So we, and by we I mean my long suffering boyfriend and I, decided we’d best do a full blown audit on our spending as it had been getting way out of hand. We’d stopped managing to save any money on a monthly basis and were pretty much living pay cheque to pay cheque. I don’t know why I’m writing this in the past tense as this is only our first month using our new method and to be honest, it’s only made us realise the scale of the problem, we haven’t quite got everything in hand yet.
Part of being thrifty means that you need to have a real hand on your incomings and outgoings. I had been burying my head in the sand about this to the point where I was in full blown denial. The thought of grabbing my bank balance by the balls made me nervous because I’d have to admit just how out of control I had become.
There are many methods for money management for couples: for some the inclusion of the word ‘joint’ in anything to do with the marital finances brings them out in a cold sweat, for others they wouldn’t have it any other way. As we speak, my better half is taking out a Tesco credit card in an effort to get us better value for money, and upon reading the statement ‘you are responsible for all transactions including those of any nominated card holders’ he quickly retracted his offer to put me on it. I’m not offended. I don’t think…
As you can imagine, we have gone the half and half approach. We stick our funds for the house, bills and food etc into a central fund, and the rest we keep to ourselves. We save separately, we spend separately. We found that we were having to top up the joint account every month in order to counteract both of us putting 8 quid here and a few quid there on to the joint account, it all adds up!
In the end, we took the plunge together and decided we would try and make it fun. Instead of a spreadsheet to monitor our spending (so 90’s), we would go 1800’s primary school and do it using a chalk board and chalk. Also it’s slightly kitsch and bloggerish so it allows me to hate myself a little bit but also feel a little bit smug at the same time.
We started this process around 3 days after we both got paid. In the initial 3 days we spent $70 on a meal out (excuse the $, I’m using a keyboard thing and I can’t find the pound sign), $75 in Tesco and $131 in Costco. After we started keeping track on our spending, the values quickly dropped off as we realised just how frivolous we had become.
Right now I’m toying with whether we can afford to buy an onion and 2 carrots for me to use up some lentils in a spicy lentil soup so we can avoid another food shop. I wish I was joking.
The ironic thing is… that $13 in B&Q… that was for the chalkboard paint… you see the problem.
In terms of my own bank balance, I have taken some brutal action in curtailing my spending. I have employed The Cash Method; a system so totalitarian, it makes Chairman Mao look like a liberal with a soft spot for bunny rabbits.
Every Monday I withdraw $100 in cash. This has to last me until Sunday night. On Monday morning that looks like a lot of cash, but then you go to spend your first tenner before lunch, and it starts looking a lot less bountiful. Suddenly you start questioning whether you really need that coffee, can’t you just wait until you get to the office? Another chocolate bar? Really? This might actually be as good for my waistline as it is for my wallet.
Really the only upshot is that you get 4 paydays a month and you stop hammering your overdraft. If you’re already good with money, good on ya, I applaud you. If you tend to spend to cheer yourself up, you’ll be suprised just how satisifying it is to make it to the end of the week with a tenner left. It can almost become as addictive as the buzz of spending it. Sort of. Not really. Maybe if you squint a bit.