Our First Budget Story

Our First Budget Story

“But I don’t wanna make a budget!!”

It was about 4 1/2 years ago that Michelle and I sat down for the first time with a paper and a pencil to create our first budget just before getting married. Now, up until this point, we had kept our finances separate, which I think was a good idea, but now we were engaged and about to start our life together, so I wanted to make sure we were on the same page financially. This was a MUCH more difficult task than I had originally thought.


Now, having counseled a few people and helped them get on a budget, I now know that one of the toughest steps of starting a budget is writing down EVERYTHING you make and spend on paper. Not only is it a bit of work to find everywhere you’ve spent your cash over the past few months, but a lot of times people are living in ignorant bliss about their purchases and don’t want to face reality. When writing down everything, they can feel shame about their spending and just not want to deal with seeing where their money is going, so they just don’t do it. Overcoming this step is one of the toughest, but biggest successes you can have when getting on a budget.

When Michelle and I sat down to go over (potential) income and spending, we had to write down where we had been spending our money first. Michelle had racked up some credit card debt on two different cards, and she did not want to go over her spending on those because she felt shame about getting into debt. She didn’t want me to see her as a failure and did not want to explain all of her purchases to me because she thought I would think she was wasting money. She got so stressed out about thought of our budget, in fact, that when we started going over our plan, she left the room and was sobbing at the thought of doing a budget. I was able to calm her down, let her know I was not judging her at all and assure her that I had wasted much more money than she ever could.

Wait, That’s Where It All Went??

Once we got past the first hurdle, it was smoothing sailing…wellโ€ฆ.until we had to recount where all our money went. Now, luckily we were able to look at her credit card statements, my credit card statement and our bank accounts, but man it was a mess! Back then, we didn’t have the luxury of using Mint.com to pull all of our accounts into one location for easy viewing. So we sorted and stacked and wrote down everything we had spent for the last 2 months or so and broke it down into categories.

It really opened our eyes to see where a majority of our money was disappearing to every month. Michelle was working at the Nordstrom eBar that summer, and because of a discount, a bit of her money went toward clothing, shoes and other Nordstrom-y things. My money was disappearing on mall food (surprise, surprise), mall stuff and maybe a few items I happened to pick up while I was eating at the mall. Well, that, and I dropped some cash at the mall every now and then. I was also spending a crap-ton on student loans and gas. Once we could see where it was all going, now it was time to take all that information and put it into action. It wasโ€ฆ.BUDGET TIME! (insert epic action movie music here).

A Sigh Of Relief

We went through each category and wrote down some goals for how we wanted to start spending our money. Not only was this great practice for marriage, but it really helped us see that we were more on the same page than we thought. We were able to remove excess spending on junk that wasn’t important to us and put our money toward things that were (like saving every penny for our upcoming wedding). As we neared the end of the budget, I could hear y beautiful future bride breathe a sigh of relief, which made me happy. Not only was she relieved that it was over and we were still alive, but I was relieved that she was relieved, and we had put together a budget that was going to bring us together.

I think part of the reason we have not really fought about money is the fact that we set goals that both of us agree on. With that in mind, as we make money decisions throughout the day, we know underlying our decisions is a set of goals that we both want to reach. I can almost tell you in any financial situation how Michelle would spend her money, and she could tell you how I would spend mine. We have a common mindset when it comes to our ca$h money, so we don’t have to fight about where it goes. Have you experienced this in your relationships?

Comments: Do you remember putting together your first budget? How about the married folks, do you remember doing your first “married” budget? How’d it go? Was it easy or tough for you? Did you find one person enjoyed it WAY more than the other? Also, does anyone know if I need a 20AMP circuit to add another 5,000 Christmas lights to my house?

Also, there are only a couple of days left on my $25 Amazon gift card giveaway. Get in those last entries for your chance to win!

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  1. I remember making our first budget about 10 years ago. Looking back I just laugh and shake my head. I know that my wife thought it was important, but being a numbers guy I got completely geeked about it, which is part of the reason why I am such a budget nerd today. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was a start, which is important, but nowhere near where we are today.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..5 Frugal Ways to Start Investing NowMy Profile

  2. Our first budget went well. He’s not the greatest with numbers though so I just tell him whats up and he listens ๐Ÿ™‚
    Michelle recently posted..Identity Theft (Someone bought a house in my name)My Profile

  3. Ours was shameful as well. When we started tracking our spending, we realized that we were spending over $1000 per month on food (groceries and restaurants) for two people! That is insane and wasteful and really shocked us into making some permanent changes.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..Saving for Retirement: Don’t Make ExcusesMy Profile

