How We Embraced Minimalism and Gift Registries for Our Wedding

For those of you who know me, you know that I am extremely picky about things I like. This is a blessing mostly because I generally don’t get the urge to buy everything surrounding me, and a curse, as I am also from a Southern family and thus am extremely gracious about gifts I have been given, even if I’m not particularly fond of them.

This made the registry daunting to me as the husband and I worked through it.  Months before, I had embraced minimalism after reading (cough, cough listening to) Cait Flander’s A Year of Less. The idea of having a ton of stuff we might not need freaked me out a little bit. Pair this with the fact that my husband and I agree on very little stylistically (he’s more rustic, walls of pine, cabin in the middle of nowhere, and I’m more chic, black white and grey city field), and you have an impending nightmare.

So here’s what we did to minimize relational damage:

  1. We went on a date to our local Bed Bath and Beyond and picked out different things we knew we needed: knives, pots and pans, that sort of thing. Fighting through the kitchen appliances together helped us sort out our value system. We also kept in mind that we’re planning on moving in a few years and didn’t want to haul around a lot of stuff.
  2. Individually, we went online and added everything we wanted to our gift list. This included the fun stuff, like board games, camping and running gadgets, and that sort of thing. We didn’t look at each other’s list quite yet. Or individually. We just sat and added stuff. That way we wouldn’t have preconceived arguments about why one didn’t need a nifty, electric can opener. Through this and the Bed Bath and Beyond date, we had around 350 items on the registry.
  3. We opened a honeymoon fund through theknot.com where we asked for money instead of gifts. I also put on the registry page that we would prefer cash to gifts because we recently bought a car. That way if our guests were debating which, they knew our preference.
  4. We went through our registries together and questioned every single item on the list. Did we need this? Did it fit into our value system? Would we pack this or goodwill it if we moved? After pairing down the list, we finished with around 100 items, just a third of what we originally thought we needed.  

 

It ended up working out really well, except for a few minor hiccups. We ended up with two different Settlers of Catan sets. Whoops. And we didn’t get some of the things we needed: pots and pans or knife sets. But other than that, I’m really happy with the way things worked out. Most people ended up giving us cash, and it has been stored away in our emergency fund. This puts me more at ease than any of the 250 things we decided not to ask for. Or the few things we didn’t get. Plus, now everything we own fits into our value system we didn’t fight about the registry and I don’t feel bogged down with a million extra things.

I’d love to hear what you think. How did you handle your registries when getting married?

I Want to Talk About Dreams at our Next Budget Meeting

Our next budget meeting is coming up shortly. My husband and I have these right after we get paid to make sure our money is going in the correct categories. We still don’t have a good monthly budget, and so I want to check to make sure we’re on the same page throughout the next few weeks, especially with our spending ban in place.

We also want to make sure we’re prepared for upcoming expenses we might not ordinarily budget for. For example, I have several doctor’s appointments coming up, and we need to make sure that we’re accounting for a copay, I also want to make sure that we’re saving a serious amount of money for rent in July since I don’t work as much in June as I have previously.

It’s a chance, really for us to get down and dirty with our money. For me, it’s a goal checking exercise. As a single on the first of every month, I would sit down with my goal book and review the finances for the last month. I’d track the growth in my savings account, the debt repayment, and any investments I had made. Each month was colored in with a different colored pen so I could see months where I did well, and months I could improve.

Budget meetings are kind of like that, but instead, we’re looking forward. We’re scheduling payments, tracking savings and spending, and making sure that we know what we want to do with our money.

As I prep for this one, (it’s actually our first, but we’re trying to establish a routine), I wanted to look at long-term numbers. In an article in Bloomberg, I found the following:

“I realized that money is nothing more than fuel. It is a resource that lets you have choices, but if you don’t think about what you are working for, you will die rich but not live rich.” –Joe Duran

And that hit me, hard. It’s kinda silly that it did. Because that should be obvious, we’re not accumulating wealth and hacking away at debt to look at arbitrary numbers growing and shrinking respectively. But we’re actually living.

We haven’t really sat down and created long-term financial goals together. I know that I want to be financially independent, and soon…ish. But together, we haven’t crafted our why.

So as I look towards our next budget meeting, I’m going to be thinking about the why. Why are we doing this? What is the end game?

But also, what milestones are we hoping to accomplish on the way? Part of becoming financially independent is struggling, and hard, for a little while to make sure you’re saving enough. But I also don’t want to be saving so extensively that we can’t live. This doesn’t mean grabbing a million cups of coffee. My hubby laughs and me and my latte effect (which, to my credit, I’ve toned waaay down since graduating college), but it does mean vacationing cool places, and seeing the world, and traveling, all things that are important to us, but that we haven’t put a lot of mutual though into.

I think that our upcoming budget meeting will be less about the finances, although those are exceptionally important, and geared more towards what are our long-term goals as humans and as a married couple. We haven’t really done that. And I want to dream a little.

Y’all have any financial dreams that you’re aspiring to? What are you doing on your way to financial freedom? I’d love to hear them. Tell me in the comments!

 

5 Ways I Combat Fluctuating Pay as an Independent Contractor

The husband and I have worked it out so that we take rent, savings, and debt out of my paycheck, and we live off of his. It works out because insurance, food, gas, and entertainment generally come in at fixed costs (except for May, see my latest budget report for that snafu). And then my fluctuating income takes care of the rest. I pay rent, the minimums on my student loans, and then split the rest between savings and debt repayment. We haven’t quite built our emergency fund up to what I want it to be.

It’s currently around $6,000 and I’d like it at $7,500 just to be safe. This is in part because the cost of living is so high in California and because the hubby’s car is getting old and I don’t want to be broke when we buy his like we were after we bought mine. After we get the last $1,500, everything in my paycheck will go towards student loans. Except, we might still save 100 for little things like I have a wedding I’m going to in September, and we want to fly home for the holidays in November. Everything else goes towards debt repayment.

We’re trying to get my 32k loan under 20k this year, although, that’s looking like a tall order. Especially since April we only put $400 towards it, May $100, and June isn’t looking so bright. I’m an independent contractor at a tutoring company, which for the most part, is great. However, switching over from the school year to summer clients is stressful. In the month of June, I’m scheduled to make just over $300. This will most certainly not cover rent and our loan repayment. Thankfully, I’m relying on more than one stream of income. For instance, I drive my friend around because he can’t, and I tutor on the side, but even with that money coming in, I’m only going to be making around $400 extra.

It comes in handy that June is our no spend month after May turned out to be a fiscal disaster, but we’re still stressed about it. Me more so than he is. Since I made $1200 last pay period, we’re covered with rent from June to July and won’t really be on the wire until July to August. That’s why he’s so chill. God bless my husband. He’s got this amazing cool when it comes to finances. And he says we’ll work it out, and that I’m amazing and will figure it out.

So things I’m trying this month:

  1. Freelance writing. With a degree in English, it kinda makes sense that I’ve always wanted to write. The spare time I have this month (if I’m diligent) will give me the time to work on articles, and who knows, maybe I’ll get published and start building my portfolio.
  2. Freelance editing. In a similar vein, I want to start editing projects. As a career idea, I’d love to work for one of the Big Five publishing houses, and this month would be a great place to start working on my portfolio.
  3. