Thursday, September 24, 2009


Wow, two posts in one day. I just wanted to pass on a bit of advice that I may actually be somewhat qualified to give.

Before becoming a stay-at-home-mom (does anyone else HATE that title? We need to come up with something better but I don't have any ideas yet), I worked in banking as a branch manager. Part of my responsibilities included looking through people's personal financial records for loan applications. I also got the fun job of deciding whether or not to refund overdraft fees for bounced checks and other mistakes. I learned the importance of keeping a monthly budget and watching my own personal finances closely.

Here is my little gem of wisdom for you. Nick and I decided a couple years ago to make room in our budget for personal allowances. Nick thinks that "allotment" is a less embarrassing term. Whatever we call it, I make a trip to the bank every Friday to withdraw our cash. Everything that's not an approved household expense -- monthly bills, groceries, medical expenses, gas -- must be spent out of our personal allowances. That includes dining out, clothing, entertainment, etc.

You may be thinking that having a limited weekly allowance would be prohibitive. It's actually quite freeing. If I want to buy a new handbag (my weakness), I don't need to sell Nick on the idea first. If Nick wants to buy a new video game (I will withhold my opinions here), he can save up his allowance for a few weeks or months until he can pay cash for it. I think this system has prevented many arguments and reduced the stress in our marriage.

This takes some restraint; "bigger" expenses, such as shoes or a new winter coat, can take a long time to save up for. We're far from perfect. There have been some interest-free loans and even a couple bailouts. Originally, we intended to have all gifts and dining out covered by allowances, but eventually discovered that my gift expenses were unfairly higher (Nick doesn't go to a lot of bridal or baby showers), and our Saturday lunch out tradition is now "on the house".

In the end, this system keeps our monthly budget simple. I have no idea how much we spend on movie rentals or fast food or gum or socks-- and I'd like to keep it that way. We are each responsible for our own variable expenses. Best of all, if we have cash in our wallets to pay for something, we know we can afford it. That cash has already been set aside in our monthly budget. It doesn't really matter how big or small our allowances are -- they've shrunk during tough times and increased with job promotions -- it's the feeling of autonomy over some small portion of our expenditures that makes a difference.

One bonus we didn't anticipate? A small gift for each other is extra special now. A candy bar at the gas station or a concrete mixer from Culver's represents a small, thoughtful sacrifice.

Anyway, this is what works for us, so I thought I'd share the idea in case it will help you!


  1. That's a great practice to get into! Good for you!

  2. Thats what Josh and I do too. I'm with you with the handbags and I can get cute things for Lily too.

  3. Daniel is the financial genius in our family :) And we learned pretty early on that having our own personal money would save our marriage :) Having a budget is so comforting to me, I'm glad Dan's good at making one each month!