The Bitch of Budgeting

Hi there! I'm trying to find out what works best here on Not the Marrying Kind, and I'd really like your help. I've created a short survey in order to get some feedback on what goes on with my wee small blog. I have a lot of lurkers that visit, seemingly consistently, but are silent observers. I respect silence on blogs, but if you could please break your silence in a completely anonymous way and let me know what you think of some stuff around this, here stretch of the internet, that would be oh, so wonderful! You can access the survey here and it will be up until July 15th. I will probably remind you about this on a daily basis, so please don't get mad at me, k? (PS. A.P. told me that nobody would fill out my survey. Help me prove him, and all men, wrong by sticking it to him. Seriously. Go here.) And thank you to those that have already filled it out! Your feedback is very helpful!

As you know, buying a home is one of our major goals for this year/next year. A while back, we thought we could maybe swing it this year, but it's looking more and more like it's going to be next year. We don't want to wait too long. Prices will be low, but they might not be this low for a while. Chicago hasn't had the same market as other places, like say Tampa (which A.P.'s father never hesitates to remind us about), and we don't want to wait too, too long to act.

That being said, part of why we're waiting longer is because we've changed our savings goal. In order to meet our new goal (avoid PMI), we want to save hella cash. And because I'm mega-behind on retirement anything (thanks grad school! that shit was *AWESOME*!), and have a ton of school loans left to pay (though no credit card debt anymore. yay!), we really had to re-prioritize our finances.

Initially we were going to see a financial planner. She sent us this long, crazy questionnaire. And we realized even though she was fee only, we were really going to go there to sort out some stuff that if we put our minds to it (and our strengths), we could do ourselves. So we used her questionnaire as a sort of guideline and started crunching our own numbers.

We decided that budgeting/bill paying was my strength and retirement planning/investments was his. So, we divvied up our responsibilities. First, A.P. started figuring out what our savings goals should be, namely our "magic number" for a house. He also figured out how much money I needed to save in order to get my retirement accounts going (he also researched the types of accounts that would work best with my job/amount I can put in each month). He also started figuring out his personal finances, namely putting all his spending for the past three months in a spreadsheet. I did the same, then took his info and our joint info and tracked our spending to figure out average monthly spending in various categories. Then I created a budget. A budget we are going to try to stick to beginning next month. We talked about doing it this month, but it's kind of messy now, and we want to sort of start fresh on Aug. 1st. We also created some rules for how we pay for certain things. People have asked us how we handle the yours, mine, ours finances in our household, and the answer is we're learning. But there seem to be two big lessons I'm learning about spending and goals in this type of financial setup, and they are :

1. " I" is more important than "we" in certain areas, and sometimes admittedly in the big picture. A.P. has no credit card debt. He has no school debt. He's magical. There are people like that in the world, I guess. He's the only one I know. The point is, he's been able to save for longer. He has a good emergency fund saved. I don't. In this case, I need to put myself above us and the goals for our marriage and save up my own emergency fund. If I lose my job, those loans are my responsibility. They don't come for A.P. They come for me. I have to have money to continue to pay those suckafaces. Don't get me wrong. A.P. would, of course, help me. I've never really talked about this, but as part of my grad program I had to do all these clinicals and finally an internship, and I had to quit my job. He supported me for many, many months and never said a harsh word about it to me. Which leads me to the second part of #1...

...You have to think about the big picture, and you have to be realistic. A.P. and I are both the product of divorce. Our parents had bad divorces (his worse than mine) and one thing we saw happen was our parents' finances get completely obliterated by divorce. Both of our mothers were stay at home moms, and both had to start from scratch. A.P.'s mother died penniless, and my mother is retired but lives on a very limited income. I may be independent to a fault and have a lot of areas where I need to loosen up and let him in, but money is not one of them. I don't want to divorce A.P. Ever. But I don't know what the future brings. Maybe I'm being the cynical city kid, but divorce is something I need to consider as a possibility in life, just like if I bought a house and realized, yeah, this home might flood and get wrecked or blow away in a tornado. I do know that having this type of financial setup, while not ideal for some things, helps protect in case of divorce. And that makes both of us happy.

