The Married Budget, Part 1: Organization

I have a few posts coming up about how we handle money as a married couple. What was originally a single post got far too long so I’ve split it up. Today I’m talking about how we organize our money: where it comes from, where it goes and how we get it from point A to point B.

For us, budgeting is simply controlling our money, rather than letting it control us. For us that involves tracking money coming in, going out, being saved and “stored”. I’m going to talk about each in a bit of detail and then give a quick overview of how we pay bills and handle cash and the like.

First off is the money being stored. We have an emergency fund of about four months of living expenses that we keep in an easily accessible bank account. This is true emergency money: it’s saved for a job loss, health issue, car troubles, etc. You get the idea. Ideally we would have about six months saved, but because of the way money comes into our household we’ve kept it at four. (More on that below)

Next is the money that’s being saved. Here we aren’t talking about our emergency fund. This is money allocated to future things: a house, car, retirement, etc. I’ll fully admit that this is where we’re the least sophisticated. We each have retirement accounts through work that we’ve been fairly hands-off with. Other than retirement, we have accounts set up at our own bank for other savings goals. Normally we keep one general savings account and at most two short-term accounts. Some people have like 15 savings accounts to keep track of…that just wouldn’t work for us. We have a general savings that we add to with each check and then occasionally set up accounts for shorter-term things. One common short-term account is a Christmas savings fund. Another is a new car fund, which is what we’re working on right now.

Third, we pay close attention to money that comes into our home. Right now that money comes from three sources: his salaried job, my salaried job and his school stipend. I mention that we’re salaried just to note that our income is very predictable. Though we’re covering most of Liam’s graduate school from our income, he does get a bit of money each term that pays for books and supplies and any school-related travel that he might need. It’s very helpful because it takes care of all of the unpredictable school costs.

Finally, we have money that goes out, or the bills and expenses that we pay each month. One little kink in our system: when we talk about money going out, we only refer to monthly bills. Anything that’s paid on a different cycle (quarterly or yearly) comes from our savings account. That simplifies things for us quite a bit. Money going out includes housing and utilities, student loan payments, credit cards and our car payment. We have a number that we assume is going to be our monthly expense total and keep that in our checking account. That way we can stay ahead of bills by a month and absorb surprises.

And finally, how we handle money – that’s my job.  Our paychecks go into individual accounts and Liam’s checks pay the bills and mine “pay” the savings and cash expenses – gas, groceries etc.  Does that make sense?

Phew, that’s a lot of talk about a (sometimes) very dull subject.  In Part II I’m going to talk about how we’ve combined our spending and set spending limits in each area.

Favorite fall capsule outfits

Hi guys! I’m linking up today with Anne and Jacquelyn for more of my capsule wardrobe. Last time I linked up was back when everyone was showing their capsules. I skipped the first outfit posts because…well, I wear a lot of the same things. But here are some of my favorites from the capsule.  For the most part I feel like this capsule worked really well for me and my lifestyle – but there were a few specific items that I had to change around because what was originally included didn’t belong in my wardrobe in the first place.

First up is probably my favorite piece from the capsule paired my favorite way. This 3/4 sleeve dress from Old Navy has gotten SO MUCH wear.  (True story: every time I’ve thought to take a picture of it I have been wearing this dress!!).

striped dress

Next is this (probably overdone) pairing of  black ponte pants, my chambray shirt, and driving mocs.  Sorry for showing tattered shoes…  Saturday errands?  Check.  Casual Friday night plans?  Check.  Working at home?  Check, then too!

image

This pairing is probably the best workwear combination that I have: pencil skirt and ‘dressy’ tee shirt.  I really like the combination of blue and green in almost all shades.

pencil skirt

This next outfit is so boring that it’s hardly worth sharing – but the mustard top pairs really well with my (replacement) jeans.  And those same jeans with a black long-sleeved shirt work well when I don’t want to think at all about what I’m wearing.

image

A more preppy look, and one that also often flies in my office are those trouser jeans with this 3/4 sleeved J. Crew sweater:

image

 

The last thing I’ll share is this skirt from my Ten Items and my chambray shirt.  This skirt was really close to leaving my wardrobe entirely at the end of this capsule, but I’ve decided to keep it around and try it again in the Spring.

flowered skirt

 

October shopping summary

Hi all!  I’m again linking up with Fran and the Budgeting Bloggers to share my purchases over the past month.

