That was the subject line of this email I just got and responded to :) I have a feeling many of you can relate to it. Check it out below, along with my response, and then tell us what you think in the comments below. Let’s help out our fellow BudgetsAreSexy reader!
So, not sure if there is an answer to this but you are the finance blogger I most relate to so I figured I’d give it a shot. Let me first try to paraphrase everything so you get an idea of my financial state.
– I live in a super affordable area and make decent money between a full time job and a side business.
– With my business income varying and me wanting to budget, I just take out a set amount every month. If I make more I use it for future expenses.
– My wife is a struggling teacher trying to find a job in a shitty market. Until then she is subbing which isn’t great money.
– Only debt we have is a mortgage, 2 vehicles (under $300 ea) & student loans.
– My wife’s student loans are barely cheaper than the mortgage (gotta love the cost of a masters) which is killing us.
– When my wife is working we have a few hundred left at the end of every month which goes into savings
– We have 2 months of living expenses in an emergency fund, another month in some stocks.
– The job I currently have I started last fall and am not putting any money into a 401k as I’m trying to beef up the emergency fund. I have about 20k from my previous employer (I’m 30 so even though I know it’s not ideal I’ll play catchup once the wife lands that job).
– We are expecting our first kid in January (hoping for December for tax write offs though ;) )
– I have expensive hobbies including racing cars. An event which I like to do is around $500-600 for 2 days plus consumable parts, tons of gas, and possible travel.
Now. Years ago I was stupid and racked up an insane amount of debt while building my car. I had a come-to-senses moment and paid off a ton of credit cards quickly, built a decent emergency fund, and was on track financially. Then I met me wife and between life crap, a wedding, a wife that isn’t as budget savvy, and no summer income, my emergency fund dwindled which put me in panic mode as in we can’t spend money. This is keeping me up at night fearing I’ll rack up that 15k in CC debt again and have to start all over.
The no “real” job thing makes my wife feel guilty that she’s not pulling her weight (she works her ass off and is good at what she does, there just aren’t the opportunities for an actual job) which causes arguments. She doesn’t like talking about budgets as a result. I know it’s a communication issue here and we’re awesome at it normally, it’s just a really touchy subject for her. Add that that the fact I’m pissy because I work my ass off at my job and business and can’t seem to find the money or time to do the car stuff I want to (missing a big event next week for the first time in years). I feel guilty when I do spend money on stuff even if it’s for the business in a way (such as buying parts for my car to show-case which does help sell parts (oh, my side business is a performance parts retailer). To off that guilt I spend the spare business money on personal stuff, for example…parts for my bicycle (another expensive hobby).
So, I’m sorta coming to a head with everything. I’m financially responsible but maybe too financially responsible? Should I saw screw it and do what I want and let my wife do the same and if we get too out of control then reign it in? With a kid coming it’s not helping my OMGWENEEDAMILLIONINTHEBANKTOBEOK mentality… especially with a wife who, while subbing, barely makes enough daily to cover childcare and no maternity leave with her job. So yeah, I guess money just scares the shit out of me at this point and may be causing more problems trying to control it than just saying screw it (to a point) and doing what we want.
I hope that makes sense and I didn’t ramble too much. A perk of my job is super relaxed hours which means it was time for me to go home 15 minutes ago so I sorta rushed through this. If you do happen to make sense of all this mess I appreciate your help in advance.
Here was my response:
Haha, no problem my man – I’ll have to admit it was a pretty interesting read :) I don’t know if I have any real answers for you since I don’t know you two very well (or at all?) but you did paint a pretty good picture about your money and situation. And actually you remind me a lot of my wife who needs a TON of money in savings to feel secure. We went from $80k in cash last year (she was in dream land) to now $28k and she’s freaking out again. As am I. So I think there’s power in knowing what makes people feel safe vs others. Especially in a relationship like marriage.
I guess my first question to you is – what WOULD make you feel safer? I mean, I know it’s more money and your wife getting a job, but is there a certain number you have in mind that’s realistic? Like, say, $20,000 banked? It doesn’t really help your current situation directly, but I know I always feel a lot better when I know the end goal with a plan. My wife too.
Before we were at like $50k in savings and she was constantly worrying and so we chatted and found out her ideal money in savings number was $66k cuz it was 12 months worth of living (different now, but that was the situation back then). So we worked on getting that and then once we hit it I could do whatever I wanted with all the extra money if we had any cuz I knew she was safe and secure. So I’d come up with that number first, and really there isn’t a right answer since it’s totally relaying on your personality and feelings.
After that, I’d probably figure out a way to give you both some “do as you please” budget money so it helps eases the stress each of you have when it comes to that stuff. Like if you had $200 to spend however you wanted every month, and she had $200 (or $100 or $300 or whatever) that each of you could do whatever the hell you wanted with.
It’s kinda a ‘screw it’ plan like you’re asking in that you can blow all that money, but it’s also only a certain amount so you can never go overboard, know what I’m saying? And even if your wife had, say, $500 or like double what you give yourself, even if it pissed you off a little at least you’d *know* exactly the situation and more importantly BOTH of you are eye-to-eye on it. Which of course requires a conversation in order to get to there ;) But I’d imagine one that started with “let’s budget money for each of us to do whatever the hell we want with” would go a lot smoother than the others have, haha… You just both have to agree on SOMETHING, and then see how it goes for a few months – the numbers themselves don’t matter as much as that first part.
At least that’s what I’d do in your situation. Easier for me to say, of course, but I genuinely think it would solve a lot of your stresses at the same time. And hopefully carry you through to when your wife gets a solid job again and things are looking rosier.
Either way, though, I wouldn’t sacrifice all your good work you’ve done with your finances right now just to blow off some steam or forget about it for a while. Eventually it’ll only stress you out even more, and then you’d have double the problems to work on :( If you were leaning that way, just up the amounts of money you both can spend in your “do whatever” budgets so at least there’s a cap on there.
Oh – quick question about your 401k at work before I forget: Do they match anything or no? If no, then keep on doing what you’re doing. If YES, then I’d strongly think about at least putting in whatever they match cuz it’s all FREE MONEY for you. And even though it’s not directly in your savings account, it still might make you feel better in terms of money saved ya know? $200 in your 401k vs $100 in your savings could make a difference as the numbers keep climbing every pay check and you’re doing the same work.
I don’t know if any of this helps or not, but I hope it does… I think you gotta give yourself a pat on the back for being aware of everything going on around you and “taking one for the team” there. If it makes things better, I’m currently the only provider of income right now too – also with a baby in full-time day care (congrats on yours coming soon btw!!) – and I’m feeling some pressure as well. Especially since just dropping $20k+ on renovations and my businesses not doing as well this Summer. The one thing I’ve learned though is that stuff is rarely perfect. As long as we’re workin’ it 80% well, things will be fine in the end :) So keep at it!
What do you, the readers, say? Any tips/advice for our nervous friend here?
[Photo by jimmiehomeschoolmom]