  4. No clue on the random Christmas light question.

    We still have separate finances because we aren’t married but I did help my girlfriend create her budget and we are basically on the same page. She hates dealing with money as it frusterates her but once her student loans are paid off hopefully it wont be so bad.
    Lance@MoneyLife&More recently posted..Massive Cash Back – Blue Cash Everydayยฎ and Preferredยฎ by American ExpressMy Profile

    • Money is something that can be stressful, especially if it gets complicated. My wife isn’t into all the budget formulas and such, her eyes glaze over when I show her my internal calculations on the spreadsheet, so I’ve found that highlighting the important points of the budget is the best policy. Glad that you’re helping her out, once married you will be much more on the same page than most couples.

  5. I was working and my husband was a student so our budget was pretty much something that I figured out solo. My wonderful husband is not really a numbers guy and I keep him updated with monthly emails on our financial state so I still do all the budgeting/etc to this day. I was already budgeting well by the time we got married so it was just a matter of figuring out his expenses and incorporating them into my income. It went great and we were able to continue paying off my student loans. We paid of $27,000 of my student loan debt in the first year and a half thanks to my good job and my husband having no student debt.

    • I like the email financial newsletter, that’s cool. Maybe I’ll implement something like that! And nice work on the loans, that takes some hard work. If you ever want to tell your story, feel free to hit me up and maybe we can publish the story here ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. lol. Love the random Christmas light question. Too bad I’m not handy or electrically-savvy whatsoever!

    I vaguely recall setting our first budget together. My wife needed very little to live off of and adding her to my budget was quite simple. I had been budgeting a few years prior to getting married so we simply had to add her income, a few extra categories (blow money), expand a few categories (hygiene, eating out) and that’s about it!
    Jason recently posted..4 Keys to Achieving Financial PeaceMy Profile

  7. My first budget was made in August. It has been a real eye-opener in terms of income vs spending; before I used to just hope that I wasn’t overspending.. which I was of course.
    Gillian @ Money After Graduation recently posted..Happy Birthday to MEMy Profile

    • Wow, a recent convert. Welcome to the club :). I think most people without a budget have that same hope…and the same result. If you aren’t telling every dollar where to go, you will overspend.

  8. I certainly wish we’d done that before we got married. Maybe could have avoided that $30K in credit card debt. Not that it’s and excuse, but my parents were huge savers and good with money but never did a budget. My husband’s parents spent every penny they had a didn’t have, so I think we just never really thought about it. It should be a requirement with the wedding license. I bet we’d have far fewer divorces if finances were worked out before hand. No idea about the lights, but if there is a doubt I’d go for the amp thingy.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Reasons to Love Your Used CarMy Profile

    • I like that. You can’t be officially married unless you write down a budget. I would say the same thing about graduating high school or college. No degree unless you have a budget and have been following it for AT LEAST 3 MONTHS! You know, no child left behind and all that.

      And thanks for the Christmas light input ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I’ve never really made a budget. I do track all my expenses and post my spending on my blog so that keeps me from wasting too much money since I wouldn’t want to have all my readers see my wasteful spending.
    Andy Hough recently posted..Double Check Your PaycheckMy Profile

    • Tracking is analysis, budgeting is goal setting. Is there a reason you don’t want to set up a budget? Do you have any goals you want to hit?

      • Mandy @MoneyMasterMom says:

        I’m with Andy, we’ve never made a balance, but we track our expenses. I understand your distinction between goal setting and analysis, but when we buy we’re always mindful of our early retirement goals.
        Mandy @MoneyMasterMom recently posted..Are you a witch, wizard, or middle class?My Profile

        • I’m also talking about specific goals, like “take a vacation”, or “get out of debt”. I always set those goals with dates and monthly savings amounts to make I hit them. Otherwise, it’s just a “best guess” as to whether I’ll get there or not.

  10. Yes I clearly remember sitting with Mrs.CBB putting together our budget and boy are we ever glad we did. Funny though most people cringe at the fact that tehy should document everything they spend so they can see where the money is going. It’s not a difficult task but some people make it out to be that way and fail before they begin. It has to be and I’m kinda laughing, the easiest part of the budget. All you have to do is collect a receipt if available and document. When looking at the numbers it opens up a whole new world. Thanks for sharing your story. I enjoy reading these as well. Mr.CBB

    • I don’t think it’s physically or mentally hard to do, but emotionally difficult. People don’t like to look at the mess they’ve created, so they ignore it. Life is easier that way. But once you get over that emotional bump, it really is freedom.

