So you may recall I made a dramatic statement that I would commence celebrating No Funds February, commencing tomorrow, involving a strict list of allowable expenditure and strong statements of perfection.
Well, that’s hilarious, because I’m no longer doing it. Sorry.
But with very good reason! Today was the first date of the 12 months of dating gift I wonderfully compiled for the boyfriend, and this romantic date was titled ‘Basketball and Budgets’. We went to the basketball on Friday night (delightful). Then we budgeted today (less delightful).
It was definitely one of the most productive dates I’ve ever been on. We sat on the couch. We opened the budget excel spreadsheet template that’s freely available from ASIC. I got out some coloured pens and a cute notebook.
And we got into some real talk. It was confronting. But it was extremely empowering, and I encourage everyone, if you haven’t already, to chat money with your partner. Even if you aren’t slowly migrating to wholly combined incomes, talking about your expenditure, your bad spending habits and your goals is a really great way to reset your financial program for the year. It’s also a really great opportunity to get honest with yourself. For example, I have saved a microscopic percentage of my annual income for the past two years. I realised that without having carefully tracked everything I spend, I had absolutely no idea where those tens of thousands of dollars have gone (although my gut feel is rent, pretty stationery, activewear and foreign transaction fees). There was no way I could reach the goals I wanted to if I wasn’t going to actually put in the time and effort to setting the budget and tracking how I comply with it.
It took us the better part of 4 hours to set up the system, but we followed it through to the end, and February has morphed from ‘Fund Free February’ to ‘Budget Backflip’: the month where I prove to myself I can stick to a tight budget. And please, find below, the handy guide to how to successfully complete a budget date with your partner and not kill each other.
How to successfully complete a budget date with your partner and not kill each other
- Clear off your schedule for the day (or at least 3 or 4 hours). These conversations take some serious time, and you don’t want any extra stressors outside of the inherent stress of money-talk.
- Talk about your big picture goals. Do you want to buy a house? Do you want to have a wedding? Do you want to invest? Do you want to have $1000 in your savings account? Every single goal you have is valid and legitimate, and talk about them without judgment or shame.
- Set up a budget template. There are millions of templates on the internet, you just need to find one that suits you. I recommend the ASIC one I linked to above, because it gives really comprehensive categories and automates all the pies and statistics for you. But really all you need is something that gives you somewhere to input how much you earn, and how much you spend in different categories.
- Populate the categories. Be honest with yourself here. Do you spend $300 a week on boozey weekends and dinners? Put that in the alcohol/bars/restaurants columns. Do you find yourself spending $100/month on gifts? Put it down. The first population of categories should be what you really tend to spend.
- Look at the numbers. Do you tend to spend more than your income, without saving? You need to tweak your categories. Consider what spending you can reduce so that the numbers work for you and your goals.
- Save your budget, and print it out. Put it up somewhere where you can see it.
- This is my key step: automate your transactions as much as possible. Make sure your money is going to appropriate buckets. Are you saving $50/week? Automatically debit it weekly to the savings account. Same goes with any loan repayments.
- Now you’ve caught up with me! Spend month one tracking all of your spending. At the end of month, we’ll be checking in to see how we’ve conformed and whether our numbers are right. Then, if need be, we’ll do some further tweaking – preferably in the direction of more saving, less spending (at least, that’s my plan). I’ve been using the Mindful Budgeting system, but the back of an envelope works. Or your notes app. Literally anywhere you remember to write something down.
Let me know how you go? I love a good money chat.