on skills development

No team wins without practice. Learning to budget properly takes real time and effort like everything else worth doing. When sports teams meet for their regular practice sessions, they select and focus their efforts on one or two aspects of their game for each practice session. And they review where they go wrong to learn from their mistakes in order to move forward. Your team should do the same.

For example, keep your budgeting practices focused on one aspect of budgeting. Don’t try and do it all (Net Worth Statement, Household Budget, Retirement planning, etc.) in one sitting. That’s just plain scary.

Set up a team practice schedule that enables you to easily work toward your team’s development by focusing on one aspect at a time. Your team schedule should outline the time, place and focus for each session. And stick to it - don’t let life get in the way!

And when necessary, play hardball - at times using a calculator and receipts … calculate together how much that daily Grande Peppermint Mocha is costing the team every month and every year. Maybe substitute the small, insignificant daily pleasures with meaningful longer-term goals. Think how satisfying it would be to put that Starbucks money towards your debts, your children’s education, or your retirement.

By keeping a team metaphor and commitment front and center, you will successfully move towards your financial goals where everyone feels better.


(This article was first published by Troy Media)


Read the next article in the series - Your finances: crystal clear or a little hazy?


Read the 1st article in the series -  76% of Canadians must be idiots when it comes to saving and planning for retirement!



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