February 12, 2010

Family Finances and Trust

Throughout our married life my DH and I have traded the job of keeping track of our money and paying bills. My husband is an accountant and for the past 12 years it has been his job to take care of our finances. I found out something about myself 12 years ago and that was that I was tired of taking care of our finances but I didn’t want to give up the control. That was dumb. My DH doesn’t keep anything from me and I ask questions every now and then. I trust him and I let go of my control to know about every single penny that we spent or earned. Letting go of my control did not mean that I let go of making financial decisions for our family. We do that together.

Being an accountant, my DH tracks our spending in different categories BUT he does not control what I spend. In other words he has never told me I could or could not buy something or spend more than I had planned on groceries for example. He trusts me and he knows that I am quite aware of our financial situation and I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize our finances. We do not have a weekly meeting about our finances. I know what our bills are and what our goals are for savings. If I have a question, I simply ask.

I trust him and he trusts me.

So, how do I know when our savings is running low or if money is getting a little tight? 1. He tells me. 2. I ask him. 3. I check our bank balance.

1. He tells me.

When I say he tells me that does not mean that he takes me by the hand and directs me to the dining room table where he has his laptop on and shows me an excel spreadsheet or a quicken report. He doesn’t go line by line to show me where we are over spending or where there has been an extra expense we haven’t planned. I live in this house too and I know when a vehicle has broken down, the plumber has been called to repair something and so on. I am aware of extra expenses. On the contrary, this is what is usually said: “We’ve had a lot of expenses over the past month.” That is all that he has to say to get the message to me that our savings are down, we have spent extra this month on whatever and we need to tighten our belts.

Last night, he said just that. I knew that in the past 30 days we have had car repair bills, doctor bills, optometrist bill for me (and my DS is going there this morning) and some other normal extra expenses. I thought we had stayed on track for our Christmas spending but as it turns out when my DH sat down and really “crunched the numbers”, we had overspent. YIKES.

2. I ask him.

Some couples put the role of family finances on one person and then they let that person carry the burden of that job. In the alternative the person that is paying the bills might not like to reveal what is and isn’t being paid. These are family finances and since we are a family I ask questions when I need to and I don’t leave the entire burden on my DH.

3. I check our account balance

I can go on line, check the balance at the ATM or call the bank. If I am getting cash from the ATM I always get the bank balance while I am there. I don’t put my head in the sand and let my DH take care of everything. After all we are married and we are a team. I want full disclosure and I can have it anytime I want it.

Action Plan

When my DH told me “We’ve had a lot of expenses over the past month” that sentence put me into action. (I might add that there was a certain tone to his voice that told me that he was quite concerned.) I started to make a list of any extra expenses I knew that we were going to occur over the next 6 months.

My DS wants a letter jacket. He has lettered in orchestra and when his brother was in 9th grade we bought him a letter jacket for lettering in cross country. It will cost around $200. Yes, this is not a necessity. It is a reward for hard work and he does deserve it. I will find a way to save up for that jacket.

Upcoming family birthdays, mother’s day, father’s day. We have in-law birthdays along with mine and my DH. I can make some gifts and others we will have to be a little more creative. For example, there is nothing wrong in purchasing used books or DVD’s for a gift along with a little homemade gift. I will work on making up a list of gift ideas and if I decide to sew or cross stitch a gift, I will need to plan ahead. I am already now thinking about Christmas 2010.

Vacation. We need to drive to Western New York this year where my mother lives. She lives in a small apartment so we will need to stay in a hotel. Between gasoline, hotel and food we have to save up quite a sum of money. Add to that the fact that my mother is not very nice to us (my own sister has totally disowned her); it is not a pleasant “vacation.” We only visit her every other year. Perhaps I will post sometime about what my life was like growing up and how that made me strive to be a better parent than my mother was to me. As a small taste, I grew up every day being told I was a “big dummy.” It is hard to set aside money for this major expenditure, all things considering, but she is still my mother and we have an obligation.

