Our Newlywed Personal Finances

Maybe personal finances are a bit too personal to be writing about on an expat blog… but hey, it’s my blog, right?

Jorge and I used to fight a lot about money. A LOT. He was in charge of the finances, and his mind works very differently from mine, so talking about money and scribbling down numbers on scrap paper every month was very frustrating. (Ok, maybe it was me who started the most arguments and spent the most money.)

Finally a few months ago, I started doing lots of online research about basic personal finance. I whipped up a pretty awesome Excel sheet for our budget every payday (2 weeks), designating a specific budget for each fixed monthly expense. We began to set those budgeted expenses aside in envelopes weeks in advance.

Now that we’ve worked out all the kinks, there have been several positive outcomes of our new budgeting system in just a few months:

  1. We’re not fighting anymore! Every item value is pre-established, and everything is laid out very nicely so we can see exactly where we stand at any moment. I’m a visual learner, so this hands-on approach is great.
  2. I have cut my personal weekly allowance (for taxis, lunch, etc) IN HALF! And it was painless.
  3. We’re now able to save months in advance for things like extra fun money for birthdays, upcoming clothing expenses, gifts, etc. These things no longer sneak up on us.
  4. We’re able to save several hundred dollars in emergency fund money every month… not bad for 2 adults living on 1 Mexican salary!

Here’s my issue… every month we look at our Excel sheet and are so proud at our savings, but then something huge always seems to come up to take away our emergency fund money every month! In February, there were a few hundred extra dollars spent on unforeseen civil wedding costs. March has barely started, and already we have to give away what’s left of our tiny emergency fund for an unforeseen immigration fee (why don’t they tell you these things?) in addition to a health-related emergency that came up this week (everything’s fine! No worries)

In a way we’re very lucky… if it hadn’t been for our careful planning and emergency fund savings, we would have had to borrow money to take care of these mini-emergencies. Not a good way to start a marriage, right? I feel very blessed and proud of us that we had the foresight and motivation to do careful budgeting ahead of time to avoid going into small debt. We were even able to do it without cutting into our pre-established fun money.

At the same time it’s frustrating. I want to build up our emergency fund so we can move on to bigger steps like investing, retirement savings, etc etc. It seems like we should have tons of money left over at the end of every month (about 30% of my salary… 3x the recommended savings amount!), but something always comes along to snatch that money out of our hands.

We’re on the right track… we’ve painlessly reduced our spending significantly in just 2 months, we’re budgeting in advance and we have zero debt. According to all the personal finance blogs I read, we’re spending perfectly and saving much more than what’s recommended… too bad we can’t keep it.

The second half of March is looking great for starting our emergency fund (AGAIN), but now I’m scared to get my hopes up!

Sorry to talk about boring stuff like finances, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately. Had to let it out!

The good news is that Jorge will graduate in a few months and hopefully get a job. Since we’ve been living comfortably on one salary for awhile, all of his future salary will be automatically transferred into savings 🙂 Yay!

How did you do with personal finances when you were starting your adult life? (In other words, please oh please tell me it’s not just me!)

21 thoughts on “Our Newlywed Personal Finances

  1. I enjoyed reading this as my fiance and I are starting to figure out how to work out our finances once we are married. I especially enjoyed the pic with all the eggs labeled for different funds. Sometimes thats exactly how we feel when we list where our money will go lol

    • I saw that photo and immediately identified with it! Good luck with your financial planning. Obviously I recommend having a written budget 🙂 Despite a few setbacks, the Excel budget has done wonders for us.

  2. I feel your pain. My Husband and I still have separate bank accounts but we pay bills 50/50 and trade off groceries each week. Kinda funny and not completely equal but it works for us.

    Of course every time I feel like I’m getting ahead in my savings my car breaks down or my insurance forgets to mention that they don’t cover this or that. It’s hard to spend your savings on that stuff. I like the idea of an emergency fund.

    • I couldn’t imagine having separate finances myself, but it works better for so many couples!

      Luckily we don’t have a car yet, so we’re immune to those issues 🙂 Still, stuff always manages to spring up haha

  3. I remember the frustration of finally getting a few dollars saved just to have to use them for some unforeseen complication. I used to wonder if the powers-that-be hated me. By the time I was 35 or 40, life seemed to have settled down and we didn’t have nearly so many of those problems pop up.

    One of the best budgeting things we did was to set up a bank account for those regular annual expenses like Christmas, house and vehicle insurance and property taxes. We added it all up, divided by 12 and each month would put that much money into that account. Then when we got hit with car insurance in Nov, Christmas in Dec and house insurance in Jan, we weren’t scrambling for the money.

    Things may be frustrating now but you two are way ahead of the game by having a budget now. Far too many young people spend without any thought to their finances. Keep up the good work.

    • I’m dying to set up bank accounts like you! Every month we keep saying we’re going to open a savings account, but then the money disappears.

