You may remember that a few months back I wrote my own version of a Money Diary here on the blog. I also wrote about my thoughts on merging finances as a married couple on Advice From a Thirtysomething. Writing about finances and stressing the need for women to build their own financial health, even if they have a partner, is so important, and even though it’s not a topic I cover often, it’s something I like to touch on.
This past weekend, I was talking to a friend about creating a budget and she mentioned that another friend of hers had sent her a copy of her monthly budget to help in getting started. It occurred to me that as obsessive as I am about budgeting, it may not be on everyone’s radar – and it should be. Budgeting isn’t about depriving yourself, it’s about having an idea of where your money is going every month. And, if you’re not sure where to even begin, I’m going to walk you through our exact categories in this post.
MERGING AND MANAGING OUR BUDGET AS A MARRIED COUPLE
For my entire post-college adult life, I’ve been super organized about my monthly budgeting. When I first graduated, I would print off my bank and credit card statements at the end of the month so that I could highlight each category and make sure that I was staying on track. Luckily, I discovered Mint along the way, and have been using that for the better part of the past 9 years. Now, I’m not saying I’ve always been great at sticking to that budget (I’ve been known to slowly move up the allotted budget as needed throughout the month because I hate seeing anything creep into the red category), but I do have a good idea of what’s coming in and going out at all times.
But, of course, now that I’m married, I’m now focused on managing our budget as a married couple. To be honest, while we had a transparent and thorough idea of big picture finances going into marriage, we didn’t have an idea of how the other spent money on a daily basis. I mean, we had some idea given that we lived together already, but really digging into the numbers and what we thought seemed reasonable per month was not something we’d touched on.
So, we sat down, I pulled up my current budget in Mint, had Adam write up his monthly fixed expenses, and I created a new account in Mint for us to create a new budget as a married couple.
MERGING FINANCES AS A MARRIED COUPLE
Prior to getting married, we’d kept our finances and credit cards separate. We split rent and utilities evenly and, when it came to household expenses, I paid for groceries since I’m typically the one that does the grocery shopping, while Adam paid for meals out. With travel, we usually booked flights using points, Adam would pay for gas, and the EZpass is deducted from my credit card. We figured that came out even enough to call it a day.
After getting married, we’ve continued to keep our finances separate-ish simply because it’s easier to keep depositing our checks into our existing accounts. We have opened a joint account, but aren’t quite sure how we’ll use it. The big move is that we now have a joint credit card. In full transparency, it’s mostly joint because we’re trying to rack up points on it, BUT that does mean that all expenses are split evenly at this point.
CREATING A BUDGET AS A MARRIED COUPLE
Okay, so now we’re getting into the real reason you’re probably reading this post – the budget we’ve created as a married couple. First off, if you’re not using Mint, you’re missing out. Yes, it takes a bit of time to make sure everything categorizes correctly, particularly if you’re dealing with a new merchant, but the visual nature of the program makes it so user-friendly. Checking Mint is part of my morning routine so that I always stay on top of updating transactions and monitoring budgets.
Fortunately, someone with similar financial values was important to me (now I’m thinking I should start doing relationship advice posts…), so creating a married budget wasn’t particularly difficult for us. Neither of us tends to buy lunch out, spring for a workday coffee on a regular basis, or buy unnecessary household gadgets and items. I do love new clothes, but space restrictions have put the kibosh on that anyway.
CREATE CATEGORIES FOR MONEY COMING IN
I’m a big believer in adjusting the amount of money coming in, rather than scrimping on my lifestyle to pinch pennies. Granted, I also am not a huge spender, but if there’s a big-ticket item coming up and I don’t want to adjust spending in other areas or decrease saving, I kick up my blog and freelance work. It’s what I did for the year before our wedding and it helped immensely.
Rental Property Income
CREATE CATEGORIES FOR EXPENSES GOING OUT
Of course, if there’s money coming in, there’s also money going out. Categorizing money going out is what likely intimidates first-time budgeters, so I’m going to walk through a few of the not-so-obvious.
Most of the lefthand column should be fairly self-explanatory – these are the fixed expenses every month. There’s gas, taxis and ubers, insurance, anything that’s utility-related, a student loan (that I should just pay off, I know) from a few graduate classes, and rent and mortgage (we have a rental property in DC, but we live in an apartment…it makes sense for us right now!). Tax savings includes money we deposit into savings for both my freelance work and rental income.
The righthand column is where more discretionary expenses come into play. Restaurants and groceries are clearcut. Going out includes concerts, bars, festivals anything that falls in the weekend activity or nightlife spectrum. Fast-casual food includes a morning bagel, a coffee shop, or my occasional fast food splurge. We’re lucky to have a wonderful gym with free classes in our building (well…we do pay a significant amenity fee once a year, but it’s still a deal!), so our only fitness expense is my monthly Barre3 membership, which I use 20+ times a month. Toiletries include anything bathroom/getting ready-related, so shampoo, soap, sunscreen, skincare. Adam Expenses means things that are solely for Adam, like a bachelor party or a new pair of sunglasses. Heather Expenses is anything for me – this month it’s a pair of leather leggings and my biweekly manicures. Travel and cat sitter explain themselves. Miscellaneous includes random household expenses that pop up, like a new coffee maker. Of course, I’ll also account for other non-monthly items, like an annual donation or a credit card annual fee, as they come up throughout the year.
Taxi and Uber
Utility – Electric
A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS ON BUDGETING AS A MARRIED COUPLE
I put off creating a household budget for the longest time (okay, maybe just a month into our marriage…but, ideally, we should have done it as soon as we moved in!). I thought it was going to be immensely difficult to merge our spending categories – until I realized that, for the most part, our spending is done together. I already had a good idea of what was going out and what was coming between us both, I just needed to put it on paper.