Jason & I are approaching our four month anniversary! So far, things are going well. We decided to try something new this month: write out a budget.
We're using Mint.com to track all of our expenses. I have it linked to all my accounts (banks, credit cards, investments) so it can automatically pull the transactions from the websites. It automatically categorizes everything, so I just check in every few days to make sure that it doesn't need to be slightly adjusted.
We sat down at the beginning of the month and decided how much we were going to budget for all our major categories: rent, utilities, food (groceries, eating out together and then our separate lunch accounts), entertainment, tithing, saving, car stuff, etc. I've been half-heartedly using Mint.com for the last few years, so it had some history to draw upon so we could guesstimate the variable expenses.
It's weird to look at your money in advance and kind of earmark it. I haven't budgeted at all since I split up with my first husband. Mostly, it's just been me, spending money on whatever I want, whenever I want. My monthly expenses are pretty low and I typically try to be frugal with my spending (or at least not frivolous), but it's a very different experience to sit down before the month starts to decide together, in advance, what will be spent on which categories.
It was different, but in a good way. It made me feel like we were a team, planning together how we wanted our month of January to look. It would also help us keep an eye on our money. Together.
So far, I'm pleased with the mid-month results. We've been adjusting our restaurant choices so that we stay on target for our monthly "restaurant" budget. I've discovered that I care more about my manicures and pedicures than going out to eat lunch. I think we need a miscellaneous category to catch the monthly weird things that you aren't a "normal" monthly expense, but happen every month anyway, like buying a new TiVo or attending a game convention.
I haven't been feeling stressed about money and that part has been good. It's been a very open topic, which I appreciate. Generally speaking, I think money is a common reason for divorce (or at least arguments) and while I'm sure we will have those arguments at some point, it's nice to be able to talk about what we want in the future and be able to start planning for it now.
I assume we will do it again for February. I might be changing my work arrangement in the very near future, so that may cause us to have to redo the budget. Rather than have a blanket monthly budget, I think I like the idea of sitting down each month to look at the upcoming month. I think it will help us keep focused on it.
Will update later on the progress!