Money had always been an awkward topic to talk about.
So in 2018, when I first heard of the term ‘getting financially naked’ from Erin Lowry of Broke Millennial, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my partner and I had already done it without knowing. Rather than shying away from the topic of money – how much we made, how much we had in our bank accounts, how much debt we had, how much we had in savings – we’d brought it up as easily as one would bring up what they had for lunch.
Talking about money wasn’t the only thing that suddenly seemed simple and easy with him – being in a relationship was also much less complicated and messy, and full of more joy, affection, and communication. So, surprise surprise – my first real ‘partner’ (rather than boyfriend or girlfriend) became my husband!
Our (financial) relationship timeline
March 2016 Went on our first date + became a couple.
March 2017 I bought my house.
July 2017 He moved in.
September 2017 Made our first big purchase together – a 5 x 5 white cube shelf!
April 2018 Opened our first joint account.
November 2018 Went on our first overseas holiday as a couple to Melbourne, where we got engaged at Eureka Skydeck 88.
November 2020 Finally got married in Queenstown, after COVID delayed our March 2020 wedding!
As a couple, we’ve always been extremely open and honest about money. While personal finance books constantly cite money as the #1 topic couples fight about, I feel like my husband and I have avoided this due to a few reasons:
I took it upon myself to manage our money, purely out of curiosity and eagerness to try out the tips in all the books I read;
We are both the same with money – neither much of an impulsive spender or obsessive saver;
We talk about our money goals, and are on the same page when it comes to our personal goals, careers, kids, etc;
We both contribute to our fortnightly couple’s budget, allowing both of our needs & wants to be met.
Today I’d like to share with you how we do this fortnightly budget. It’s super quick and easy to set up and maintain, and of course, free!
How we budget (+ example!)
We use Google Sheets, which you’ll find in the top right corner of Gmail or here.
Make sure you check the privacy settings!
We created three sections:
1. Our net (after tax) fortnightly income;
2. Our respective savings amount based on this income (we’re currently saving 25%);
3. Our living expenses, which are the things we have to pay for every fortnight, like bills
Creating automatic calculations can be done by selecting the cells you want – for example, all of the cells with your incomes – then going to the Functions dropdown menu on the very right and selecting ‘SUM’. This will add up everything in the selected cells.
You can do this for all three sections – income, savings, and expenses. For savings, select the cell where you want the calculation, look at the cell where your income is, then type the formula “=[Income]*0.25”. (E.g. our formula looks like this: =D2*0.25 for 25%). It’ll automatically calculate how much you need to save!
Then, create a calculation at the bottom that automatically takes your total joint income and subtracts savings and expenses, showing you what’s left over.
You can do this by selecting the cell you want balance to show up in, then typing in “=A-B-C” where ‘A’ is the cell containing the sum of your income, ‘B’ is cell containing the sum of your savings and ‘C’ is the cell containing the sum of your expenses. (E.g. our formula looks like this: =E5-E11-E39)
Voila! This is our basic fortnightly budget. We then take this basic budget and create a specific budget, tailored to each fortnight and any expenses coming up.
Simply right click on the tab and click ‘Duplicate’! We name ours to the date of my next payday, which happens first.
Now the fun part. Since everything we always pay for is copied over, we can put in anything we want to buy or spend money on that coming fortnight. My husband will put in $100 for a video game that’s coming out within the next 2 weeks; I will put in $80 for an event I want to attend (I have one in our budget right now for a Modern Intuition & Manifestation workshop!).
Anything else specific also goes in here, like car rego renewals and whatnot.
As long as we save at least 20% and what’s left over is not in negative, it works for us! Both of us get to buy things we want or attend events we’re interested in, as we’ve made room for both our priorities. (Though we do sometimes find each other’s chosen expenses questionable…)
You don’t even need to set aside time to write this together. Because the spreadsheet is equally accessible to both my husband and I, we just put in expenses whenever something crosses our mind, whether we’re at home, on the bus or at work.
When it’s payday, we bring up the spreadsheet and cross out (strikethrough) the ones we’ve already paid, so we don’t send a payment twice.
So what happens when we do find each other’s expenses questionable? Like, do you really need to spend that much on this thing, babe?
It all comes down to values: finding out what’s important to your partner, and why – then, learning to understand and respect that.
For me, spending money on advocacy is the highest purpose for which my money can be spent on. Buying new books, attending spiritual workshops, they’re nice luxuries to have – but donating to a cause I’m passionate about, or raising awareness of said cause, to me, has never had a definitive spending limit. Hence, the first year I decided to buy pâtissier-made rainbow cupcakes, rainbow lollies & rainbow mugs to raise awareness of Pride Month at work, my husband asked, “Why did you spend almost $400 on this?” and my (admittedly cheeky) reply was, “It’s a small price to pay to contribute to social equality and elevate human consciousness.”
This year, I spent $100 and still got to raise awareness for the LGBTIQ+ community with rainbow lolly bags. My husband, unsurprisingly, approved much more of this. 😛
When I asked my husband the same thing – “To you, what’s the highest purpose your money can be spent on?”, he said, “Protection.” This likely explains why he has health insurance and life insurance, which we pay fortnightly premiums on, and why I am content with health insurance covered by my family’s plan but don’t have my own life insurance – yet. I definitely understand the value of it, but it seems like something that would only become a priority for me when we have kids.
It’s also because my husband has a very stable income – he’s been at the same company for 7 years and has a great relationship with his team, as well as a shit ton of leave. His company also offers a lot of work perks, including a career break of up to 1 year off! He also has a strong individual emergency fund.
Who brings home the bacon?
We both do!
We earn the same income – roughly. He earns $3000 p.a. more than me.
While I earn income from a few different income streams – my salary, rental, and miscellaneous income from book sales, photography and candles – he earns all of his income from his salary.
Both have their pros and cons. I have do more to earn almost the same amount he does, but I love having the freedom to explore my creativity and curiosity. Profit has never been the top motivation behind my passion projects, but a bonus. Plus, if I ever lose one income stream, I still have other income streams I can work on.
Photography, for example, is something I’ve put on hiatus and stopped actively advertising for – but if I lost my job, I would probably pick it up again since it provides a consistent stream of income (people are always celebrating special milestones!), plus it’s fun and perfect for introverts.
On the other hand, my husband can earn everything from just one stream of income, so has less to worry about – and doesn’t need to keep income records or file an IR3 individual income tax return. Of course, if he ever decides to make a side hustle out of his skills and hobbies, like guitar & fantasy writing, I’ll be there to support him, too.
If you’re in a relationship, I hope you’ve found some inspiration for your own joint finances!