I'm so excited to have a new budget!

Long-time readers might remember that my husband and I had rip-roaring success following the Dave Ramsey Total Money Make-over baby steps last year.

Well, we had great success on one-and-a-half baby steps, to be precise.

After hitting a new cash low after our wedding and honeymoon, and freaking out because of the recession and our one-big-income-covers-everything household, we quickly stashed $1000 (baby step 1) and paid off $10,000 worth of credit cards and other debt (baby step 2).

Then the Christmas season hit.  We fell off the “pay everything off including the cars” wagon and never really got back on.  On the bright side, we stopped using credit cards and paid for a bazillion expenses in cash.  So, there’s that.

But my anxiety level skyrocketed once we weren’t following a joint budget.  SKYROCKETED.  I’ve been anxious and stress-y ever since, feeling like we weren’t working as a team and weren’t spending purposefully and will never be able to have kids because we’ll never have enough money to remodel the kitchen even though we make plenty because we’re loooooosssssseerrrrrs.


Setting aside the correlation between a remodeled kitchen and procreation readiness, the whole thing is really silly.  My husband tells me over and over to calm down, take a deep breath, there will be enough money… but I still feel anxious.  A thousand dollars seems like a lot of money (it is); five thousand seems impossible (it isn’t).

So Sunday morning Marisa-the-opportunist took advantage of a question about buying weaponry from Joey-the-obsessed to talk about savings goals.  Then, while he cleaned his weapon with the help of a dude on YouTube with a really soothing voice, I estimated a handful of projects we (fine, fine, I) really want to complete by the end of the year.

Whew.  I feel better.

Here are the steps, as much for my own future reference as yours (because really, they’re super simple but still confound me sometimes):

1 – Make a list of every debt you have.

2 – Make a list of all savings goals or projects requiring money.

3 – Estimate each project.  {You might be tempted to get sucked into line-item estimation of every project in order to avoid dealing with the next step, but don’t.  In the end you’ll feel better.  I found it helpful to estimate to the nearest hundred dollars just to keep moving.}

4 – For each savings goal, decide how much you’d love to have saved by some date.  I chose the end of the year simply because I had Christmas savings on the list.  You might choose a full calendar year.

5 – Add up all of the target amounts, divide by the number of months/ paychecks left in the year, see how much you should save per paycheck to hit your goal.

6 – Sit in speechlessness.  Cough.  Vomit. Pick a fight with your husband.  Remember you’re a grown-up, this is reality, nobody made you spend too much money on a spiffy but totally unnecessary camera.

7 – Adjust savings targets.

8 – Come up with a plan to hit savings targets.  Mine involved deciding we’d live off my husband’s spare money (what’s left after he pays his bills) and put all of mine toward savings goals.  I lose some control but gain a reason to make sure we budget together.

9 – Discuss all of the above with husband.

10 – Change subject and live life.

I tried discussing things with my husband at various points along the way and quickly figured out he was as stressed as I was.  I was trying to involve him with questions like, “What do you think we should do next?” and just stressing him out more, so I stopped the discussing until I’d come up with a plan.

My mom always insisted we come to her with a plan rather than a problem, after all.

But to make sure he was involved, I went step-by-step through everything and asked if things should be adjusted or whatever.  I’m often guilty of presenting the solution (ta-da!!) without “showing my work,” so to speak, and then we argue unnecessarily.

So now we have a joint budget and I’m embarrassingly thrilled.

‘Fess up: are you a budget nerd? Do you and your husband have formal money discussions or do you have to loosen them up to get through them, like we do?


6 thoughts on “I'm so excited to have a new budget!

  1. I am a SERIOUS budget nerd. Our budget is in a big spreadsheet in Excel, complete with income, details about what we spend in each of about 10 categories, tracking debt payoff and the whole bit. I literally update it daily, sometimes even a few times a day. I love having a budget, tracking where we are at with it, and then, best yet, staying under budget for things we have some control over (like food and household stuff) and knowing that means more money to save or pay off debt with.

    My husband HATES talking about money. I know he thinks my spreadsheet is TOTALLY nuts. He gets annoyed with me when I ask him to update the income section with his stuff (he teaches piano lessons, so his income is less stable then mine and harder for me to track).