For those of you new here, I’m working with a yearly budget of $600.  While I really hope to stick within that limit I’m not going to be upset if I go over it by a bit – doubling it would be bad; it won’t be the end of the world if I wind up spending $800.

October was a really frustrating month personally for me.  Just being honest here.  My professional life was very up and down, and I let that bleed into my personal life in ways that I am usually not prone to.  (If you read here often, thank you for listening!  I know I wrote about that a whole lot on here.)  Cutting loose and spending more money than usual was not the smartest thing I have ever done, but it was definitely a stress reliever.  I don’t advocate shopping as a crutch for the most part but that doesn’t mean I’m perfect.

Earlier in the month I mentioned having problems with a few of the items in my capsule- namely my jeans (!!)  Though they were my size they were clearly cut for a juniors body.  So that was the extent of what I had intended on purchasing this month, but the actual results are a bit different..

necklace 2necklace 1

I spent $8 on two statement necklaces this month.  These were a total impulse buy.  A few on Baublebar had caught my eye but they were far too $$$ so I went with two from Amazon instead.  The teal-blue one arrived first and pairs well with most of my Ten Item Wardrobe.  I know it won’t last forever but that’s probably for the best – this statement necklace trend appears to be on the way out anyway!

Targetrunningtights

Then, $27 bought me a pair of Target’s running tights/leggings that aren’t see-through.  Yay!  I now have running shorts, capris and full-length tights.  I aim for about 10k per week so this is perfect for my needs.

As of this writing I have just placed an order from Old Navy (where else?) for two pairs of jeans and a sweater dress.  I’m hoping that one of the jeans will work out, and if the dress is as perfect as the reviews say it’s going to be my Thanksgiving outfit and part of my Winter capsule wardrobe, which I’ll be transitioning into by the end of November.  The order total was $80, but I don’t expect to keep everything.  I’ll update the numbers once it gets here and I decide what does work.

My total for the month currently sits at $135, but I’ll adjust that down once I return whichever pair of jeans doesn’t work.  I have zero plans to purchase anything else for the remainder of the year, but we’ll see how that goes.  Maybe I should say zero plans to purchase without gift cards – that’s more likely :)

********************************

BR bootcut jeans

And on another note, I had something that didn’t work out this month.  Before I placed the Old Navy order above I happened upon a random flash sale thing that I’ve never seen before from Banana Republic and bought two pairs of jeans that were included in the sale.  Pre-married budget BR’s jeans were some of my favorites and my main problem this time around was that the color was already rubbing off.  These would stain everything they touch!!

*********************************

Other than that I was a really good kid and hardly spent any money this month.  Heck, I even used restraint at the grocery store and avoided coffee shops as much as I could.  I’m pretty shopped out at this point- we’ve finished Christmas shopping for my husband’s side and are almost done with my side.

Married money: combining finances

I wanted to talk today about how my husband and I organize and manage our money as a married couple. We’re still considered newlyweds and I’m sure we don’t have everything figured out perfectly, but this is what works for us and maybe will be of help to someone reading.

First of all, the personal finance (pf) blogging world is replete with really great bloggers and tons of advice. A good Google search should bring you lots of results. And if you look specifically for advice directed toward newly married folk you’ll quickly see a sharp divide of opinions on how to manage money as a married couple. In our system our money is shared and mostly pooled together, though we also maintain individual accounts. Like I said, this is just what works for us :)

So, a bit of background: we married in our mid-twenties, after college and our first jobs. That means that before we were married we each had savings, checking, credit cards, student loans and retirement accounts. Before the wedding we would either split expenses or take turns paying for them, although we didn’t have a joint account. We had a very low-budget wedding so it wasn’t necessary to set up any sort of joint expense account for the day. We probably would have done so if our wedding was more traditional.

