Raise your hand if you enjoy sitting down and talking about the budget with your spouse….no one? Well, that’s talk about how you can easily make it suck less without drowning your financial sorrows in a bottle of wine…
I don’t know about you, but for me that is never a fun conversation and is often accompanied by a glass of wine. My husband and I decided when we both returned from deployment in 2014 to re-do the way we budgeted. Before then it was easier to keep things completely separate. You see, we are not only dual military, but we are geo-bachelors. So we were always trying to just make our own paychecks stretch for what we wanted as individuals with little concern about how the other person was doing financially. We had talked in vague terms prior to that about what bills we had, what debt we had, etc. But we never had a heart to heart on money and what our goals were.
For many of you, the idea of being a geo-bachelor is completely foreign and you know it won’t happen so you don’t know how budgeting for two places is relevant to you. But it is! I bet you’ve been through a deployment before. For those going through a deployment it can be just as hard to keep a budget on track if you’re not on the same page before your spouse ships off. I have a friend who told me that her husband forgot about exchange rates when in port and managed to go over their credit card limit because he didn’t stick to budget. So even if you’re not truly living in two places at once for the long haul you can relate to some of these tips.
1. Have the heart to heart
You and your spouse need to sit down and make a plan together. Decide if you want to pool both checks together and pay all the bills as a pair before getting “fun money” for each individual, or if you want to manage your own funds all the time with an agreed upon amount going toward the savings you are working toward together. My husband and I have gone with the idea of pooling everything for bills and then we each have our own account for monthly spending. This means that I don’t get mad when he spends all his money on protein powder and he doesn’t fuss at me if I buy another pair of pink shoes. That money also allows us to buy presents for each other without it popping up on the joint statement and ruining the surprise.
2. Discuss what you’re saving for
No matter how you split your money you need to have some savings. Emergencies happen and you both need to be saving for the “just in case.” Talk about what each of you considers as an emergency. It’s not going to do you any good if you think new tires are something worth dipping into the savings’ account for while your wife thinks that every minor car maintenance should be paid for out of savings. Also, talk about your big savings’ goals. Maybe you want to buy a house once the geo-bachelor life is over. Discuss what you want to be able to put toward a down payment so both of you are on the same page.
3. Add another account
As a geo-bachelor couple you will be traveling as much as possible to see each other and to visit family. It is worth opening an account just for travel. Put money in each payday so that when a long weekend rolls around you’re not touching emergency savings just to have a romantic rendezvous. It will lead to a peace of mind so when the washer breaks you don’t have to cancel a trip to afford the replacement. This puts your time together as a top priority. Even with this travel account it is important to set budgets for each trip so you don’t drain the whole account in just one weekend!
4. Set up guidelines
If you are trying to balance accounts that are completely shared, it is going to be hard to do that from two different places if you don’t have some rules in place. Maybe it’s setting an amount that you are allowed to spend before discussing purchase with the other person. My husband and I tried sharing money at one point. We set a $100 rule. Any purchase over $100 needed to be discussed with the other person before it happened. This way we could look at the account and make sure there was enough in there that purchases wouldn’t be draining accounts without the other person knowing it. And make sure you are BOTH checking the bank accounts daily to ensure you know where you stand on funds and don’t accidentally overdraft for something within the guideline spending. While the joint account didn’t work in the long run for us, it could work for you and your spouse if you set the right guidelines.
5. Avoid the port call spending!
Ok I’m not telling you not to spend money on deployment. I certainly didn’t! But I did limit how much I would spend each port call. While I was on a boat deployment I was able to pull out American money and have it converted to the foreign currency of whatever port I happened to be in. This meant I knew exactly how much I was spending from my account instead of just swiping the card every time I hit a new country without doing the conversion math. It’s kinda like using the Dave Ramsey envelopes. If I didn’t have the cash left in hand I wasn’t buying whatever it was I had my eye on.
6. Check in and re-evaluate
No matter which route you and your spouse decide to go with budgeting, it’s important you check in and make sure things are working for you. I live in an area that has a much higher cost of living than my husband so our first budget left him with extra fun money while I struggled to get through sometimes. We talked about it and adjusted where money went to accommodate the difference without either of us feeling like we were getting the short end of the stick. Even now, over a year after we set our budget, we still have changes to consider as we are promoted and time-in-service raises hit the account.
7. Plan for the end of the separation
It’s not easy to keep a geo-bachelor lifestyle going for long periods of time. My husband and I are on 3 years of this and some days I curse everything about how we have to do things. But there is an end in sight and that means we are discussing what is going to change again. It’s important to know that there will be an adjustment when you are back together. New budget items will become a priority. Maybe the end is coming because one of you is getting out of the military. If that’s the case you need to look at the cost of living in the area you will be living together and decide if you will still be a two-income family or not. You need to decide what cuts will be made if you’re going down to one-income. No matter what you decide is right for you and your family make sure that there is still that emergency savings going on and, in my opinion, keep a travel fund alive too! You will feel a lot less guilty going on a weekend getaway if you have already been saving for just that than if you have to cut back on normal entertainment fun to be able to afford it.
Now read…. Make Memories on a Budget While You PCS