      Also, thank you for getting “A Whole New World” stuck in my head for the rest of the day… :\

  11. Derek @ Freeat33 says:

    Our first financial talk came while we were dating and I bought a dishwasher on my credit card that I took a few months to pay back. Mandy wasn’t too impressed that I was willing to carry a balance on my card. We havn’t carried one since 8 years later. Happy wife, happy life ๐Ÿ™‚
    Derek @ Freeat33 recently posted..How to combat inflation on your retirement incomeMy Profile

  12. Marco Derdiyok says:

    Great tips on budgeting the hard way out in today’s present context because without a planned budget forget money everything will go haywire considering the current cost of inflation & market trends out there.

    However at the same time everyone of us should also not forget there is a thin line of ice between planning and execution & the initiation to execution is the most important here i.e savings, budgeting of money and in today’s Social era it sure is boon for us unlike the conventional era as we have niche saving/ insurance allocation aggregator sites which will help the users in getting the best of their streamlined savings so that they can budget it out for the days ahead.

    Yes not to forget everyone sells but with an intent and I myself make sure that when buying/researching from aggregator sites like these I do my homework on the plans, policies, the offerings by the provider as it’s not the PVM (Present Value of Money), we are interested about it’s the future value of money & sites like these are sure a boon in today’s context for couples, individuals falling hard on budget allocations.

    • Not sure if I catch your drift, but are you saying that the hardest part is the execution of the budget? I agree, because you can write it all out, but if you don’t execute on your plan, then it’s essentially worthless.

  13. Wow, that sounds reeeeeeally rough. Jeez, what a wake-up call that your spending is out of line with your values, to feel so much shame to share your purchase history with the person closest to you. Good thing you were so understanding given your experience when you were younger.

    I’m glad I convinced my husband to start tracking and budgeting back when he was my boyfriend so by the time we were preparing to get married with both had our spending data easily at hand. Making our first joint budget just involved adding our two budgets together and tweaking what had been my living expenses because I was moving in with him (replacing his roommate).
    Emily @ evolvingPF recently posted..How to Tell If Your Means Are Just Not EnoughMy Profile

    • it was tough, but super awesome once we got thorugh it. And her debt was something like $500 – $800, so not a big deal AT ALL! I’m so glad we did this before combining finances, so when we got married it was a piece of cake, we were already on the same page. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. I remember our first budget was pretty rough. We tried to hard to break down all of our purchases and track every dollar. Now I realize that was a big waste of time. There are better ways to track your money and budget than chasing down every buck. Plus you could use the time to make more money which would solve a lot of your problems.
    My Money Design recently posted..Cutting Back on Our 403b Plan for More Dividend Paying StocksMy Profile

    • You and I, sir, disagree ๐Ÿ™‚

      I’m all about tracking my money. Whether it’s manually, or just letting mint.com do it, it’s silly to just think “instead of seeing where my money goes, I’ll just earn more so I’ll never run out.”

      I don’t think the two are opposites, or even on the same spectrum. I think they should go hand in hand ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Our first budget happened little by little, there was no big sit down and figure it out moment. I had my own budget and in order to make sure we were both contributing 50% to household expenses, we had to sit down and tally it all up. These days I sit down at the beginning of the month and make a budget that includes everything we’ll need to spend in the month, and he’s responsible for making sure we stay on track during the month. It’s a good system since I’m more long term oriented and he can be short sighted sometimes.
    Jordann @ My Alternate Life recently posted..The Classified Side HustleMy Profile

    • I like that balance. My wife is better at identifying future needs, and I’m all about today, so we do something similar. She helps me plan, and I write it all down and pay everything. It’s like a game for me, I seriously enjoy it ๐Ÿ™‚ Is that weird?

  16. I also got upset when we did our first budget, mainly b/c I had student loan debt that I was ashamed to bring into the marriage, especially since I was making very little money at the time. My husband has always been debt-free and I felt bad about “burdening” him with my debt. We made a plan to pay if off though, and I think the process brought us closer together during our first year of marriage.

    • It’s a scary thing, to combine incomes and go over the details of your spending, especially if you ahven’t done it before. I love hearing that is has brought you closer together, that’s what good budgeting should do ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. While our spending hasn’t always been pretty, I’ve never felt like there was a big issue with one person spending more than another because we communicate regularly on the items we purchase. Since we are all in agreement, I think we both usually feel responsible when we are over budget.
    Wayne @ Young Family Finance recently posted..Eat healthily and live well for lessMy Profile


  1. […] Our First Budget Story at I Heart Budgets. If you can go from this to hearting budgets, that’s pretty amazing. […]

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