Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cash Flo Rida

I am high on the thrill of having created a cash-flow report for T's & my finances. Somebody please pour me a drink.

Look, it's snowing outside and I am still wearing my Grinch pajama pants. I have been coughing pretty much non-stop (though I *do* feel a trillion times better than I did earlier). There's not much else to do, except study Corporations or work on cover letters.

But the fact is that I am thrilled to be able to create a spreadsheet to track our finances, not just because I'm stir-crazy and delirious, but because I have been waging a one-woman lobbying campaign to have this capability for at least the last month. That's right. We've been engaged in a dirty war over money. Money, the dreaded m-word that is supposedly at the root of many marital dissolutions, has been causing me woes.

Here's the thing: T makes it all. I spend a bunch of it. But I don't make any. None. (Unless you count the $99 I earned doing mechanical turks in 2009.) And even though we are married now, we haven't done much to change our financial arrangement. Which is fine, because we've always had a pretty easy-going policy of what's mine is yours, etc. We don't keep track of who pays for what, or any of that stuff, because we realized long ago that it didn't really matter. We have a joint account for some of our expenses, but that stems mostly from the early days of our co-habitation, when we each had something to contribute. Back then, all our bills were paid out of said account, including groceries and date nights. And the rest of the money was each of ours to do what we wished with it.

Back in the day, I worked full-time and made a banked a good chunk of change. I put a lot of it in savings, which has allowed me to not panic for the first half of law school, as financial aid has been perpetually late in coughing up loan money and supposed grants for public interest students never materialized. It was a nice cushion while it lasted. Alas, the cushion has dwindled down to the dregs of my student loan money. In the meantime, T pays our bills, groceries, etc. I contribute my half to rent, pay my transportation costs, provide my own lunch money and generally spend out of my loan balance. But for the big, household stuff, it's all T.

I am so grateful for that. That cannot be overstated, and perhaps I should spend more time thinking of how awesome it is that I have a guy who is willing to bust his behind to make it rain up in this firetrap. Not only does he make sure the bills get paid (on time! something I never managed to do) but he also banked us a good refund for our taxes this year. T works full-time and he actually likes his job, when it's not totally stressing him out, so we're a lot luckier than many young folks these days. And even still, it often feels like we're hurting for cash. There's always the nagging voice in the back of our heads, saying we're not bringing in enough, or we aren't doing it right.

I never have a good sense of exactly how lucky, or how responsible, we are because I don't really pay attention. Most of the blame is on me for not asking. I don't worry about the bills because T pays them. I don't worry about savings (too much) because we long ago negotiated how much we were going to put into it each month. I don't worry about credit cards because we both stopped using them and we're paying off our respective debts. But I do worry if we're doing enough and we're doing it right. Call it my control-freakishness. Or call it me playing the part of a responsible young woman who wants to be prepared in the event of an emergency. I can see that they're two sides of the same coin.

So for a while now, I've been lobbying T to give me access to his accounts, so that I can track our spending. He has been reluctant to do so, for reasons I completely understand. I have a tendency to micromanage. I have a tendency to second-guess his decisions and insist that my way is the Right Way. We don't see eye to eye on all things related to financial-planning (who does?). But at the same time, both he & I recognize that I am good at some things.... like sorting things into boxes and making pretty little spreadsheets and crunching data. I like that stuff! And with the right data, I can create the right reports, which can help us to both see where exactly our money is going and what we can do about it.

After much haggling and "discussion", T and I came to a compromise. Instead of fully implementing a budget that we sketched out a while back, which would involve shifting a whole bunch of cash into our joint account and basically upheaving our current system, I am going to be able to track expenses through online access to all our accounts. Then I can match up what we ARE spending with what we MIGHT HAVE BUDGETED to spend. And with my cash-flow report (which I stole from my old job when I was stuck doing the CFR every day after they fired the Director of Finances), we can actually see how much money we really have... today, next week, next month!


Hopefully, T will feel the same way. And hopefully, I can keep it up. Because if I do, I foresee an awesome wave of fiscal responsibility culminating in the greatest surf.....wait, that metaphor is going nowhere. Anyway, I feel smart and empowered and fiscally responsible today. Now where are my ladies Suze Orman and Michelle Singletary to pat me on the back?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I keep track of my monthly budget in an excel spreadsheet. It really does help to figure out where the cash is going, and when its time to pull in the reins.

I don't know if we're anal because we're lawyers or lawyers because we're anal!