The first thing that we did when we married was to consolidate our checking, savings and credit cards. We now keep our savings in a joint account through an online bank and have individual checking accounts through a brick and mortar bank. We’re each paid into our separate checking accounts and then move money into the joint savings after paying our monthly bills. In the future I can see us doing this opposite – having money direct deposited into savings and then pulling into our checking accounts – but we have a lot of bills thanks to graduate school so we’re not comfortable doing that right now.

The second thing we did was consolidate credit cards. Both of us had three different cards and that proved to be more complex than we wanted. L cancelled a store card that he had and I have one that I’ll be canceling in the next few weeks. We also devised a plan to pay off and cancel a second of L’s cards, which we just did. One is a general bank card and the other two are with Amazon and an airline. We highly recommend the Amazon card for students and though we’re not frequent fliers the airline card comes in handy as well.

The third thing that we did was collect all of our individual information about stocks and retirement accounts and put it in a known place. This way we both know how to access the information in case we ever need to, even though it’s not something we’re actively working with right now. The same goes for student loans – we each know how to access the other’s account and when the payments are due in case that’s something we’ll have to take over.

The fourth step we took was to visit a lawyer and have wills created. I had one drafted a few years ago but we decided to revise them now that we’re married. I highly, highly suggest doing this even if you don’t have much in the way of assets or property. It’s a good habit to get into looking into every 5-10 years or as your situation changes.

And that’s where we are today.  Our next transition will be when L finishes graduate school and we start looking into buying a home and/or finish paying off our undergrad loans.  Maybe this post was TMI, but I feel like there is a lot that can be said about money and finances that is not too personal and hopefully helpful to others.

Coffee

Coffee date, Round 2

Coffee

Happy Friday! Let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief for the fact that another work week is coming to an end.  Last time we got together I told you that I was done with pumpkin coffee, and that still holds true.  This time I’ll have a plain latte … or a maple one, if they have that where we’re going.  Have you ever had a maple latte?  They’ve got to be the best-kept secret of New England foodstuffs.

My week started with a huge high note when my husband got home Sunday morning after a long work trip.  Unfortunately he had to dive right into studying when he got home but it’s good to have him back.  Our dog, fickle as always, quickly declared me second fiddle when L walked through the door.

From there the highs were a bit more superficial: I had a really great hair day on Monday.  (I told you!)  My hair is too long right now but I’m not sure what I want to do with it yet so I’ve been wearing lots of side braids.  Any suggestions for thick, moderately curly hair?    On Tuesday we did the most boring thing that I’ve put on this space yet: we closed one of L’s  bachelor credit cards.  Because we got married in our late 20s our finances were already established individually and we hadn’t done much to combine and simplify them yet.  So there you go.  It was a very adult kind of high note.  Tuesday was also a really good work day for me because I was given several quick assignments that I was able to power through and feel very accomplished when I closed up shop at the end of the day.

Other, non-linear events throughout the week included finalizing our Thanksgiving plans, making a perfect pumpkin pie and a sushi-filled lunch date during our workweek.  That last one is a rarity – we’re hardly ever able to meet up during the day but we were free at the same time and sushi sounded like an excellent way to spend our time together.  Lastly a personal high for the week involved taking lots of career-related action.  It took a bit of bravery on my part to step out of my comfort zone, but I’m so glad that I did!

And friend – you know I find vague blogging extremely tiring so let’s just move on to the low of my week: my job.  I’m just not happy with it.  Have you ever been in a space that where the work was okay, the people were fine, and yet it didn’t work because the job just didn’t fit?  That’s me.  Right now.  Because of (L’s) grad school I feel like I can only leave it for something better.  I’m in between a rock and a hard place here.  Launching careers, man.  Not. Easy.

But before we switch roles and I hear all about your day, I want to end on a positive because once a sorority girl, always a sorority girl.  :)  We have a visitor this weekend and I’m so excited to see her!  The prodigal friend is returning after a long absence.

Your turn!  Tell me what has been going on with you lately.  Read any good books?  I’ve just finished my current book and I’m looking for suggestions.

