If you don’t want to read my sappy Valentine’s day message feel free to skip to the second paragraph. 😉

This one is for Keith, who deserves way more than $25 a paycheck spending money. He never complains. He is happy with a 50 cent Valentine’s Day card and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. I know I drive him completely crazy when he helps hang pictures on the wall and they have to be perfect. I get mad when he dries his hands on the towels that are “just for looks.” I steal the covers to the point where he had to get his own blanket. I have watched him eat food that was so burnt it looked like charcoal. Yet, he still tells me thank you for every meal I cook. Even grilled cheese. He is still opening my door eight years later. He is, by far, my biggest cheerleader in life. He spoils me in ways money can’t buy. I am absolutely crazy about that man and I couldn’t imagine my life without him!

Now for the real post!

Budget and marriage. Can the two words even be in the same sentence without argument? I think they can. I would go further and say they can compliment each other. Even lift each other up.

I am not a financial expert. Nor a marriage expert (if there is such a person, ha!) In honor of Valentine’s Day I would like to share some of the successes Keith and I have experienced, most of which started out with a failure. We have had our share of arguments but none about money. This is what we have learned.

#1 Spend Fair

When we began budgeting together a few months after getting married, we added a category to our budget called “personal spending money.” We had no idea how precious this would become to us over time! No matter how much money we each earn, we have always been allotted equal amounts of spending money. There were times when my paycheck was bigger and there were times when Keith made more, now I don’t have a pay check at all but we have always maintained equal spending money. This money can be used to buy anything special we want that is not in the budget. I’m currently using mine to build a greenhouse and he has his eye on a nice flashlight. There is no accountability to our spending money. I don’t count his and he doesn’t count mine. We both know it has to be something we really, really want in order to spend our precious money on it. Having personal spending money also gives us the funds to buy each other gifts for special occasions. Without this category, it might feel awkward to buy each other birthday, Christmas or Valentine’s day gifts out of the joint checking account.

I have really struggled with transitioning to being a stay at home mom. One way that Keith shows me that what I do at home is important is by maintaining equal spending money. He has never once suggested that he should get to spend more money because he earns it. What could really be a sore spot in our marriage has instead become something that shows love and value to each other. We started out getting $50 spending money out of our biweekly paychecks. When we went to one income, we cut back to $25 each. The fact that Keith was willing to cut his spending money in half to allow me to stay home with our daughter made me feel so loved and valued.

#2 Redefine the word DATE

When we were dating, Keith mostly paid for everything. We used his gas to go places, he paid for our meals, and he purchased tickets to events we went to. I enjoyed those times but I didn’t give the cost much thought. I didn’t feel the money leaving his wallet each time we went out. Once we combined our bank accounts, I felt it! Everyone talks about how important it is to continue to have a date night, especially after having kids. I agree, but we have changed our definition of the word date.

Keith planned a really special date the second time we went out. At first I was really creeped out. He took me star gazing in a field. He had a really elaborate plan that involved pints of ice cream, moon pies and milky way bars. He won my dog over with a bag of treats the first day. It took me a little longer. The whole story is for another post completely… anyway… This week, I had a coupon for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I picked it up for $1.25 and hid it in the back of the freezer. I decided to do a remix of the date after Audrey went to bed Friday night. I slipped out the back door with a sleeping bag, ice cream, 2 spoons and the video baby monitor. We ate ice cream on a sleeping bag under the stars in our own backyard and talked about our day. You know what? That’s a date! It doesn’t have to require paying a babysitter or spending $50 on dinner and a movie! Becoming creative in our ideas of dates is actually romantic! We now have a mutual respect for our money so when one of us takes the time to plan a date that works well within our budget it is a reminder that our relationship is important in this moment and that we also have respect for our financial future together.

#3 Saving for Retirement 

No, saving for retirement doesn’t exactly sound romantic. Hear me out though. Isn’t there something sweet about a white haired couple walking hand in hand? Making the effort to save for our future reminds us that we married for life. Keith and I like to talk about our plans for when we can retire and spend our days together. We may be on the road in an RV traveling to AKC agility events with our dogs (we just learned there was such a thing this weekend… again another post), eating breakfast at Hardees every morning, or just sitting on the porch waiting on our grand babies to come for a visit. Dreaming about our retirement days helps remind us that we both want the same thing. We are a team working toward the same goal! However we decide to spend our retirement days, I don’t want to spend them worrying about money!

Do you have any other tips for budget and marriage?