It was an average Saturday morning when A-Rob (<—my husband, if you’re new here) was doing some work on the computer, and I was a few feet away getting ready for the day.
Me: “What do you want to do today A-Rob?”
A-Rob: “Well, I could use some new pants, we could go shopping.”
A-Rob: [Puzzled look]
Me: “I need clothes too, but we don’t budget for it, so I never buy any. If you get clothes I will resent you.” (Honesty is the best policy in our family.)
They say that having a budget gives you freedom. Freedom from thinking too much about money. Freedom to buy what truly matters to you instead of wasting it haphazardly.
A-Rob and I have a budget. Every few weeks we log on to Mint.com and categorize our expenses to see where all our money is being spent. At the end of the month we see how much we have left. If it was a good month, we pat ourselves on the backs. If it was a bad month, we redirect and commit to doing better next time. And doing better is desirable because that left over money becomes a bonus payment to our debt reduction.
This system works for us because, 1) we generally spend less than we make, and 2) it doesn’t require a lot of time, only about 30 minutes a month. Time is an important benefit to us.
But though this method has treated us well over the past six months, it does have its limitations. For instance, we don’t have any hard and fast rules regarding our individual fun money – like clothes, or books, or gallons of paint. (What? Gallons of paint aren’t fun for you?)
And when we spend on these things at any given time, we don’t really know if it’s in our best interest to do so. We just do it and find out the results at the end of the month.
For me, this system makes me spend less. Since I don’t really know if I can afford something, I often don’t want to chance overspending so I don’t spend anything at all. But as my clothing example shows, this isn’t always the best plan. It leads to me constantly complaining about having nothing to wear, and apparently snapping at my husband in resentment.
This system also infuses me with a healthy dose of guilt at times if I sense that we’re overspending, but I never know if we are or aren’t, so it could be moot guilt. Nobody likes moot guilt.
For A-Rob, I suspect this system makes him spend more. Not having a limit means limitless ability to spend on whatever he wants. He’s just a spender by nature. I’m a saver by nature. So this budget brings out the extremes in both of us.
In order to remedy this limitation, and to plug some leaks in our budget for maximum efficiency, we’ve recently agreed to create our first hard and fast budget category in the form of the adult allowance.
This way, I can save for desperately needed clothes without guilt, and A-Rob can reign in his spending, also guilt free. And hopefully we’ll save some money along the way.
Further, I’m thinking of making our allowance not a fixed amount, but one based on our end of month savings. So instead of transferring all of our leftover money to debt reduction at the end of the month, maybe we’ll transfer 1/3 to debt, 1/3 to A-Rob’s allowance, and 1/3 to mine. This might give us a concrete incentive to save more on our other line items – like eating out or groceries – if it means more fun money for us in the end.
The only problem with the adult allowance is that we can’t figure out the best way to implement it.
We could use a cash method, but we both tend to make a majority of our purchases online. And at times we’ve been known to be too lazy to go to the ATM on a regular basis (don’t judge).
We could attempt to keep track of what we each spend, but I don’t know how well that will work. Neither one of us are very good at keeping receipts or writing things down. The plan would probably fizzle out pretty quickly knowing us.
The best option I can figure is if we each get our own prepaid credit cards and load them with our allowances each month. Our bank offers prepaid cards with no fees! Except they say the cards are for teenagers. Do you think they would make an exception?
Do you partake in the adult allowance? If so, how do you carry it out?
And on the subject of budgets, how do you do yours? Do you have not-to-exceed amounts that you stick to? Or do you keep it general? I’d love to hear.
For other discussions of the adult allowance, see