Episode 24: The Budget Crisis

Guess what everybody? Turns out Kamel has a weird view of our finances that *he* covers some stuff while *I* cover other stuff instead of it just being about who is responsible for not forgetting to pay which bill. But then turns out, that the idea of completely melting our hard earned money together is not my favorite concept. I mean, Kamel’s hard earned money as the “household” money is totally fine by me. But my money? That is … mine. Right?

How do you household? How do you budget and finance? We explain in what turned into a longer conversation than could have ever happened in 1 podcast (And will be a two part-er eventually) in this week’s episode!

Ps. Shout out to Laura who requested this topic!

23 thoughts on “Episode 24: The Budget Crisis”

  1. That photos is amazing. Can’t wait to listen to the episode, especially since I just got engaged and finance merging (or not) is a big discussion question with my fiancΓ©.

  2. Yay budgeting! πŸ˜‰

    Before Byron and I got together, I was a SUPER BUDGET NERD. Mostly because I got paid once a month, and money was TIGHT. So I had to set up an excel spreadsheet at the start of each month and figure out exactly how much money I could spend on things so I didn’t run out. It was pretty stressful, but it kept me somewhat financially sound.

    Byron is… not quite the same way πŸ˜‰ Budgeting has never been his strong suit. We lived together for about 4 years before we got married, and we just split everything equally (rent, groceries, etc.) But if money was ever tight for one of us, we just kind of dealt with it and didn’t ask the other for help. (But in hindsight… maybe we should have? Oh well.)

    We created a joint checking and savings account about 2 months before we got married… which was REALLY HARD for me. Mostly because I was the one making more money at that time, and I struggled with someone else using “my money” that I earned. I eventually got over that feeling, but it took a while.

    These days, I handle all of our finances. Byron has passwords to all the accounts (I one day woke up and was like “shit if I die Byron won’t be able to access ANY MONEY”), and I know he does look at the accounts from time to time. So while he’s aware of what’s going on… I pay all the bills, do the monthly budgeting using Excel and Mint.com, divert money into savings, etc etc. It’s sometimes a bit stressful, but a) I DO like having that control, and b) I’m just better suited for it. (Sometimes I try to show Byron my monthly Excel sheet and I swear he starts hyperventilating, ha.)

    Oh, and we still each have our own personal checking account! Paychecks get deposited into the joint account, and then I transfer an “allowance” to each of the personal accounts. And we do NOT have access to view each other’s personal accounts. You get to do whatever you want with that money πŸ˜‰

    (Obviously I could also talk about this for days. But I don’t think enough people talk frankly about finances and budgets!)

    1. May I ask how you came about the number for the allowance? My husband Bob and I are trying to budget and one of the problems is Bob really doesn’t like feeling like he has to account for every dime he spends. I think an allowance would be helpful but I dont know how to figure out what that number is? (obvs you dont need to give exact numbers, just wondering about the method).

      1. It was pretty arbitrary based on what we have left over for the month and what we feel comfortable having as “fun” money. We do $50 a paycheck, so about $100 a month each. It’s not a ton, but it’s perfect for a date or a new shirt or drinks with the girls or whatever. And to be honest, I am a grown up and it’s all our money and we can spend it however we want, goddamnit. So if other stuff comes up, it comes up. But this way when we are in a pinch we can always pull from that “secret” stash, so to speak.

      2. For us, we subtract everything that goes to our savings, 401ks, and bills. What’s leftover is ‘ours’? We both take a bit of cash out each week (that’s what I call our allowance) but whatever is left in that account can be spent. We tend to check in with each other if the purchase is going to be over $100, but otherwise, it’s fair game.

  3. Money and finances are such a weird topic that even though I have thought about it as a topic for you guys (saving for a house in particular) I talked myself out of it every time. My parents were very secretive about their money and finances and I was raised that it was one of the biggest social errors to talk about your own or ask about others. I think this hurt me over all because as a young dumb youth I dove into credit cards without any knowledge or forthought. I also never learned about budgeting or saving. Bob’s famiy (really his mom) is one of the most financial illiterate I have ever come across. She has filed for bankruptcy twice and took Bob to his first check cashing business when he started working (the kind John Oliver went off about). She views loans as free money and I am terrified that one day she will lose thier house and have to live with us.

    I am only halfway through the podcast but I love hearing about how other couples my age navigate it! Plus you guys disagree in such an amicable way that it feels real without feeling uncomfortable.

