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Success by Budgeting Two Ways

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It took a lot of trial an error to find a budgeting system that worked for my wife and me.  There may have even been an argument or two along the way. 

It wasn't hard to tell when a method wasn't working, one of us would just stop wanting to talk about finances again. Our epiphany came during a financial discussion earlier this year when I was showing her the monthly worksheet I had put together outlining our bills and income.

She just shook her head and said, "That doesn't make sense to me."

She walked away from the kitchen table and sat on the couch, so I thought.  She started asking me questions about particular bills, and our different income streams.  Finally I turned around to see what she was doing.  On her lap were two calendars that she was writing information into.  It then occurred to me that we often have two very different ways to looking at a situation. 

It shouldn't be a surprise that we would differ on how we need to look at our finances.

After a little tweaking, here's how we currently handle our budgeting and spending plan discussions:

Talk Often

Our budget cycles run bi-weekly to match the pay periods from my job as a software engineer, which represents our largest income stream.  We sit down at the beginning of each budget cycle to discuss all the income that will come our way during that cycle, as well as which bills are due.

Each Thursday evening, before the start of the weekend, we discuss how much we have available in discretionary funds, and what our spending plan is for the weekend.

Each Sunday evening, at the conclusion of the weekend, we discuss whether we stuck to the plan over the weekend, or if we had to alter things a bit.  We get on the same page with the state of our money and discuss any known expenditures in the week ahead.

Many mornings we go over the state of our checking account together.  Vonnie looks at our bank's online portal, and I reconcile the transactions that posted overnight with the account register I keep in a spreadsheet.

Representing our Finances 

When Vonnie and I have our financial discussions we look at the same information, but we look at it in different forms. 

My Way:  I have a budget worksheet file on the computer for each month.  For each of the two budget cycles in the month I list

  • The bills to be paid and the date they're due
  • Income
  • The total of all the bills
  • The total of all the income
  • The difference between income and bills.

Her Way:  She has two calendars:  one for income, and one for bills.  One calendar she writes information about each bill (who and how much) on the date they're due.  On the other calendar she writes information about each income stream (who and how much) on the date it will arrive in our bank account.  She also writes expenditures like gas and groceries on the weekends, as well as the amount of projected discretionary funds available.

She wants to visualize each part of our financial life in real calendar time. I want to see all the information in as condensed a format as possible. 

We used to bicker and argue often during our discussions because we just couldn't process the information if it was presented in a format that didn't make sense to us.  By creating and using BOTH formats we ensure that our financial discussions are comfortable for both of us, and therefore as productive as possible.

How do you keep track of your finances?  Have you ever asked your significant other if they are comfortable with your method? 

Related Links:

Taking Control....The Whiteboard Budget

Organizing Your Finances Doesn't Have to be Complicated

Long Distance Budget

Travis Pizel, debt management plan customer with leading provider of debt relief, CareOne Services, Inc.Travis is a contributing writer for the A Straight Talk on Debt blog. He is also a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family in Minnesota. You can also read more from Travis on the Enemy of Debt blog, where he is a featured blogger. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

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  • Your post gave me a light bulb moment. My husband is very visual and spatial, and I am more verbal. If he wants to know how to get somewhere, he uses a map. I, on the other hand, use written directions. For our budget, he resists sitting and talking with me about it, and I have found that frustrating. For him, it's all up there on the spreadsheets, so what more needs to be said? For me, the spreadsheets are a chaos of numbers that need to be discussed to make sense. Thank you, Travis. You might just have spared us a bicker or two : )

  • I hope it does spare you a bicker or two...I can't tell you how much smoother our budget meetings have gone since we've started doing this. Sure, it takes a little extra time to essentially do our budget twice, but if we both walk away from the discussion on the same page, well, it's well worth the effort.  If you do try a "budget two ways" sort of thing, come back and let us know how it worked out for you!

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