Married Life: crafting a combined income budget
February 6, 2013
It’s only taken a year and some, but PiC and I finally sat down and hammered out a working spending and savings plan for the year.
While I admire, and in some ways covet, the non-combined strategies that other folks have (@mochimac, @nofearingthemon), it doesn’t feel as feasible for the two of us. A) Hi, I’m a control freak. B) See A. You’d think after surviving a year letting go, Ms. C Freak could give it up but I’ve done all the laissez-faire that I can stand and it’s time to get back on the horse.
We are temperamentally so different in our money attitudes that even if we agree on our goals and are on the same page about our priorities, we simply need to be on the same page on the details for a while because otherwise, the full picture between the two of us feels obscured.
Super Bowl Sunday, we sat down and hammered away at collected spending records from last year and talked through the money allocation for this coming year, section by section.
For the kind of money we make, despite the Net breaking down to considerably less than the Gross, I’ll be damned if we can’t commit to saving at least 25% net plus 10% gross (retirement). The interesting bit here is that my new company doesn’t offer a retirement plan so he’s increased his contributions for the year to aim at maxing out at least his plan. That’ll be close to what the two of us would have done separately, with benefits on both the savings end and the tax-deduction end of things.
My paychecks will be the cash cows: taking care of most bills and another chunk of savings.
I must say: the process was hugely uncomfortable during the first half. It felt like we were teetering on the cusp of a disgruntled outburst or tiptoeing over an abyss of resentment. Maybe it’s just me projecting. Something visceral deep inside hates being questioned about how I manage, organize and allocate money if he’s going to follow up that question with not agreeing with me. Again, hi, Control Freak. And it’s also the result of never ever talking about money details in real life with anyone. This was the first real delving expedition and for the first three hours, I was hating life.
As the hours wore on, we worked through the placeholder amounts that had been filled in while I was futzing around with the spreadsheet and setting up categories and approximate amounts; like deep breathing, negotiating the numbers and talking through expectations, definitions and other thoughts released the extra tension released.
R: What are we planning to spend on? This probably doesn’t need to be $1500.
PiC: Well, we are a cultured people…
R: No. We are not.
PiC: Does “fees” mean credit card annual fees?
R: And stupid tax.
R: Parking tickets, late fees, stupid stuff you wouldn’t plan on paying but get hit with anyway.
PiC: Oh. Let’s just not do that.
R: Yeah, let’s just don’t be stupid.
On Categories and Budgeting for Spending:
R: We spent a ridiculous amount on this category last year.
PiC: *mulling* Let’s put savings down here (in the list of spending categories)
R: NOPE. Savings are first and non negotiable. Cut somewhere else.
PiC: This is GDocs, everything’s negotiable!
On Entertainment and Eating Out:
PiC: We’re going to need to really keep an eye on that.
PiC: I’m going to defrost a chicken.
Our disposable income still doesn’t account for some of the trips we wanted to take this year but we’ll figure that out as it comes. PiC was surprised to see how much we’re already committed to spend even before satisfying the Trip List.
Our total combined income, after taking about 30% off the top, does not stretch as far as I expect it to. This triggers the money-hoarding instinct until I remember that I still pay for much of my dad’s costs. Even though this is the lowest the Extra Household costs have ever been, it’s still significant.
The total amount of money planned for spending still strikes me as obnoxious, even if I know intellectually that 50% or more of the budget is dedicated to fixed/non-discretionary spending like rent, mortgage, food, utilities and gas. My donut-loving cash-poor self didn’t go away, she’s just trapped in the body of an otherwise generally reasonable person.
I keep remembering daydreaming six years ago: If I earned 100K/year, do you know how much I could save??
A wistful part of me still wants to be able to save like that. Staring down the barrel of Dad’s increasing years and contemplating children, I still feel wholly frighteningly unprepared. (Strong finances and a huge emergency fund are the fuzzy blankie that lets me sleep at night.)
Objectively, we’ve got a fairly solid budget that sets up our savings and spending plan cohesively and generally fits what we think is both reasonable and important.