The Monthly Money Email

by Kristen on July 9, 2009 · 41 comments

in Budgets, Marriage and Money, Organization, Savings Accounts

mailboxes

Today, I’m going to write about the method my husband I use to communicate about money. While it’s nothing complicated or innovative, it has been an incredibly useful tool for us. I don’t think that this is the only way to talk about money…really, any method that consistently keeps both spouses informed and up-to-date will work, but this is the mode of communication that has served us best, and I’m sharing it in the hope that it might be helpful to some of you too.

For a lot of our marriage, my husband and I didn’t communicate really well about money. We talked about it occasionally, but not on a regular basis. I handled all the bill paying, and while we both worked at keeping our spending down, my husband wasn’t regularly in the loop as far as how much money we had and where exactly all of our money was going. This wasn’t a malicious effort on my part at all. Mostly, I think I just lacked the organization to put together a regular report.

A few years ago, after we’d bought this house and spent an awful lot of money having to fix it up (it was in fairly bad shape to being with, and then the whole heating system died shortly after we moved in), we were in pretty poor financial shape. Our savings were sapped, and we’d have been in big trouble if my husband had gotten laid off.

While this was a less than delightful situation, the direness of it all finally gave me the kick I needed to start communicating better about money. When we had a bit of a cushion, it wasn’t so necessary for both of us to know every detail about our finances, but when we were down to $50 in our account, it suddenly was.

So, about three years ago I started sending money emails to my husband. I know some people suggest chatting about money face-to-face, but I find that an email works better for us. This way I can write the information down when I happen to have time and my husband can read it when he happens to have time.

(update: I now just write up a document on the computer and leave it there for him to read at his leisure.)

When I first began, I sent him one every two weeks, since that was how often he got paid. I tallied up our income and expenses for that two-week period, and sent it his way. At first, this was a somewhat unpleasant task, because both he and I had to face how tight things really were, but after the initial adjustment period we experienced a number of benefits. Since we both knew how little extra money we had, we worked together to reduce what bills we could. We both agreed the cable needed to go, that we need to work at cutting back our electricity use, that we should cut out our eating out altogether, and so on. I felt an immense amount of relief now that we were sharing the burden of the financial stress, and the accountability of having to send an email every two weeks made me be much more organized about our finances.

The money emails also helped to take a lot of stress out of financial decisions. When my husband wasn’t so informed about our finances, I mostly had to figure out if we could afford things, but once we both knew exactly where we were financially, we could easily make the decisions together (and since we both see our money situation regularly now, we almost always agree on what we should do with our money).

Even though my husband still gets paid every two weeks, I now send emails just once a month. Here’s my basic method:

1) I add up all of our projected income for the month, take out our tithe and tax money, and come up with our spendable income for the month.

2) I add up all of our bills and take those out of the spendable income. I also subtract all the money that we save each month ($50 for clothing, $130 for auto repairs. $40 for Christmas, and so on).

3) Now that we’re in better financial shape, we usually have some money left over after the bills and savings, so I always include that information near the end of the email.

4) I include a report on all of our savings accounts, i.e. how much we have in Emergency Savings, how much is in our Clothing Savings, how much we’ve saved for vacation.

5) Once my husband has had a chance to look over the email, we usually have a short chat about it all, and we decide where we should put any extra money we have.

I can’t even really put into words exactly how much better I feel now that we are communicating so regularly about money, and my husband also feels a million times better. In addition, our financial situation has done nothing but improve. Part of this is because we’re mostly done with the expensive work on our house, but it’s also due in part to better money management, which in turn is due mostly to better communication.

If you’ve already got a great communication system in place, then you probably won’t want to bother with a money email, but if you are as bad at this as my husband I used to be (!), give the money email a try. I hope it serves you as well as it has served my husband and me.

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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Linzerella July 9, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Excellent post! I found that our financial situation only improved once we were honest about our situation.

We, too, bought a place three years ago that needed some renos. Then we got engaged, and started planning a wedding that we couldn’t really afford. I know, I know, everyone says don’t go into debt for a wedding, but we kind of figured … if it’s on credit, does that really count? Stupid, I know.

We had also been living irresponsibly for several years. When we graduated from college, we both leased vehicles, rented an expensive apartment, went out for dinners frequently, and never really paid attention to money.

It all came to a helm in April of this year – I was sick of paying down debt – but having it just barely tapping the interest on our credit cards and line of credit. I did a one-month snapshot of our debt situation – tracked every transaction and where the money was going. I also did an honest synopsis of our debt situation and what it was costing us. The result? We had a stunning $30,000 in debt – what?!

