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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…well….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 was….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?
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