I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on budgeting. I know what makes up a credit score, how to approach savings and basic steps to preparing for retirement.
But I don’t know everything, so I reached out to friends and family from different stages of life to see what they do. One is single, another is recently married, and another has been married for years. Here’s what they had to say.
What’s your approach to your personal budget?
SINGLE: I know that some months are more expensive than others, and because I'm on my own financially, good planning is a must. With that in mind, I plan out my fixed expenses at the beginning of the month. Things like rent, utilities and my phone bill aren’t going to change. From there, I see how much I have left over and that’s what I can save for the future or spend on whatever I choose.
JUST TIED THE KNOT: I consider myself financially responsible and budget conscious; however, I’m terrible about checking my accounts. Something that has made my life a lot easier is personalized text and email notifications from my bank and credit cards. The alerts keep me informed and on top of my accounts. I even set up a folder in my inbox designated for bank notifications. Also, I have a set amount of each paycheck I save to let me buy a thing or two I’ve had my eye on.
MARRIED FOR YEARS: My husband and I track our personal budgets on our own. I use an app, while he opts for a spreadsheet on his computer. The app I use lets me easily track my purchases, which clearly shows where my money is going. And it monitors habits, so I'm able to see at a glance if I'm spending more than I typically do. The spreadsheet method is similar in the sense that my husband can search for a certain category and see how much he’s spending to compare to months before. Either way, detailed tracking has become key to our respective personal budget strategies.
How do you manage household expenses?
SINGLE: I live with roommates, and our lease is set up to be paid by one person. One of my roommates pays the rent, and the rest of us send our portion through a cash app. As far as household items like cleaning supplies, we each have a certain category we’re responsible for buying. I cover dish soap and paper towels, while my roommates get dish sponges and cleaning wipes. Splitting things up so we each have a designated responsibility makes it so we have everything we need but aren’t spending way more than our share.
JUST TIED THE KNOT: We follow a “yours, mine and ours” split for our bank accounts. We have a joint account that covers needs like the mortgage and insurance costs, while our individual accounts are for eating out, buying presents or pretty much anything else we want. The hardest part of this arrangement was determining how much each of us would contribute to the joint account. Ultimately, we agreed to a certain percentage of each paycheck going into the joint account. This not only seemed fair, but it's also a solution that is scalable regardless of our take-home pay.
MARRIED FOR YEARS: Our organization styles are so different that keeping separate bank accounts makes the most sense for us. We divide our bills based on our individual incomes and benefits. For example, my husband has health insurance and flex spending accounts deducted from his paycheck. In return, I'm able to pay the mortgage each month. We also maintain individual credit cards and are responsible for paying them off each month.
What’s your best piece of budgeting advice?
SINGLE: Everyone has that one thing they spend more money on than they probably should but knowing what it is and how to manage it is key. For me, it’s eating out. I’ve learned that cooking my own meals and planning for the week ahead has saved me a lot of money. Of course, things happen, but I try to limit excess spending as much as possible.
JUST TIED THE KNOT: Make your money work for you by establishing organized accounts for various things you’re working toward. Budgeting as newlyweds was a challenge, but we decided to set up multiple accounts. One was designated for our wedding and honeymoon, another for a down payment on our house and a third account was specifically for future travel. We even have an emergency fund for our pets with automatic transfers from each paycheck for their care. Dedicated separate accounts for all of our big-ticket goals help make things possible without having to cut too much out of our regular budget.
MARRIED FOR YEARS: Decide what your personal or family financial goals are and refer back to them often. It can be easy to spend money when you’re not working toward anything, so having set goals to save for retirement, an emergency fund or an upcoming vacation makes the process that much easier. Budgeting isn’t a copy and paste kind of thing because there are many factors to think about, so figuring out a system that works for you and is tailored to your needs is key.
Remember that when it comes to your budget, it’s important to communicate and discuss your financial responsibilities. These tips worked for my friends and family, but you could test different methods until you find what works.
Once you do, you'll be on the road to unlocking your financial future.
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