So next came the plan – we also reduced our costs…cancelling a home phone subscription, having our work companies pay for our cell phones, detailed meal planning which saves money on groceries (not buying food that won’t get used and end up in the trash can), and cutting down to one car. We now finance our car, and I take the bus to work – a wash since my public transportation costs are less than my parking costs.

At the end of July, we’ll have paid off $10,000 of our debt in just three months. But better yet, I finally feel like you – relieved. Relieved we’re both involved in our financial future, decisions and how we’re doing in the road to debt-free living. It was hard to get here, and it’s not easy paying off the debt in this process, but it is SO worth it!

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2 Tracy July 9, 2009 at 1:29 pm

This is a great idea! I’m going to try it with my husband. :)

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3 Stephanie July 9, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Kristen, What a wonderful idea! I know that when I was married communicating about money was the worst! Eveyone has their own ideas on where they think they are and where money is going or should go! I know for us, talking about money face to face, especially during hard times, didn’t work at all, I think if a person can sit down and mull over the “reports” on their own time, without the added pressure of an audience, that maybe they would make better decisions regarding money, like agreeing no eating out, or reducing electricity usage. I knew exactly how much money each paycheck was going to be, using his hours at the end of the week and a simple tax percentage equation, and I had all the checks ready to go by the morning his check would deposit, so they went in the mail box or were online bill pay scheduled for the next morning. I would show him the bills and how much went where and what was left, but I don’t think he listened becasue it wasn’t at a good time for him.

So again, what a great idea! I love it. Not to mention it does keep the bill payer/money handler more accountable with themselves. I know having it all written down, and keeping a tally of what is being paid down is a big encouraging boost to do it.

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4 Jane July 9, 2009 at 2:52 pm

What a great idea. I have a commuter marriage, so this would really be great!

Jane

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5 hiptobeme July 9, 2009 at 2:52 pm

This is good. Takes the emotion of it, more like a business email. Good stuff.

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6 frugalchick July 9, 2009 at 3:05 pm

I’m the one incharge of our finances and my husband gets an update periodically. I like the e-mail route as that will be more detailed. I imagine that it will also help my husband digest the information better as he is a visual learner. Great idea!

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7 Julie July 9, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Your post is a God send. We had our rude awakening just yesterday! We see in our account the results of poor money management and feel the burden of poor planning when we realize that we cannot afford a new vehicle that we need to purchase before September too fit our soon to be family of 8. The frustrating thing is, we aren’t frivolous with our money on ourselves, we use it for ministry. We still need to be good stewards with what God gives us, but He also calls us to give to the least of these. All of our needs are met, we have a decent home, a good- but almost too small for us vehicle, food on the table and clothes to wear. We are content. I supply a meal for about 25 homeless people every Sunday. My husband is always doing some sort of mercy ministry. Much of these expenses are reimbursed, but it is in the mean time that is the hard part. We recognize that we need to change something. Your tips of your family’s method will be fuel for my family to find what works for us. I agree that financial communication is key! The lack of it is what got our family into the mess that it is in now!
Many thanks! I will re-read and probably read again your post!!

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8 Christie July 9, 2009 at 5:53 pm

This is a great post, I like you handle all of the budgeting, paying bills, etc. Thanks for such a thought provoking post. I think I am going to try something similar to this for our marriage money communication as well.

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9 Mary Gamble July 9, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Hi Kristen,

Great idea! Do you have separate accounts set up at your bank for each of the individual savings accounts (clothes, vacation etc.)or are they all in one big account?

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10 Elizabeth B July 9, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Hi, Kristen. This is a good idea, but I have one concern. E-mail, unless you have your own server in your own apartment and the e-mail never even leaves your locked-down network, is not secure. Any bored system administrator, or anyone who manages to break into your account, can read anything that’s sitting on the e-mail servers. If you’re sending detailed budget reports, that’s all of your financial data right there. Of course that’s not to say that any given e-mail will necessarily be read, but I personally am really uncomfortable at the mere idea.

One workaround for this problem is to encrypt your messages; there are low-cost solutions for this. Another way is for you to create a report, the way you already do now, and put it in a directory on your computer which your husband can access. Then send your husband an e-mail message letting him know that the report is ready.

My husband and I need to get our encryption back up and running so that we can get going on doing reports again. We’ve kind of fallen off the wagon and he’s feeling badly out of the loop. So thanks for this–it’s just the nudge I needed!

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11 anne July 10, 2009 at 8:50 am

What a great post! I’d like to try this with my husband, but he never reads his email!! ( I would have to print it out for him :) )

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12 Laura M. July 10, 2009 at 9:11 am

Thank you so much for the idea. I too handle all the finances and because of work schedule i usually have to deal with money when he is at work and than he always wants to talk about when I am winding down from the day or at some other inconviant time so this would work miracles for our communication. Thanks

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13 Kristin @ klingtocash July 10, 2009 at 11:13 am

My husband and I do something similar. I put together the budget for the month, then we review it together and “spend” (on paper) any extra money left over. Some of it is saved, some of it goes toward debt and some of it might go to an extra fun thing. I love that we do this together because I am not carrying the weight of all the household finances on my shoulders. We’ve also found that we both worry less about money since we know exactly where we stand. I blog about communication quite a bit because it’s so important for a strong relationship and healthy finances.

