Agreeing on a way to deal with your newlywed finances can be difficult. Over the years, Stacey and I have developed a method we use to watch over our expenses and do our best to keep them under control. We have a team approach where we divide up responsibilities and work independently but also keep each other advised of how things are going. This system has allowed us to develop a sound budget and a plan for the future. It has also helped us learn about one another and grow together.
Our approach to finances
Just as any team would, we play to our strengths. Stacey deals with the short-term finances. She is much better at this daily expenditure management than I am. She does the following:
- Finds discounts, coupons, and the best deals on food, restaurants, clothing, and other goods
- Takes care of the bills
- Keeps track of taxes as the year progresses and makes sure to pay them in a timely manner
Personally, I find these rigorous details annoying and tedious. However, I understand that they are quintessential to establishing a good/balanced/green-growing budget. I am more of a big picture thinker, so we thought it was better for Stacey to do her thing while I receive a “household stipend” (hey, who wants to call it an allowance 😉).
My budgeting challenges
Taking charge of my personal expenditures can be challenging for me. As I learn more about budgeting, I have started thinking about it in terms of 2 faucets, one for pouring in expenses (red money), the other pouring in earnings (green money). I used to be so bad that I would have a basin full of red water, but I am getting better at turning down the red faucet and getting more green in there to balance things out.
Of course, my personal goal is to be able to afford my “treats” by using only green money and still having some pooling in the basin for continual use. I’ve learned that this takes good discipline! Recently, I have taken on the task of reducing my stipend in order to help us save more money, but it is extremely early to tell how this will go. Wish me luck!
So, what do I do?
At this point, you may be asking what the heck do I do to contribute to the team? Well, as I mentioned, I am more of a big-picture thinker, so I keep track of our long-term investments. Recently, I shopped around to find a certified financial advisor for our retirement fund. (more on how to do that here) Now I meet with him and keep in touch to make sure things are going well for us. I also self-manage a smaller ROTH IRA on my own as another way to contribute. Lastly, I keep track of long-term expenses, such as our vehicles, insurance, and our dog.
Speaking of this, I have found a system that really helps us keep track. It enables us to see the expense break-down to observe how much the particular item is costing us on a monthly basis. Here is a small excerpt of such a breakdown using our Toyota RAV4. I hope you find it helpful; maybe it is something you can utilize?
You can see that using such a system really lets you know when it is time to buy or lease a “new” vehicle… or just keep your old vehicle going. The key, of course, is not to get too swept away with the total cost put into the vehicle, but rather, observe how the monthly expenses are doing for you right now
- Are they holding steady?
- Or do they keep going up every month?
- Are they at least staying under the cost of a new auto loan payment?
Advantages of a team approach to newlywed finances
There are many advantages in utilizing this approach in dealing with our household budget.
- There is no “re-tracing or re-doing” financial steps unnecessarily; this would occur if we were both in charge of managing the checkbook.
- It takes less time because Stacey and I each have our own system for managing our particular areas of expertise in the household finances. Therefore, we each know how to most efficiently keep our section going, as well as make improvements. No need for the other person to micromanage the process. Of course, a certain amount of trust needs to be established for this to be true.
- This leads to the third benefit of providing each of us with more free time to do other things (like finding other ways to make more money).
- There is less bickering and confrontation, as each knows what the other is doing and knows he or she is the better person to do the particular financial household job for the team.
- This also leads to increased closeness and sharing, as well as an appreciation for the skills of the other. For example, I have only grown in my respect for Stacey as a person who is so excellent at staying out of debt by managing those little annoying expenses that we all have. In addition, because I do a tiny part of this in managing my own treat money, I can see firsthand how difficult it can be to stay in the green!
Overall, through our years together, I believe our financial management process has improved and has helped us grow together more as a loving couple!
Do you and your spouse have a financial system that helps you grow together, or does it stress your relationship instead? How can you improve it in a manner that can help your relationship grow as well as better manage your budget?