Have you and your spouse ever taken the time to formulate a budget? It might sound like something that it very time-consuming and restrictive, but in the long run it can help you save money, avoid disagreements over money matters, and protect your credit. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s simply a matter of getting together and planning it out.
List Your Income. Include all sources of income for the both of you. This includes not just your regular pay but also any rental or investment income, child support, tips, etc.
Go Through Your Expenses. You’ll need to list all of your fixed expenses (such as the mortgage, car payments, and utilities) as well as those that vary month to month (groceries, entertainment, etc.). It’s always safest to overestimate a little and spend less later on down the road than to make conservative estimates. If you aren’t sure what to put for your variable expenses, use your bank statements to get estimates.
Set an Allowance. You’ll each need a little bit of spending money that you don’t need to keep track of or report to each other. Consider how much you have left at the end of the month, and determine a reasonable amount to get you through until your next pay day. This money goes towards eating out, hobbies, and recreation.
Put Some in Savings. Don’t forget to build up that savings account! There are rules of thumb that dictate you should save 10-20% of your income, but there is no fixed figure that will work for everyone. You should be able to put the same percentage or dollar amount in savings each pay period, but you don’t want to put so much in that you run yourself short. Otherwise, you’ll be pulling money back out of savings to cover your monthly debts, and that’s a bad habit you don’t want to start.
What Works for You? Now that you have a budget put together, you’ll need to decide how to implement it. You may decide to open a joint account that all of your money goes into and that is used for paying all the bills. Perhaps each of you will pay certain bills out of your own accounts. Another method is that you both pay all the bills, with the amount you contribute based on your relative income. Usually, the simplest method will be the one that works the best. Discuss with your spouse what you think is fair and reasonable. This is a vital point of budgeting that you both need to agree on.
You may find it helpful to use a spreadsheet on the computer, a budgeting sheet printed off the internet, or simply a piece of notebook paper. However you do it, make sure you have it written down so you can refer to it later. Also, make sure that you’re completely honest about your income and your debts. Otherwise, you could end up with a budget that doesn’t actually work and an upset spouse.
Creating a budget will allow the two of you to be confident that you can pay all of your regular monthly bills on time, have a little extra money to spend for yourself, and increase your savings account.