Major household repairs. Our roof is definitely showing signs of needing replaced. I do believe that we may get another year out of it. Our furnace is 28 years old (boiler furnace) and you just never know. We need to get more money into savings for this category.

Paint. We will need to paint our house again this summer. Paint is expensive and we don’t buy our exterior paint at Walmart. We will head to Sherwin Williams (the only paint store in town) to purchase a decent quality paint. Paint is expensive. A gallon on sale can run $30.00. We need to plan for this.

I think for some couples when they see what lies before them financially speaking it can be discouraging. But as I have said before, I am always up for a challenge. Yes, when the economy picks up I can go out and find a job. I really don’t want to do that unless it would absolutely be necessary. After all it doesn’t matter whether I am working outside of the home or not, the exterior of the house will still need to be painted, the downstairs of our house will still need to have the plaster repaired and painted and so on. These are all projects we can do and want to do. It is a tradeoff.

We have debt and are on track to having most of it paid off by August 2011. By then our only debt will be our mortgage payment and my car payment.

So where are we going to get the extra money to put in savings for our extra expenses? I am looking at that today. One major area is groceries. Last month’s pantry challenge only made a dent in what I have in the freezer and my pantry. Of course I did deviate from the challenge when I purchased some stockpiled items instead of only purchasing what was necessary.  Here is what my pantry and freezer look like as of today:

I also have another bin of brown sugar and confectioner's sugar

But wait, there is more ...

5 Bins of cereal items

Plenty of Pasta

How much toilet paper does a family need?

Yes, we have just the one freezer. 
I know - you must be surprised.

Now I'm starting think that I may have to sign up for that t.v. show on hoarding.

Today I am going to spend my morning making up an inventory of my pantry. Everything has been labeled with an expiration date or date of purchase. When I am putting items away in my pantry I always take a marker and write the expiration date on the outside of the item. Now I am going to go downstairs, sit at a table with my laptop and make up a spread sheet of exactly how many cans I have of what and when it is due to expire. I need to do this. Then I will know exactly what is down there and how I should be incorporating those items into my menu planning and get them used up before they expire. In the 1 year that I have practiced stockpiling I have not had to throw out anything due to an expired date of expiration.

This afternoon I am going to inventory and organize my freezer. I have been keeping an inventory list but I know there some things that I have taken out or some things that I have put in the freezer that missed the list.

I will then have the information I need to sit down and make up some menus for several weeks or even a couple of months or more. I am sure I will be surprised when I realize the amount of meals I will be getting out of my freezer and pantry. Also, I want to try some new recipes and this is as good of time as any to try some new food combinations.

As to stockpiling, while I am using up what I have in my freezer and pantry there frankly isn’t room for any “new” food in my freezer or pantry. I need to use up what we have and only buy perishables. Perhaps I should post what I have on hand and what meals I am going to make from those items. It would be wonderful to hear what others would suggest.

It has been exactly 6 months since I have been home. I look back over that time and see that we have had some setbacks financially but I have also seen areas of spending that we have reduced and made some positive changes in our finances. For savings we have always had an amount that we said we would never go under and unfortunately due to extra expenses we have gone under that amount. But we have not had to rely on credit cards for paying extra expenses. We have had the money in savings for those expenses and it is empowering not to have to reach for the plastic.

The extra money that we need to replenish savings and plan for future expenses is going to come from my basement. Yep, I will be grocery shopping from my basement for a long time. Kind of makes me think of when I was a little girl and I would pretend to have a store and would go grocery shopping in my mother’s kitchen. Maybe I need to find a little cart and download some grocery store music to my MP3 player so I can get the full experience.


Moderate Means said...

Oh. My. Goodness. That food!!! I had no idea you stockpiled so much food!! I think you'll find that you could pantry shop for a lot longer than you think. And you stick to only buying perishables, you will be able to put aside a good amount of money for your extras :)

Martha said...

The majority of the canned goods have expiration dates into mid 2011 and 2012. This food will last us a long time.