    Frankly, I pretty much made the budget we have myself. I asked him to look over it multiple times, and they only response I think I got was something like, “whatever, looks fine”. To this day (and we’ve had our budget for at least 4 months), he still doesn’t really understand how we come up with our “personal” money (that we can spend as we please). I think I’ve explained it to him about 5 or 6 times.

    And now we’re looking to save money to pay for my husbands school (which he is starting in the fall). Since it is a training program, and not an “offical” school we can’t get typical student loans, so we really have to find a way to pay for it, or end up paying a lot of interest on the roughly $15,000 program.

    So what did I do? I created a big old spreadsheet to determine what we needed to save, when all his payments need to be made to school, and when we get extra income in throughout the year that we could stock away towards school. I ran multiple options through my “spreadsheet” and realized that we could indeed pay for school for him and not ring up a bunch of debt in the process. Yeah!

    What did he do? He said something like, “Really? Awesome.” And didn’t bother even taking a look at all my hard work in Excel.

    I tell myself I should be happy that he trusts me enough not to worry (Although I’m still not sure if it is “trust” or just laziness) but I can’t help but wish we would sit down as a team and work through these things and figure it out together. I can’t help but feel like the household financial planner, which is a big burden some times.

  2. We’re both budget-nerds. We get off on saving. But we also love buying stuff. We share a google spreadsheet and we’re both always figure out how we can squeeze another penny here, pinch another there.

    We still have separate budgets. This is mainly because 1) this has worked for us up to this point and 2) we are too busy/don’t make the time to actually sit down and figure out how to combine our assets. We both have similar goals, but very different ways to managing our own money and accounts. I wonder how this will mesh when we do merge the finances, and I sometimes wonder if it means one of us will become more the sole planner. I tend to assume that person would be me (what can I say? I like control!), but we haven’t taken the time (yet) to discuss it.

    Regarding your husband not looking at the sheet… Make a pie chart. Even men who don’t love Excel love charts.

  3. My husband is an accountant so he does most of the figuring out of our budget, but we both work through it together. Yes, there’s never enough money for all the savings, expenses and debt, but at least having a plan helps us not freak out. And there is NO better feeling for geeks like us than actually seeing progress in the plan along the way!

  4. I created and maintain an excel spreadsheet with all the bills listed including due dates, total debts, and when to pay the bills in correlation to when we get paid. I also use mint.com to track day to day expenses, and have set up major budgets within the site (food, spending money, savings, etc). The hubby has seen and views these documents from time to time, but he’s completely comfortable with my take over of bill paying and budget tracking.Together, we have learned to be better savers, however, we still have had a hard time saving more than a couple hundred dollars a month due to life issues since we merged our incomes (new car, old car repairs, gifts, medical expenses). We can discuss money issues more calmly now, but during the first few months of marriage, we would butt heads more than anything. We’re on the savesavesave track now, trying to create a travel budget, with the possibility of downsizing to a cheaper rental in order to save even more. We try to take it one week at a time, making smaller goals in order to save our sanity. This week’s goal – spend no more than $150 on food. It’s definitely been a tough process, changing the idea of “my” money to “our” money, but it’s still working, we’re still together, and it’s exciting to dream about what we can do together.

  5. We’re a lot like Pink Heli–having our own systems for managing money but shared goals. I’ve noticed that collaborative financial planning is not implicit in combined finances, so we’ve had no reason to change. As part of having our own systems though, I have a two sheet spreadsheet tracking both monthly and long-term goals and he has pieces of paper folded up in his wallet…..We discuss our saving, investments, debt re-payment and future goals quite regularly but we only seriously re-visit/re-plan about once a year or year and a half. We each save toward specific goals and and manage a portion of the bills so no one is responsible for everything (or doing all the work!) We don’t turn it into a “work” climate, we just treat it like any other aspect of our life planning.

  6. I update the budget twice a month and review it with my husband via email. I guess we “talk” about our money via gmail. Huh. I’ve been married five years and I didn’t realize that until I just wrote it!

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