  4. It is so great that people are starting to talk about finances more. My husband and I have been married for 4 years and together for 8+. We are still working on what we are both comfortable with. We combined accounts when we first got married, and this is what currently happens:
    $x goes to bills account. This amount stays the same unless we have a new re-occurring bill added to the list.
    $y goes to our ‘travel’ account. This allows us to pay for flights or girls weekends or a surprise vet bill/car repair without using our credit cards
    $z goes to our ‘fun’ account. This is what is left over and is free game for both of us. Some pay periods, this money goes FAST because we went out to eat a lot or one of us bought a pricey item (him: $300 iBackpack, me: shoes)

    That is after we both contribute to our 401k, a mutual fund, and another savings account. Interestingly enough, I still have a lot of anxiety around how much money we spend. Even though it’s the ‘leftover’ money, it still feels like a lot.

    Background: I was similar to Feeny, in that I dived into credit card debt. I can thank Oprah (I know, I know) for her ‘debt diet’ series, because that is when I learned to LOVE budgeting. While I had to spend less, the anxiety around spending was gone. By the time I met my husband, I had budgeting down to a science, which was necessary for someone living paycheck to paycheck. Meanwhile, my husband had continually gotten raises and promotions, so at some point, he just did not need to budget.

    Our next big challenge is retirement. We’re both 40/41, so it’s inching closer. We don’t have nearly enough saved, so we’re trying to balance ‘living life to the fullest’ (which for us means travelling) with properly funding our retirement accounts.

    1. I love the travel account! I’m trying to start doing that — $XX into travel savings every month, regardless if we have a specific trip planned.

      1. It has really been a godsend. We were having trouble paying down our credit cards, because every time we did, another trip would pop up. It is SUCH a comfort to be able to use a debit card instead of a credit card for flights.

        1. I cannot WAIT to restructure our budget once we figure out the house issue. Everything with money has been so house focused bc we need that cash upfront and can’t use any extra money to pay down credit cards used for travel, etc etc. It will be so nice to have a set rent (mortgage) eventually and be able to go forward from there.

  5. Another resource if you love this sort of thing is the podcast Matrimoney. It’s a husband and wife talking about life and finances too.

    We have two checkings and savings accounts. One checking is for our big payments like house payment and daycare and then the other is for everything else. We set it up this way so we never have subtract out our house payment mentally, we just don’t even think about it. We are trying to pay our house off at a stupidly intense speed though so it’s a little different. One savings is an emergency fund and the other is short term savings goals. They are all at the same bank along with our Roths. I find one bank is just easier to manage.

  6. I LOVE having our money pooled (and I say that as a female who is also the head breadwinner of the family). It removes the whole concept of “I paid for x, he paid for y” because that gets exhausting and complicated. Our paychecks both auto-deposit into our joint checking account, and we used YNAB (YouNeedABudget.com) to track everything. We still are responsible for the mental space for certain bills (my student loans = me, his student loans = him) but as to “whose” dollars are going where, it’s anybody’s guess. I like the transparency it brings. Plus, we each have individual accounts elsewhere, so I can still set aside money for me, and I have a PayPal account that he doesn’t have access to. So, feminine security locked down, but the family aspect of our money is truly a joint affair, and nobody ever gets to say “Well I pay our mortgage” because that just isn’t true, and it levels the playing field. We always know how much money we have to spend and it makes conversations about money frank and clear.

    Judging from Kamel’s comments about how, quoting him, “I pay the rent” — that’s historically problematic, just coming at that mindset (intentioned or not) from the feminist historical perspective.

    By all means, have a separate account that’s yours that he can’t touch. I think every woman should have this.

    But for the day to day, I think it’s really helpful to look at it as a pool of money, and cease paying attention to the percentage each person contributes to the pool. Because things shift over time, and having a steady approach to it has been helpful for us in the ups and downs of people’s financial contributions. I’m never paying “for him” or “covering” him, and he’s never doing that for me. So there’s less a feeling of “owing” (whether real or imagined) each other. It’s like…we’re not buddies loaning each other rent money. We’re married spouses and our day to day expenses are shared as a unit rather than two individual roomies.

        1. Oh god! It’s a spiral!

          And you are not bossy. Because we actually say “I don’t know if I can cover X, can you help me?” an annoying amount. And I hate how that sounds, esp in a world that assumes the man “cares” for me and “supports” his family, which makes me want to DIE. But JUST TO KEEP SCORE FOR TWO MORE SECONDS – if it wasn’t for me and my ability to save and lock shit down, we would have NO money for a down payment on a house. SO THERE.

          1. Haha! Yeah, I definitely have to be the hardnose sometimes and be like, hey sweetie remember we can’t buy anything the next couple days…you spent HOW much on groceries?!

            I hate the whole “supports” BS — because it’s so easy to get stuck in that mindset! Like…just vocabulary wise! ARGH. Money sucks.