If you haven’t already, I would recommend setting up a file with all your account information (location of accounts, account numbers, etc) for your bank accounts, insurance, retirement and investment accounts. I would also make a list of any debts you have and a list of your reoccurring bills. That way, god forbid something happens to you, he has a road map. I’ve seen so many cases in my career as a CPA where the spouse who handles the finances gets ill or passes away and the other spouse has no idea where the accounts are, what company the life insurance is with or even what debts they have. It’s a really important file to have on hand so someone else can step in and handle your finances on short notice.

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14 Kristen July 10, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Elizabeth, the information in the email is not so detailed that anyone would be able to get into any of my accounts. I don’t even mention which banks our accounts are located at, much less any specific account information.

I suppose that seeing the numbers could inspire someone to try to find our account numbers through other means, but until recently, we haven’t even had enough money to interest someone! lol

The workarounds you mentioned would be more secure, though, of course, and another option would be for me just to print the email and leave it on my husband’s desk.

Kristin, I’ve got a document like that, but it definitely needs updating. Thanks for the reminder!

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15 Kristen July 10, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Mary Gamble :
Hi Kristen,
Great idea! Do you have separate accounts set up at your bank for each of the individual savings accounts (clothes, vacation etc.)or are they all in one big account?

It’s all in separate accounts. This makes it way easier for me to keep things organized!

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16 Elizabeth B July 10, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Hi, Kristen. I didn’t think you were including account numbers. You’d far too intelligent for that! ^_^

It’s just that it’s really, truly no one else’s business where you and your husband are spending your money. You know?

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17 Dipster July 14, 2009 at 12:05 pm

I love this as an idea to get the information across. My problem and the benefit is that now I have to gather all the info together to write the report. We’ll both learn something.

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18 Olathe Mom March 3, 2010 at 6:16 pm

We have a table meeting called “the monthly summit!” that works much like your system. I completely agree that knowing how LITTLE is left over…after saving for the big things…encourages us to be much more careful. We’ve found that now that we have the big 6 mo. emergency savings and “slightly big” car replacement fun, we were getting a little loose again about the spending. We don’t want to find ourselves broke again, so we don’t even think about ever touching that 6 month fund! :) But, we have to keep the belt tight to avoid dipping!

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19 Sarah September 3, 2010 at 7:28 pm

I’m officially calling ours “the monthly summit” once my bf and I are married and sharing finances :P. Who would dread attending THE MONTHLY SUMMIT! (said in deep, booming, movie previews guy voice) ?! Nobody, that’s who!

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20 Nancy March 3, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Excellent post. We started Zero Dollar Budgeting this year where every single dollar is accounted for every month. We’ve also moved to cash only for groceries, gas and entertainment. So far, so good. We are definitely more aware of where our money is going and that’s a good thing.

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21 Jenn March 4, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Thank you so much for posting this!!! My husband and I are not so good with the communicating of the money. This is the perfect solution for us, and quite frankly I feel silly for not thinking of it. I think I may have to hire you as my financial planner! I started an ING emergency and christmas account this year and so far it has been going great! Now with this idea, we’ll be on our way to a healthier relationship (both with money and ourselves). Thanks again :)

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22 Pauline November 18, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Hello! Just had to let you know that I’ve been reading your wonderful blog (and your Frugal Girl 365!) since you were a guest on “The 700 Club” and thoroughly enjoy them both! Love your ideas in this post – and am going to give them a try. Thanks for all you do to educate us – and make life a lot simpler!

Blessings – Pauline

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23 Casey Johnson January 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm

I’m definitely going to try this. I can’t get my husband interested in how much money we have and how we need to save. Maybe this will work, since he’ll have to read it.

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24 E. Ryan January 29, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Thanks so much for sharing this. I forwarded it to my fiance and we already plan on starting our marriage out on the right foot of open and regular communication about our finances. I’m seriously grateful that you have found a healthy way to talk about money and have decided to share. :)

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25 Ashley August 2, 2011 at 11:40 am

I send out a money e-mail once a month as well. My husband and I both work, so an e-mail works out best for us. Mine is a bit more simple, just states what money we have in our savings and checking and then any large expenses that have occured or are expected. My husband thinks and talks differently with numbers than I do, so I don’t get into too much chat about that in an e-mail. We typically talk about what we would like to do with our extra money a little after the e-mail as well.