      At any rate, I’m glad it’s not just us, and thanks for the encouragement!

  4. Oh yes, the newlywed budget arguments. Definitely have been there. And living on one salary, still there 🙂 It’s definitely not just you and Jorge!
    Setting up a budget was a huge help for us. That and me finally getting a job. Things were really tight for a while and it seemed like anything we saved was quickly used for some unexpected expense. However, God has always been gracious and provided for us in very cool and unexpected ways (additional scholarship money, random gifts from people…). It’s hard to trust when you can see the figures becoming smaller and smaller, but he does provide.
    My excel spreadsheet is insane and keeps us accountable each month. And I’m really proud of it 🙂

    • God has been great with us, too! We have enough money to cover these little emergencies, and we live in a city where we can do amazing things for almost no money… so life is cheap, but fun!

      We should compare spreadsheets sometime haha Ours is pretty simple right now. Once we start saving for different things, it might become more complex.

      Glad things are going well for you 🙂

  5. Budeting is hard, but thank God you aren’t in debt. You have a smart mind and I think you are very careful with your spending. Something unforseen always pops up .. welcome to the real world. When Jorge’s paycheck starts coming in remember to save .. save .. save! So keep up the good work and you will be way ahead in the finance department!

  6. If you have no debt you are way ahead of the game!!! You would die if I told you how much I owe. I am on a debt-managemnet program and it has helped incredibly. Just a few years left and I will be out of credit card debt. There is a light at the end of the tunnel! It stinks though because all of my money goes to pay bills, there isn’t much left over

  7. We’re having the same issue right now. We’re finally back on top of things after having money problems for nearly a year. But it seems like now we keep having random things pop up. And we have the money to pay for them but damn I want to have money in our savings account! It’s a slippery slope.

  8. I am impressed! I’ve been married almost 30 years, and believe me, money issues never go away completely, but it sounds like you have found the answer: COMMUNICATION (sometimes known as arguing…).
    To have no debt is huge — you are way ahead of the game.
    When Jorge starts earning, perhaps you can establish a retirement account (AFORE, I think they are called here in Mexico) — that way you will have a long-term fund locked up, where you can’t get at it — separate from your more liquid emergency fund.
    Good luck!

  9. I’m just starting my adult life – so I need you to be blogging this stuff! I’d love to take a look at your spreadsheet, I’ve got a rough draft of one myself, but I’m not sure if I’ve taken everything into account yet. Mine is a completely WIP as we’ve just moved and I’m not sure what all I need to be thinking about.

    I think it’s great you guys do this – more so because it’s helping!

  10. My adult life didn’t happen for a while. Even when it did,those moments of big spending occasionally occurred to render all my savings meaningless… so it felt. Even today, as I travel, i’m tryin to do the Excel travel expense sheet to account for everything… OMG. I want to cry when I see the inane things I spend my money on to make it go quickly.

  11. Congratulations on creating an organized system–it is the key to success. I have one too.

    I know it is frustrating to see the emergency fund go, but hey, that is what it is for, cuz life is full of em’. Give it enough time and you will get there. Promise.

  12. It’s not just y’all!

    Add a baby to the mix & it gets even harder. Because then you have trips to the ER & diapers running out or the kid falling & needing a visit to the DR because he might have a concussion (yeah that was two weeks ago!)

    And we’re home owners, so we’ve had to replace the roof, garage door, dishwasher (still haven’t done that yet), washer & dryer, & the lovely AC/Heat until which was so expensive I could have bought a really nice, used car! GRRRR!!!

    Apparently your post hit right at home with me! I so feel your pain!

    Good for you guys with the excel sheet! We use one too, they are pretty amazing!

  13. A great blog Laura! It sounds like you are doing well and it is always great to start off early in your marriage setting up a wise financial plan. I can totally understand your frustration about the unexpected monthly expenditures;however,as you pointed out at least because of your previous saving you had the money to pay for those extra expenses. Keep it up!

  14. Hey Laura, care to share that excel sheet with us? I would love to try it. We have managed to save some money since Antonio and I moved together, but I would like to see if we are doing good with that sheet as reference. We could always find something to fix! 😉

  15. The fact that you even had money aside ready for those emergencies is a step in front of me! I can never save, we earn enough money to be able to live well and still save but somehow the money just disappears. We need to have a structured budget I think, you definitely have the right idea.

    It must be annoying when things come along that drain the savings you’ve begun making, but then thats exactly why you save 🙂 and you’ll have periods of months where nothing pops up so the balance will get bigger and bigger and a small emergency every now and again wont empty the pot.

    You are doing SO well so dont get down on yourself at all 🙂

  16. We tried to do ok on our own just being frugal for a while, but really got no where until we started doing a written budget. It has been the best thing ever for our marriage. We get paid once a month, so we just do it at the beginning of each month. I thought I would hate it, but I love it. It is so freeing and keeps two opposites on the same page. I’m so happy for y’all!

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