2. "We" overshadows the desires of "I." I'm still having a hard time with this, but one of things I need to do is realize that retirement accounts and personal savings aside, my personal checking account is no longer the primary checking account in my life. And that is a hell of a thing to accept. Of all things to be a attached to, a bank account?? But it's true. It's been my account since high school. I know everything about the account by memory. Replacing that information with our joint information as the go to account is going to be tough. It's kind of like officially saying goodbye to my single days (that day will probably actually come with the great furniture replacement the next 5-10 years my life has coming). The other thing is that this how my money now gets doled out:

A. My personal bills
B. Our joint bills
C. My personal savings
D. Our joint savings
E. Spending Money

By the time I start contributing to my retirement funds this fall, I will have added two more things above that last sad, little, last category. That's right. All of our hopes and dreams as a couple and all of my over the age of 65 (God willing that'll be lower) financial concerns now take precedence over my desire for a bunch of new clothes. The bummer of it all is that while A.P. still has a lot of money in the bank after, I don't. This is a huge, huge bummer to me. I'm always broke. It's frustrating to me and I'm at the point where I finally feel I have money in the bank and I can't do anything with it except sock it away. It's so incredibly sad. I know that technically this is all good stuff and I have money, I just don't spend it, but it's still really sad. It's been hard to tell myself that I need to curb my spending to save for 30 years from now, or for a house, which I know I want, but which sounds like such a bunch of horse poop I can't even handle it. (Why people do it, I don't know. It sounds like a nightmare.)

But do it I must, because I'm married now and we will one day have a family and blah di blah di blah. You get it. I don't. But I do it, which is all that matters. And A.P. loves me for it, which is also all that matters. Bam! Marriage.


  1. Eh, budget. I'm the queen of budget planning at work, but at home... Don't get me wrong, I've got everything sorted out, bills are paid and I've started a retirement fund (Yay me). But for the rest, I'm enjoying my single, child free, debt free life a wee bit too much and using my money for fun more than for savings. It's ok for now but if my situation changes (which hopefully will happen some day) I'd be like you: zero money put aside. I should think of it but right now I can't be bothered.

  2. Now that you explain it it makes more sense how you guys split things and it's great that it works for you guys and provides you with financial and emotional security. I still wonder about the inequities that come from as you pointed out A.P. still having money in the bank after all the bills and savings are paid and you being broke despite the fact that you are both also paying towards joint bills and savings.

  3. @Musing: You probably have less to worry about though, in terms of healthcare and retirement, right? Or is Belgium stingy and crappy like the US?

    @Midge: There are inequities, but they are my responsibility. My student loan debt was mine to take on and is my job to pay off. A.P. doesn't help me with those bills, which is my choice. He offered in the past, but I was very strict about that. That's why I'm broke. He also makes more money, which means he contributes more to our joint checking and saving. Does that make more sense? I didn't get into that stuff with this post. Perhaps next time, but there are ways that make it more equal that I didn't go into here. If I didn't have that debt, we'd both have a lot of money in the bank. The debt wipes me every month. I'm also putting A LOT of money into savings to build up my emergency fund. So I technically have a lot of money leftover, but it goes to a savings account.

  4. You know, budgeting IS a complete bitch, but it's also SO empowering. The hardest part is getting started and refining it in the first few months to get to where you can simultaneously achieve your goals AND live your life. But once you get to THAT point, it's cake.

    Good luck, and WELL DONE!

  5. first of all don't forget buying a house is a money pit. new screen doors, new garage door, plumbing problem and on and on and on. and they all sound small but it really isn't in the long run.

    michael and i split up the same way for now. i have a cc debt and i want to pay it off, not ask him to. so we are separate for now. and i am not working. so i am as broke as i have ever been. it's weird it's like i am poor and he is not. all of my own design of course.

  6. @lettuce: I agree. I've always been pretty good about budgeting my own money and saving, but it feels REALLY good to do all of our money (and realize we're not totally poor!).

    @mimi: tell me about it! I am reticent to even buy a home for all those reasons. We may get to the point one day where we combine finances completely, but honestly, this really works well for us. We don't feel bad about spending our money on stuff. Like the $100 vintage French laundry basket I bought today. Haha!


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