Household budgets: When one partner won’t budget

couple doing finances on computer

In my last article at Get Rich Slowly, I gave the background on my income and expenses. My husband’s income and expenses are a little more difficult to compile. For one, Jake left the life of a steady paycheck about a year ago in order to start his own business. This means that his income fluctuates, which of course we knew going in. It also means that the first few years he’s going to make much less than we hope he will eventually. We also knew that going in.

However, another major factor is that Jake’s idea of household budgeting is “make so much money it doesn’t matter what you spend because you can afford it all.” When he started working at The Big Firm right out of law school and was making $90,000 a year, this was something that was more or less possible, especially since he was working 80+ hours a week and didn’t accumulate vacation or sick time. He didn’t have time for anything really spend-y. However, even though he’s now living the entrepreneur’s life, he’s resistant to budgeting. Earlier this week I sent him J.D.’s article about how to budget for an irregular income, and his response was:

This assumes that I actually have a budget…which I do not. I just make however much money I happen to make and pay whatever bills happen to fall due. Perhaps it’s not the best system, but it’s worked well so far.

Related >> How to Budget for an Irregular Income

I suspect that it’s going to take a major crisis or two of his own making before he comes to view things differently. One of the things I’ve learned over the last six years is that he almost never agrees with me the moment when I propose something; however, six months to a year later he’ll suggest it like it was his own idea. Go figure.

Since there’s nothing I can do at this point to convince him without violating the tenets of how to talk to your partner about money, I’m willing to wait. And to keep our finances separate, at a minimum, until we’ve reached a point where we are more in sync.

Related >> How to Talk to Your Partner About Money

Even then, we may opt to continue to keep our finances separate. Interestingly, Jake grew up in a household where access to money was used as a weapon, and Jake is also the spender in our relationship. On the other hand, I don’t recall my parents ever having a single argument about money, and Jake referred to me yesterday as “the most frugal girl he’s ever dated.” In the meantime, though, since his situation does affect me and I have access to his Mint account, I have started compiling his data so it’s ready for him to work with when he comes on board.

Jake’s Irregular Expenses

Unless otherwise noted, the amount listed reflects just his share, even for things like auto insurance that will be joint going forward, since we haven’t combined finances yet. For some categories — like auto expenses, gifts, and healthcare — I’m assuming his costs are about the same as mine until I have data suggesting otherwise. These are annual numbers.

  • Auto insurance: $840. This is the annual total; he pays $420 every six months in January and July. Similarly, in my recent post when I said my auto insurance was $500, that was also the annual total. I pay about $250 every six months.
  • Auto expenses (repair/maintenance): $250
  • Auto registration: $250. Quite a bit more than mine, since his car is 8 years newer (and also much nicer)
  • Gifts: $1000
  • Health care (copays, etc): $500. Numerous people said my $1000/year estimate was high, and when I double-checked, I realized that I’d double-counted my massage costs in both the irregular expenses category and the recurring monthly category. This means my actual irregular medical expenses last year were closer to $230. However, I think it’s best to estimate high in this category, and I know Jake has more prescriptions than I do.
  • Vet expenses (pets): $2300. As noted in my previous breakdown, he would have paid half of this. All three of our pets had dentals last year, and one of the cats had an extraction while the other had some medical issues that had to be resolved before she could go under anesthesia. This category also includes grooming for the dog (a poodle), which runs about $50 per grooming.
  • Mensa annual dues: $60
  • Total: $4050

I am sure there are expenses I am missing, and will be filling in this category over time. For example, he recently spent $437.36 on his 30,000 mile check-up, so he’s over my initial estimate. However, not only should he not spend any more this year (knock on wood), I believe that’s the first major repair/maintenance since he bought the car in 2008. And, since he is only driving an average of 7,500 miles/year (and that average should be dropping even more now that he works from home), we fall into the category of “gentle drivers” and these costs should stay relatively low.

Jake’s Regular Expenses

Like the irregular expenses, the amounts listed below reflect only his share for things, even if they are a joint expense. Accordingly, the pet, grocery, Netflix, internet, rent, satellite cable, renters’ insurance, and electricity categories should be doubled if you want to get an idea of our joint/mutual costs. Please also note I solicited more information about his credit cards and have updated the information that originally appeared here. For his payments, however, I am going by what he has paid historically, not what the minimum payment actually is. These are monthly numbers.

  • Gas, auto: $55
  • Pet expenses: $50
  • Grocery/household: $300
  • Cell phone: $135 (Note: Jake uses his cell phone for the business, too, though I’m not sure if or how he separates it from his personal use.)
  • Drycleaner: $40
  • Netflix: $8
  • Internet: $32.50
  • Satellite cable: $37
  • Renters’ insurance: $9
  • Electricity: fluctuates throughout the year, in summer $100
  • Withdrawal/cash: unknown, I suspect it varies widely
  • Charity: $10 (Humane Society)
  • Haircuts: $18
  • Rent: $488
  • Student loan 1: $180
  • Student loan 2: $70
  • Student loan 3: $176
  • Student loan 4: $112
  • Auto loan: $300
  • Credit Card 1 ($12,697.64 @ 4.99% for life): $400
  • Credit Card 2 ($2,202.87 @ 7.5% variable): $200. This is the one in my name.
  • Credit Card 3 ($2,648.33 @ 3.99% for life): $200
  • Credit Card 4 ($1,875 @ 0% until 3/6/13): $175. His share of the wedding expenses not covered in advance.
  • Credit Card 5 ($8,175.51 @ 0% until 9/1/12): $125. A loan to the business to sign up for a year’s subscription to a client-referral service.
  • Credit Card 6 ($1,350 @ 9.99%): $150. A loan to the business to cover his partner’s expenses when he was short.
  • Total: $3,370.50

Jake’s Income

Here’s where it gets tricky. Since January he’s paid himself twice per month in amounts varying from $400 to $5,963.98. Based on his disbursements year-to-date, he can expect his gross salary for the year to be $47,577.42. On average, he’s grossing $3,659.80 per month.

On the surface, then, he’s making enough to pay his bills plus a little extra. However, I’m sure he’s spending it all (that is, I expect that eating out and miscellaneous purchases would take us to the limit of his gross salary). I guess this is what he means when he says “it’s worked well so far.” However, he hasn’t been paying quarterly estimated taxes. There are some structural changes to the business that took effect August 1st, and he’s been waiting for that to start his quarterly payments.

Based on my calculations (which I will freely admit are pure guesstimates based more or less on my own withholdings), he can expect to owe approximately $8,840 by the end of the year. This amount should include federal and state income tax, social security, and medicare. Based on his earnings to date, he should have $4,760 set aside for taxes as of this moment. Guess how much is in his savings account right now? $4,194.99. So he’s short of where he should be and since he had been thinking of that as his emergency fund, not his tax fund…well. You see the dilemma.

Where to Go From Here?

Regarding budgeting, my plan is to continue to suggest it and wait for him to catch on before deciding whether to combine finances. He’s never even calculated any of this himself, though I did share the projected tax information with him, which he appreciated. While he freely admits he has no idea when any specific bill is due and is always surprised when they arrive, he also doesn’t see any need to change the system when he’s never been late paying any bill and pays more than the minimum on all his credit cards.

On the positive side, his average disbursement to himself has doubled from about $1,000 to about $2,000, so his business is growing.

What would you do in my situation? As I mentioned in the comments of my previous post, I refuse to become The Girl Who Only Says No or The Girl Who Only Talks About Money, because that will only poison the well for every aspect of our relationship, not just our finances.

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