Shortly before my wife and I got married, we decided to combine our finances. By this point we already had a shared bank account, which we would both contribute money to as the funds got low. Mostly this was to pay for our excessive amounts of going out to restaurants and bars, but also rent and groceries once we moved in together. This caused for several moments of tension, a couple of overdraws, and lots of weekly Venmo transactions. In hindsight, we should have combined them sooner but we got off to a shaky start when it came to talking about finances, and if anyone in the relationship was timid about sharing my hard earned cash with the other, it was admittedly me. Coupled with a slight bit of insecurity about disparity in income, and we managed to continue on like this for a year and a half.
There seems to be two teams of people out there. One team believes each couple should have separate accounts and then a shared account for shared expenses, contributing either equal amounts or some sort of percentage of income. The other is to combine them. We’re obviously part of the later group, understanding that this isn’t the ONLY way of looking at it, but here’s why…
When it comes to marriage, we don’t have tons of experience. We haven’t even hit our one year anniversary yet! But one major thing we’ve both always known is that we’re are a team in every aspect of our lives. I can’t imagine being able to plan a future and being able to do some of things we’ve already done with finances without seeing the whole picture or knowing each and every intricate detail of our cash flow. I know what’s going where on each exact date, and what tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year all look like (to the best of my ability). This is why for us, it’s essential that we both know what is going on so we can properly plan our lives together.
At the end of our first full year of living together and having the shared account, we did a little tallying for 2017 food expenses.
Restaurants: $8,076 Groceries: $5,727 Alcohol & Bars: $4,051 Fast Food: $458 Total: $18,312
Yup. $18,312 for two young adults to not starve to death in 2017. When I saw the numbers for restaurants and bars I was floored! Okay… Okay… Don’t panic… how did this happen!?! Let’s look back and see the trend.
We got our shared account in mid-2016, so the numbers for the first half of the year are mine only. Once 2018 rolled around we get a good look at the gravity of the situation. Our daily cost for the two of us came out to $50.17/day! Holy smokes! I feel like I could eat PRETTY damn well for that much, and apparently we were!
2018 numbers are year-end estimates as of October 2018
When it comes to spending money, it’s not cool to get a new high-score every year. We’re not food snobs who go out every night and try the hip new spot, but we do like our share of local restaurants and LOVE us some craft beer. We don’t have kids, we don’t have a dog, we don’t own a house that requires constant maintenance, so biking to the local breweries and spending time sipping some suds is one of our favorite ways to unwind on the weekends. So how did we cut $5,000 from our food spending this year? I married someone who’s a damn good cook.
In 2017 my gut and her butt were not where they needed to be. My chin started to merge with my torso and we needed to make some changes. All that going out and heavy drinking had taken it’s toll. We decided to go cold-turkey and started the 21-Day Fix program and dropped alcohol (for a month) and started eating very healthy meals. Not only did we lose a lot of weight, but we also re-trained ourselves into eating healthier and unintentionally cheaper too!
A year+ later and we still eat out, but only on weekends and usually only one night a week. We still go to breweries but don’t drop $50+ each time we go. We still enjoy all the things we love to do, but now we also love being at home and cooking. Well… she cooks… I mostly wash dishes and stuff my face. You can see the shift in spending in 2018 in the graph above. Our grocery bill has gone up slightly, but our restaurants and booze bills have both gone dramatically down. I bet we even eat tastier (certainly healthier) food now than we did before going out to eat all the time! I keep trying to convince my wife to start a recipe blog but she refuses…
Once we started being more content with staying at home to eat, being better about meal planning, stocking the kitchen, and buying on sale, the rest is easy. So first step is finding the issue. I’ve used Mint since 2011 and have put in so much data I can never switch, but some people love YNAB or Tiller.
Track your spending, categorize religiously, and then examine where you have room for improvement.