Thursday, May 7, 2009

Marriage and Budgeting... Suggest this new Line Item Expense

After 3 months of becoming a victim of our down-spiraling economy and facing separation from my company of 13 years, I'm heading back to work full-time in less than two weeks. I've been thinking about the budget and all the necessary things we need to re-institute.

Cleaners (Oh YEAH!)

Summer Daycare for 4 Kids (Kill me NOW.)

A Few New Suits (Yeah!)

Dry Cleaning Bills (Wasted spending to me.)

Lawn care, garage floor repair, garage paint job, cement stamping of side patio and front walkway, new candles for back patio, garden paraphernalia and lots of vegetables, new day planner, new work bag, sharp raincoat for spring, sports camp fees for soccer and basketball, window treatments for bedroom, summer clothes for kids, plane tickets for trip in August....

Seriously, I could go on. And then it hit me. The ability to create and run a family "budget" has never been more important than now. A budget is something we throw around "loosely" here, but heck, every 15th and 30th of the month, my husband and I sit down and go through what amount is coming in, and what amount must go out.

We have subject lines for everything we can think of. Not a regular excel spreadsheet, and no we don't use any of those software programs - let's just call it a third class system, but at least we've got one. AND, we do it together most of the time. We sit down with pen and paper, and rattle off the 15-20 average line items of expenses for each month instantaneously. And then it becomes a messy but functional working document for the next 2.5 weeks.

And what I realized is that we are adding a new line item next month as I'm re-employed full-time.

It's going to be called: "S&M".

[OK, all you with your mind in the gutter, S&M stands for Sue & Mark.]

How do such a large number of us become so pre-occupied with family, work, careers, keeping up with the Jones, driving the right car, making sure our kids have the right labels, and carrying the latest model blackberry phone while we allow ourselves to totally disengage from one another?

And then again, maybe a good number of us actually don't fall to the above pressures of keeping up with the Jones. Some of us drive plain cars, some of us don't have blackberry phones. Many of our kids live in Target or Old Navy clothing and some of us might even call our own favorite "staple of an outfit" a faded pair of favorite no-name jeans, with a tank top and flip flops.

But still, spending occurs, and priorities are set. In every household, and in every relationship.

With my upcoming change in employment status, we've been re-evaluating our 529k contributions, our personal savings contributions, our ING savings contributions, our 401k contributions, our daycare spending budget and hell yes, even "Target" has its own darn line item. But if we can suddenly adjust and re-balance our investments and spending, we can surely PLAN and EXECUTE an "S&M" spending category.

It's the perfect time.

Maybe it's just $20 a week. Maybe it's $500. To me, paying a babysitter to come over for 2 hours for $20 would let my husband and I go for a walk or head to the gym.


Maybe we don't actually use a sitter for the next few weeks, and instead begin to bond in just the planning of a future weekend trip we agree to take together after a few months of savings? We can e-mail each other about ideas and hotels... we can text one another about how we can't wait to get away for a weekend... We can bribe our family members to entertain our children for 24 hours.

This is my priority in two weeks. I'm budgeting "S&M". The patio can wait. I can use last year's patio candles.

And who the heck needs a spring coat? That's what umbrellas are for.

So when might your perfect time be? Pick a day of the week. Pick a date. Pick a holiday. Pick an event. Just make sure you execute it and enjoy.

And then call me if you need a babysitter.


Anonymous said...

Another great post! I agree with you. Honestly I don't care much about what I drive or what I talk on so long as it functions and functions well. I'm a H&M freak (and so are my kids) and I bargain hop whenever I can. Yes, we've got a few very nice things but that's because where we live it's like the no-name stuff (hello bmw is domestic and cheaper here than VW!!)

I think we probably do need to add a line on our budget for us. We have plans to go to the movies soon-ish and hire a sitter.

You do have to fit it in. Life is crazy and wild and unpredictable. That's why seeing a line that says Us every month is so great, then it becomes the normal and not the exception.

K said...

This is why I love this blog! Every day is a unique, thought-provoking, well-written post! Cheers to Shelle and Andrea for this blog and to Susan for today's post!!
I think Susan you hit upon a topic that is on almost every couple's mind these days. My hubby and I realize that we want to give all of ourselves (including the money we budget for 'entertainment') to our daughter. I used to buy books for me, now I only spend the money buying books or other things for her. My hubby and I used to go out occasionally for a really nice meal, but now we save the money by going out for less expensive meals a lot more often since our daughter enjoys that. I could go on and on, but the point is that we don't put enough effort into us, my hubby and me. But recently we decided to hire a babysitter so we can go out together just the two of us and spend a bit on us, maybe a movie, maybe just a hike, but just as long as it is the two of us is all that matters.

valerie said...

Kim, so true! It does seem we spend it all on the kids and there is not much for us leftover. Even if you have to put a little away for yourselves each month do it. My mom said that they use to save all their penny's through out the year and then went out to dinner on their anniversary with it.

Rachel Sue said...

What's wrong with Target and Old Navy? Cause around here, that's pretty high class. We live in second hand clothes most of the time. . .

But I agree with you. That time with the spouse is worth all of the sacrifices in the world.

Missty said...

Another great post! We have "our" money budgeted into our month expenses. It goes directly into an ING savings account, and I take it out as needed - for couples weekend get aways or vacations.

When our kids were small - we hired a babysitter every other Friday night. She knew she had a job with us every other Friday. Sometimes it was just walk around the mall and get an ice cream. Other times nice dinner and a movie.

Anjeny said...

Sue...I love this post. Just the perfect post since my hubby and I were just talking about our budget.

I like the idea of picking a date...our anniversary is usually the one event my hubby and I like to make in justifying spending money for.

I don't really care for brand new cars(I always worry about damaging it before it's even paid off) any car, even beat up ones, work just fine for me as long as they get me from point A to B. Thanks for the post...very insightful.

Susan said...

Missty - we started to use ING last year and absolutely LOVE it! Too hard to touch at with a quick ATM card and you can't access it immediately.

Rachel - NOTHING is wrong with Old Navy and Target! I'm sorry if I implied that - my kids live in these clothes when lucky. But there are always kids dressed for school nicer and in better brands than I've dressed or purchased for myself!