As newly weds, eager to act like “responsible adults,” we decided to put ourselves on a real budget. Now, I think we both would say that we were well versed in budgeting before marriage, as we each had our own budgeting “system” when we were single; and thus we figured a budget together should be easy enough to institute. Before we got married, neither of us were spending frivolously or throwing money out the window, and yet we each had our own budgeting style which can be summarized with the following principals:
Charity’s Budgeting Principals:
- Save time by doing everything online.
- Automate as much as possible.
- Pay all bills and balances at the start of every month
- Automatically set aside savings at the start of every month.
- After all of the above happens, spend “reasonably” on whatever expenses come up — you know, dinner out with the girls, groceries, weekend entertainment, and whatever opportunities availed themselves
- Pay for as much as possible with a credit card so as to earn lots of free cash and flight points.
Jason’s Budgeting Principals:
- Cash-only system.
- Spend the money you have.
- Don’t spend money you don’t have.
- Have a savings goal for the year and set aside money to meet the goal. (This one gets bonus points in my mind, because avoiding debt in grad school is hard enough, let alone finding a way to save money).
Now, insert marriage and a detailed budgeting plan that the aforementioned two people have to agree on, and it’s a whole new ball game! It took us the entire month of September just to wrap our heads around it — two detailed spreadsheets, one word doc, one mint.com account and many conversations later, we finally had ourselves a budget plan! So October was the first real month on the “new budget plan”. We decreased our dining-out budget allowance and tried to beef-up the grocery budget allowance so we’d be motivated to cook and eat at home. That worked pretty well, especially that night when Jason made us steak that was seriously better than any steak house!
And then of course, we have fun making our favorite cocktail concoctions and yummy sautéed vegetable recipes, among other treats that can be easily produced in the home.
For the most part, cooking at home is truly fun and enjoyable for us. But by the time the third week of the month rolled around, we were weary of cooking and at the same time, the money coffers were running low. And yet, we trudged ahead, denying ourselves any dine-out privileges (because that account was all sucked up for the month), and trying to keep the costs low even with groceries (which resulted in some semi-gross meal concoctions on my part).
[too embarrassed to insert pic of that meal]
By the last few days we were looking at the tallies in each budget category with eagle eyes (thank you mint.com) just to make sure we didn’t go a penny over, and we mostly succeeded–blaming our slight overages on the fact that is was a longer month than usual (I mean, 31 days is like an eternity!)
And then the storm let-up and (as we Christians like to say) joy came in the morning. Hallelujah! The morning of November 1st was like a brand new day of freedom! We both woke up with the same idea, and before Jason even got out of bed he said, “Do you want to go out to dinner in the city tonight?” And before he could even finish his idea, my emphatic response was “Yes!”. After all, it was the 1st of the month, and the world was our oyster!
I looked forward to it all day long.
And that night, I had one of the most enjoyable date-nights with my man in a long time! We didn’t want to take any risks, so we picked a restaurant off the big-gourmand list –sure to be gourmet quality for affordable prices. Something that makes you feel like this without breaking your budget…
And Troya did not disappoint. It delivered authentic Turkish food and we got to enjoy stuff we’ve never tried, like, Beyti and Moussakka.
They even served this delicious bread with a dipper plate that included olive oil, crushed pistachios and chili powder. All of it was new, and all of it was wonderful! My ideal restaurant experience!
And we even got to enjoy a stroll through the city and a visit at an old cozy used bookstore (both very budget friendly activities). This is Jason burying his face in the stacks…
LESSON: Budgeting isn’t the most enjoyable thing on the planet, but it does help me see how little money it actually takes to enjoy the basics of life. And it helps me truly appreciate those extra treats, like dining out, as true privileges.