I started on a Personal Financial Plan (PFP) almost four years ago at the urging of my Financial Wizard of a Sister.
“PFP is like a budget,” she explained patiently while I tried not to roll my eyes, “but with a breakdown of expenses, categorized and organized.” She slowly rolled the mouse over the screen, stopping to show me where and how I was to add my expenses. I watched, eyes partially glazed over, knowing what was being delivered was important but not that relevant. I was pretty good with my money. Why did I need to track it?
So I began with my PFP. I was working at the time in an industry where my income fluctuated with the seasons, the tracking of my funds proved to be very helpful. The part that wasn’t that impactful to me was the bottom of the page where each month it showed either surplus or deficit. The months where I would fall short of my expenses, or overspend, or some combination of the two, the tiny number at the bottom of my month screen would be pink. So cute, I thought to myself as I would peek at those numbers. Pink! Who cares if I’m a little short this month? The pink numbers did a temporary dance at the bottom of the screen and then disappeared as I slammed my laptop shut and carried on with my life.
I rolled through seasons, a change of careers, two moves and subsequent raises and expenses. Car tires, damage deposits, small trips, big trips, new shoes, grocery bills, paying down bills, letting bills accumulate. All the while I kept pace with my little PFP, my sister kindly sending me a revamped, pimped out version of the budget annually. It become increasingly advanced and comprehensive as her own consulting business began to grow.
All the while the tiny numbers at the bottom stayed in the pink. Some months the balance would show black (victory!) but often times it would show pink (I like to think of this as a non-victory instead of a failure). All the while I was paying off debt and accumulating new debt, I shared my status with no one. It was my money after all. What did it matter to anyone else?
It has mattered in the past month as Jon and I began to discuss our money, and what was going to happen with it once we married. We asked some big questions: do we combine everything? Do we go halfsies? What is “mine” and what is “ours”? What about when one person earns more than the other? The conversations have proven to be very helpful and also incredibly terrifying. Sharing my PFP was a gut-wrenching experience. I felt the need to explain the columns on the left which read “Beauty” “Athletics” and “Entertainment”. It turns out spending more than $100 a month on wine really blows up said “entertainment” column. (Important side note: how can consuming wine not be entertaining?)
Fortunately for me, I am marrying the most patient man on the planet, who has quite an affinity towards bikes. For him to have a “Bike” column on his budget didn’t phase me; however our similarities for speciality items seem to end there. Where I have often times lacked discipline, or a long-term plan for my funds, my lover has been Mr. Frugal and Well-Prepared. For this I am grateful, but learning a new way of dealing with my money has been as frustrating as learning to write using my left hand.
We’ve been individually and jointly quizzing friends -primarily live-in or married friends- about how they handle their funds. Not seeking actual numbers, but strategies for handling money. If you google “Couples Finances”, an overwhelming amount of websites, banks, and counceling sites come up. It’s sited in multiple articles, journals and blogs that finances are one of the most likely reasons a couple divorces. With this heavy weight playing on my mind, we continue to discuss a plan. We haven’t arrived at an exact solution, but the conversations continue in a progressive (and mostly positive) manner.
I might not be exactly Rebecca from the Shopaholic series, but I’m not exactly Frugal Fran either. Finding a happy balance for me and hubby-to-be will be a work in progress. I’m also going to have to shift my PFP to make the end-of-the-month surplus orange and the deficit a puke colour. Anything to help.