  7. Love love love this episode! R. and I got a joint checking/savings account about 5 years ago when we moved in together. We each put equal amounts of money into it each month, and it’s just barely enough to cover our rent, utilities, groceries, and (sometimes) going out together. The rest of our money goes into our personal accounts, as do our savings. We’re lucky that we’ve always made about the same amount each year, so inequality between our spending/savings hasn’t been such an issue. I’ve been saving for a house down payment for 7 years, and R. just started, but he’s saving a lot more than me, so we’ll probably contribute about equal amounts once we’re ready to do that.

    BUT we just found out we’re moving to a totally new place (exciting! terrifying!) with a much lower cost of living, and we’ll need to buy a car, so we’re thinking now is probably a good time to combine most of our finances, since we’ll finally be able to start saving for some real goals and/or we’ll already have dropped a pretty chunk of change on a vehicle. We’ll each keep the money we’ve saved so far, but once we find a bank and get settled there, we’re going to start putting all of our money into one account, and giving ourselves a personal allowance each month. I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes, and I can’t wait to hear Part II of this episode soon!

    Also, any advice on buying a car would be much appreciated from any BIRL readers who own such things!

    1. I didn’t know you were moving! Where are you headed?

      For cars – don’t spend your savings on a car!! Car payments are not scary things. Ours is 200 something a month with 0 down. So if you can put 5k down then you will be just fine. Work with a credit union. They will help you and often have excellent interest rates. But with house stuff – cash is KING. But you can finance a car. Cars don’t appreciate, so don’t waste your cash on one. It would have killed any home ownership options for us if we had spent a chunk on a car.

      You guys handle most every relationship issue so well! I can’t wait to hear how the big move goes!!

  8. Thanks for the frank conversation. We are also saving for a down payment and have no inheritance/rich aunts/other windfalls coming our way. I have no idea how other people like us are buying houses. Do you mind sharing if you put a full 20% down? Were closing costs more or less than you expected? It seems like most of the advice is to really save 25% of the home price to cover everything.

    I am also chiming in as another YNAB advocate! It is sanity saving if you follow the “rules” the software is designed around.

  9. This was awesome! I haven’t listened to any of your podcasts before because, well, I don’t tend to enjoy podcasts. However, my husband just got really into money management in the last month, so it was great timing to stumble across your discussion.

    We’ve been dating 9 years, married 2.5, live in the (SO EXPENSIVE) Bay Area and will for another 3-4 years. We merged our money the first month we were married (didn’t live together prior, so never had to deal with any of those struggles). We both had Chase accounts, so we added each other as users, and I was added to his credit card (he had an established account with Chase and I had only used my dad’s Costco AmEx for a few years, kind of in anticipation of marrying and merging).

    He graduated from medical school a month after we married. I had been working full time for the prior 4 years and neither of us had undergraduate debt. We used a large portion of my savings to pay down a few of his loans, which I still feel a little squicky about if I let myself think selfishly. I have a shared Excel budget sheet in Docs that I update monthly with our expected expenditures and our actual, but until recently didn’t record our income in the sheets.

    We both work full time, have comparable salaries, and don’t have kids yet. I love having one shared account because I get a much better instant view of where money comes in and where it’s being spent, as well as where I need to cut back (he’s at the hospital all day long. He never has time to spend money!). We’re currently maxing out our 401k’s and Roth IRAs, we have a 6-month emergency fund, and we’re paying Bay Area Rent along with his loans. It feels tight some months, but we don’t have kid expenditures and we aren’t buying property out here, so it’ll be ok. We still take plenty of trips.

    p.s. Kamel’s laugh sounds exactly like I imagined it would.

    1. Thank you for commenting and listening!!! I think your financial setup is my dream financial setup. We’re getting there. Esp as far as maxing out retirement. I need to open up a Roth for myself as I am currently not contributing to a 401k. It sounds like you are doing SO well and being so smart! I’m strangely proud. hahaha. And inspired!

  10. We’re one of those couples where the husband earns everything and takes care of all the bills. Though, all the bills are on autopay at this point so neither of us really has to worry about them. When we got married, I quit my job and moved to where he was living. I was honestly tired of my job and needed a change and a break after working and going to grad school full time. Then things came up and I just never went back to work and we had kids, so that’s what I do now. And I like being at home. At first it was hard for me to think of the money he made as “our” money and spending it on anything more than just necessities, but after five years I’ve gotten used to it. I do have my own retirement account from my former job and that has stayed separate, but I closed my bank account and moved everything to his, which is now our joint account. Right now it works for us, we’ll reevaluate if things change.

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