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26 Kristen August 9, 2011 at 10:47 pm

I’m pretty late coming in to comment, but I just have to laugh, because I thought I was the only person who sent monthly money e-mails to my husband! :-)

I’m the nerd in the family, which means I pay the bills, monitor the accounts, and do the budgeting. DH just wants to know what his commission check amount was, the out-of-the-ordinary expenses we had the previous month, anything we need to be thinking about in the coming months, and account balances (checking, savings, college savings, and the ever-decreasing mortgage balance).

DH doesn’t have the patience or desire to hear a ton of details or have long conversations about money (ironic, since he’s the saver and I’m the spender), so the e-mail works perfectly. We’ve been doing it now for about 5 years!

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27 Jessica March 15, 2012 at 2:15 am

My friend and her husband have what they call “The Day of Reckoning” every month. Sounds like what you do, but face to face. :)

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28 Stephanie June 26, 2012 at 9:27 am

I know this is an old post, but I just found it and wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve been trying to figure out for months how to talk to my husband about our money. I’m definitely trying this at the end of the month, although I might revise it to show what we spent instead of a projection. If I know I have to put it on a report I might think twice about that trip to JoAnn’s…

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29 Carrie July 5, 2012 at 10:58 am

Thanks for linking this post to your post today. Our story is very similar, I’ve always taken care of the bills and cash flow and two months ago had a rude awakening when all sorts of overdraft fees came through our bank account. So as difficult as it was to bring it up, my husband and I sat down and talked about it and looked everything over. The last two months we’ve taken an evening just before the new month starts and put everything in a spreadsheet and truly create a budget. As the month goes on we look at how much we’re actually spending and record it. The first night was very tough, but it’s gotten easier. Financial issues can cause such strain on a marriage, and lack of communication makes it worse. And things are improving for us too, even though it’s only been 2 months. “It’s due in part to better money management, which in turn is due mostly to better communication.” Thanks for sharing!

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30 Kristen July 5, 2012 at 11:33 am

Yep, when we first started doing this, it was pretty tough too. But it gets easier and easier the more you do it!

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31 Becky July 5, 2012 at 11:01 am

This is a great idea that I know will work for me and my husband!

I too am a stay at home mom who handles all of our finances as well as the one who spends all the money. Every few months my husband will ask “How we doing?”, and I dread telling him that his hard earned paychecks are sometimes just keeping our heads above water.

I truly believe this will work for us by holding me more accountable to watch what I spend while keeping my husband in the loop!

Thank you, thank you!

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32 Kristen July 5, 2012 at 11:33 am

Yes, exactly! Communicating regularly about it makes it much less of a dreadful thing.

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33 Charmaine July 5, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I wish I found your site years ago! I have much to learn thank you and keep up the amazing site! I wish I could read the whole thing today!

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34 Suzette @ jambalaya July 6, 2012 at 3:53 pm

OH WOW! I think you just revolutionized my financial mind and my communication with my sweet husband! Yie! What a great idea! Truly it is God’s inspiration that led me to click this link today!! Praise the Lord!
I am the let’s sit down, have a cup of tea and talk finances and my husband…isn’t! To the point and let’s be done is more his attitude. Neither one is better, just both VERY different. Thank you thank you thank you! He will just LOVE this idea I know!

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35 JadinBK July 9, 2012 at 9:17 am

I love this idea! Recently our financial situation has become ‘dire’ as you say, and I was stressing out all alone, since I manage our finances…and I’ve been including him more in money talks, which has relieved things somewhat. But this is a great idea and I will try it out!

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36 Ashley S February 19, 2013 at 6:16 pm

I only recently found your site, and this article is perfect for me right now! Much like you, I’ve always handled the money stuff, with DH being in the general loop, but recently both of us have gone back to school full-time. While we did plan an save for this, I still feel much more stressed about money than he does, and I think doing more to keep us on the same page will be a big help!

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37 Jennifer @ Healthful Saver May 23, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Thanks for posting the link to this older article. It was new to me! We do things differently (talk throughout the week) but the end result is the same – we both feel in the loop with what is going on. We have a spreadsheet based off Quicken that is always updated for either us of to view. We look forward to “closing out the week” on Saturday night and deciding where to put any leftover funds – be it into savings, setting aside money for home repair, etc. It is a wonderful feeling of intimacy and connection!

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38 Jacqueline Powers June 13, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Just wondering do you do the email for the beginning of the month as a this is how last month went? or this is how this month should look? Basically are you doing it as a preview or a review? Thanks your blog is still one of my favorites three years later!

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39 Alyssa August 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I just looked up this post for guidance in creating a document to outline our spending/financial situation! Thanks for sharing your approach – it is still bearing fruit :)

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