Read any good books? Vol. 1

My taste in books is rather eclectic, to say the least.  As long as it’s not gory or scary there is a good chance that I’ll eventually be in the mood for almost any genre.

My defaults are always biographies and historical fiction though.  And because this has been a downer year for my family I’m not interested in being saddened by books these days.  This first volume of RAGB is quite the mix as you’ll see below.

A little self-help(ish), historical biographies, and a favorite famous person bring you this volume’s reviews.

At Home With Madame Chic.  I’m a fan of Jennifer Scott and her Ten Item Wardrobe so I was excited to get my hands on her newest book.  I did something a bit different (for me) and downloaded the Kindle version because that was the least expensive way to buy it at the time.  (I believe that there are now used copies going for less than the Kindle version).  I enjoyed spending a few hours reading tips on how to make everyday life more exciting by dressing well, using the best of everything that we have, decluttering and being in the present moment.  If none of that sounds particularly enthralling to you then skip this book.  There is nothing groundbreaking and probably very little that is especially French about the tips found in here.

Given the year that my family has had I enjoyed the emphasis on making each day special, particularly because we never know how many days we’ll have.

On the negative side I felt that the book was poorly edited in a few places – twice we’re told that Ms. Scott bakes two cakes at once and freezes the second one for later.  On the other hand, parts of this also felt over-edited and less in Ms. Scott’s voice than her previous work.  I don’t read many books that fall into the “Self-Help” category but the introduction was VERY HEAVY with self-help talk and really turned me off. Maybe people looking for just that kind of thing will be more receptive to it.

Someday, Someday Maybe?  Gilmore Girls is my favorite show ever and I’m not afraid to admit that the sole reason I picked this up was because it was by Lauren Graham.  It’s the story of a struggling New York Actress at the beginning of her career.  It was another super quick read and gets bonus points for the 90s references.

The Greatest Generation.  Tom Brokaw’s collection of vignettes of the World War II generation and their experiences before, during and after the war.   I love this period in history, Tom Brokaw and biographies so I’m not an unbiased reviewer here.  But if you’re looking for something approachable for learning about WWII, read this!  The individual stories are only a few pages rather than the crazy dense chapters that are normally found in history books.

Fall leavesI noticed on the drive into work this morning how most of the trees in my area have already lost at least some of their leaves. And a noticeable percentage of the trees are already completely bare. It’s a foreboding sign, really: Winter Is Coming. I live in an area with long, harsh winters and though I’ve never looked forward to winter (Christmas: yes; Winter: an emphatic NO) I am hoping for an attitude adjustment this year. I want to look forward to and embrace everything that Winter means.

Winter means long nights and short days. It means dangerous driving, long commutes and winds so cold that you can’t feel your face. But it also means the holidays are here, (and, paradoxically) fewer activities to take you away from your home, heartier meals and a slowed-down pace.

My distaste for winter weather has everything to do with the fact that I find the other three seasons more enjoyable. But there are things worth looking forward to in every season, winter included. I’m choosing to get excited and fill myself up with anticipation of things like sledding, cookie baking and chili and beer nights. The difficult commutes, scary cold temperatures and lack of sunshine will all come around again this year but I’ll deal with those issues as they arise.

In no particular order here are a few things about Winter that I am looking forward to:
– taking the time to become a more skilled knitter. I’m ready to move past the super-beginner basics and knit things that aren’t straight lines. Socks, here I come!
– making the most delicious soups and stews
– enjoying being at home without feeling the pressure to make plans or to-dos
– trying the new seasonal Starbucks drink. I can’t get behind salted caramel or chocolate anything, but I think there is an eggnog or gingerbread latte (?). Maybe both.
– holiday parties. any excuse to get dolled up is a good one!
– Christmas morning.  It’s everything to do with the tradition and nothing to do with the gifts…okay, maybe a little to do with the gifts.

I do believe that the difference-maker this Winter will be my changed attitude.  And I’m hoping to have a lot more fun!  I’m not expecting to have a new favorite season – Spring will always hold a most special place in my heart – but here’s to disliking Winter a whole lot less!