Money is one of those super touchy subjects, which is why I rarely write about it. Plus, I’m utterly unqualified. I receive quite a lot of questions about it though (apparently you guys are all like me – secretly very curious about others, but not willing to divulge anything yourselves!), and so I decided to attempt another post. Here is the question, which I’ve received in various forms a few times, from the sweet M:
…can you please share what you are comfortable with for how you and Mr. Feather do your budgeting? Me and my husband feel like we’re always falling behind, and can’t keep track. Thanks….
I’ve mentioned before that in our home, I manage the money. It’s a task that I kind of loathe at most times, but that I also enjoy in some perverse way – kind of like making checklists and checking them off….ahhh! So satisfying.
Here are the absolute musts we follow when managing our own household – and of course as always, I’d love to hear yours too.
1. Find some way to track your spending/net at a macro level, and only if you have time/feel like it, at the micro. The macro is the important one – you should know on a rough level where you are in terms of debt, assets, long term savings, and any other “goals” you might be saving for. I know that this can be a drag (and after kids, depressing), but you have to do it! It’ll be worth it down the line and you’ll be so glad you did, when you’re cheering over mimosas during your retirement. I have a very basic excel sheet – it has all of our accounts listed, mortgages, etc, and each month I write down the updated numbers in a new column. This allows me not only to get a good handle on everything, but also to track trends over time.
On the micro level, like tracking how much you spent on lattes for the month – this is good too, and something which Mint is great for, but honestly if you have limited time I recommended focusing on the macro first. It doesn’t matter if you know you spent $30 less on Starbucks this month than last, if your overall spending is still increasing. Know which way your household is heading as a whole first, before getting into the nitty gritty.
2. At least one of you should be responsible for money management. One of you, both of you – as long as someone is on the ball. Things go awry when nobody is responsible. And both of you should agree on who it is…nobody should assume that the other person is tracking. There needs to be a house “accountant” at the very least, the person who knows whether something is in or out of budget, whether property taxes are due soon, etc.
3. Sync on a regular basis. My husband and I “check in” about once a quarter or so – we carve out time after baby has gone to bed, and we sit down at our dinner table (with big glasses of wine), and go through my little Excel sheet. It’s kind of a drag, and if we’ve both had tough weeks we can procrastinate, but every time we actually sit down and go through it, it’s such a helpful conversation. We feel way more aligned afterwards, more in sync on our goals, and happier. The most important things in life aren’t money, but knowing that you and your partner are on the same page about it? Such a freeing feeling, and lets you focus on all the more important things.
I’d love to hear about how you manage money in your household and stay on top of things!