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:
- 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.
- I have cut my personal weekly allowance (for taxis, lunch, etc) IN HALF! And it was painless.
- 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.
- 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!)