A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Jon and I had started discussing how we'd merge our finances once we were together several months before he immigrated to the States. We'd never had a joint account before and, even when we officially lived together after I moved to London in 2010, we kept everything totally separate; by the time Jon got his green card, though, we were pretty familiar with each other's financial priorities. (Remember to ask me about the curtain saga, okay?) The two things we agreed on straight off the bat was that we both wanted the majority of our money to truly be "our" money and we both wanted to build healthy savings accounts. However, we both also acknowledged that we have pretty different spending habits.
This posed a major challenge when Jon arrived in Washington, DC and we drew up a spreadsheet to calculate our joint income and expenses. At the moment, Jon is doing some freelance work for contacts back in the UK while applying to jobs in the States, but he isn't drawing a full-time salary. Because of that, it's way too easy for us to slip into the red - we realized pretty quickly and somewhat painfully that we really have to examine the spending choices we make on a daily basis in order to maintain a responsible budget. Jon's better at belt-tightening than I am, so he proposed a reasonable weekly cap in three different areas of discretionary spending: groceries, travel, entertainment.
Since then, we've kept track of every purchase we've made and we've entered them all into that spreadsheet each evening. It's definitely helping us stay accountable! I hate coming home with a frivolous receipt in my pocket and having to sheepishly admit that I splurged on Starbucks instead of making coffee at my office or that I bought Charlie yet another squeaky toy even though the last one we got him is still alive. (Jon says his equivalent is stopping by fast food joints rather than eating what we have in the apartment and tossing beers he's never tried before in the grocery cart.) There's a time and a place to treat yourself, sure, but this time and place for us is one of being reasonable and responsible - and that means being honest and open with each other about what we're spending and whether or not it's necessary. It can be stressful, but we both know these conversations are building trust, stability, and peace of mind in the long run, and that's really worth something special.
Charlottesville, VA; November 2014
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I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.