Budget Planning for Couples

Photo credit: Tax Credits (flickr) Like most adults, I’ve always had somewhat of a budget. I’m not going to say I’ve always been strict about it or that I’ve never let things get off track. But nevertheless, I’ve always had a budget and always been pretty aware of how much money I had in my checking account.

This whole budget thing is also something I found a bit difficult with Mr. T.

We decided quite some time ago that we didn’t want to have a joint checking account. I know myself. I worry. I stress. And honestly, I think it’s just too chaotic for me and I don’t want either of us to be mad at the other one for buying a bag of chips or something equally small.

When we were dating it was never a big deal. We had a lot of shared expenses -- going out, taking trips, getting groceries, etc. If he paid for dinner, I would pay for drinks or the next time we went out. We'd work groceries and trips the same kind of way. I honestly don’t know if everything was totally split down the middle, but it was never an issue and it all seemed fair to us.

But having a household is totally different. And before you say anything, yes, I knew that. I just think it was a little more different than I thought. Or maybe I didn’t think about it enough.

Rent and other utilities are easy. We've both had roommates so we’re used to transferring money. Also, most places will let you make multiple payments so we've just started doing that.

Groceries and other household needs are the little bastards. We use delivery for groceries so we originally planned that I would cover that and then he would cover things for the rest of the month. Sounds easy right? Yeah, not so much.

I found it extremely stressful. I could easily keep track of my stuff, but it was way too hard to keep track of his. I didn't know how much money he had or how much we were actually spending on other things. I wasn't sure if we were both contributing the same amount and that's important to me.  It was also hard for me to consider his money as our money so I felt weird going to Target, loading up the cart, and then asking him to pay for it all.

I think part of it stems from my independence, but there's probably a million other factors that I could think of too. The point is, we really needed a better solution than what we were doing.

We toyed with some ideas -- maybe having another checking account or savings account that we could both put money in and take money from. But honestly, that's just a little too complicated (and the whole idea was to make things easy).

We eventually decided that it was a good idea to just make an actual budget for our household stuff. Basically we're both going to contribute the same amount to an overall household budget. Then, I'll keep track of each transaction we make so we know who is spending what where. We’re doing the same for dining out/bars and for the wedding.

And I guess technically it's not a real budget, it's more of a fake budget since we aren't actually combining money into an account. But it's a great way to see who is spending what and where everything is going. It's also easier to get on board with the whole our money mentality.

The hard part has been how to work this budget. Neither of us has ever had a combined budget with anyone before. I was using an app to keep track of my own budget, but most of those just combine incomes and such so that was way too confusing. I tried to use one app for my budget and another for ours, but since it's all coming from a variety of transactions it's hard to see what we are spending individually and the whole budget. All those apps also start over on the 1st of each month and we are working ours a little differently. So I've decided to just use a regular old spreadsheet (I love them anyway so why not?). That way we have more freedom and can adjust it or add to it or whatever whenever we want.

So, regardless of how you're handling your money, my best advice is to make a budget of some kind. Figure out a way so you can both see what you're spending and where. And, to make sure you're on the same page.