Guilt free spending money? What the blazes is that?
Here’s the thing. When few weeks ago I’ve shared my thoughts on budgeting and how everyone should totally have one, I’ve received a very well thought-out response from one of my readers.
While I do see the benefits of tracking all of our finances, I’m afraid budgeting will put constraints on everything we buy and this will put more pressure on our relationships. Is there a happy middle ground?
Not only I thought this was a good point, but it also reminded me that the whole budget thing didn’t go as smooth as it could have in our house. So, I thought I’d share some of my personal experience with you, and perhaps it will help you on your way to better money management.
Boys and girls are not created equally
Here’s a thing about Mr. and Mrs. Financial Underdog. Myself, I consider myself a financial nerd. Money and financial issues interest me, and I’m the kind of person who actually has fun coming up with budgets and planning our spending. I’m a bit on a thrifty side, the kind of guy who automatically calculates the potential savings when choosing Heinz ketchup over no-name one.
My lovely wife, Mrs. Financial Underdog isn’t quite the same (which is awesome). She doesn’t quite like to talk about money, and while she now willingly participates in budgeting, she just needs to know that things are going good, we have enough money for all our needs for the month, and perfectly balanced budget doesn’t excite her as much as it does me. But she’s kind, beautiful, smart, and awesome to be around (just in case she’s reading it).
As you can see, we’re quite different. While we might have similar dreams and plans for our future, we function and think in two different ways. Just like in any family, one person is a bit more serious about grown-up stuff than his/her spouse. This one person usually takes care of bills while the other one just needs to know that bills are being paid as needed.
Oh no, here comes the budget!
So, when I came up with this whole budgeting thing, I came to my wife all excited. I’ve explained that instead of just spending money willy-nilly, we now have different categories where all our spending will go. These are our house expenses, those are our groceries, here’s anything related to the car. Every single dollar we spend, we assign it to something! Isn’t this awesomely fabulous?
– So, when we buy something at a grocery store, we file it under “groceries”?
– Yes, that’s right.
– And if I want to buy a coffee?
– We file it under “coffee”!
My wife was not excited
But she didn’t say anything negative, and was willing to try. Few months went by, and every month we’d sit down to do our budget. And every time she’d go through the motions without much interest in the process, and sometimes I would get a feeling like I’m the only one who is actually interested in doing it. Few times, we’d get into an argument over how much we should be spending on this and that. We’d work things out, but overall, I could see she wasn’t happy.
So, after a couple of months, I flat out asked how she likes how we handle money. After all, it’s not like I’m the only one who decides what we do with our money; both of us decide it together. We don’t separate our finances because honestly I think it’s utter stupidity to do so, so what happens to our bank account is decided by both of us.
I was quite surprised to hear from her that she wasn’t happy with the whole process. She mentioned that the whole budget feels like shackles to her – the fact that she now has to budget for every single dollar she spends felt ridiculous to her. What’s worse is that she has to plan her spontaneous purchases now – because if she doesn’t properly plan it ahead, then the budgets won’t be perfect, and something will be off – and then I’m not happy because I just can’t handle seeing numbers not being perfect. As a result, she felt guilty for spending money. So, overall her message about this whole process was quite negative.
I was devastated
Here I am planning our finances months in advance, here’s my perfectly lined up categories for our spending with amounts assigned to them – but none of it matters because my lovely wife isn’t happy (seriously, I really hope she is reading it!). Can this situation be recovered?
And the bulb goes off!
” – Honey, I think I’ve solved our dilemma! Your manly man is a genius!”
Basically, we didn’t have to change the system all that much. Amazingly, just a small change made all the difference. With this little change, Mrs. Financial Underdog is never stressed about spending money anymore. She is the one who actually reminds me that the budget for the month hasn’t been done yet. And most of all, we never really argue about money anymore.
My major mistake was assuming she thinks the same way as I do. I’m the kind of person who’d rather go hungry but make sure the numbers line up properly. I can literally plan all of my purchases ahead of time; planning is my second nature. My wife on the other hand can be quite spontaneous. What was the solution?
Guilt free spending categories
What we’ve done for our budget was very simple – we’ve introduced guilt free spending money for both her and me. Every month, we’d set aside a certain amount of money that her and I can spend on anything we want – it can be lunch, it can be a good book, it can be a pack of gum. You can literally buy anything you want! The only limitation is the overall amount.
We actually started calling it “blow money” – because we can blow this little amount on anything we want. She has an amount to blow every month, just like I do. Currently, it’s just $100 for each of us.
The amount also carries over to the next month – so, let’s say I didn’t spend all of my blow money this July, so the remainder is carried over into August, and I’ll have a bit more to spend in August. At the same time, if I’ve overspent this month, I’ll just have a little bit less to spend next month. Flexibility is awesome.
Now Mrs. Financial Underdog doesn’t have to plan her spontaneous nature. She wants to spend money on something? She spends it without feeling guilty. She doesn’t have to think over every single purchase and make sure we agree on it – who cares, it’s her “blow money”. As long as the overall amount comes close to what we’ve planned – who cares? If it’s a bit under or a little bit over – it just carries over into next month, no big whoop.
…one more category!
There’s also one more category we’ve introduced to our budget and it was 100% my wife’s suggestion – we now set aside a small amount of money towards clothes. To me it’s not really important because I can wear the same five T-shirts everywhere I go for years, but for my wife it’s a subject dear to her heart. Sometimes she just needs to buy new clothes and sometimes she sees a good deal on something for me.
Now, we set aside a certain amount of money just for that. Usually, we don’t spend it and it just keeps accumulating and once in a while my wife takes that money out and buys a new outfit or simply tells me she found a good deal on new shoes for me. Absolutely, one hundred percent stress-free and guilt free spending money.
– My wife thinks about money in a completely different way than I do.
– Boys and girls are from two different planets.
– Sometimes I just need to be a bit more flexible.
– You need some guilt free spending money in your budget.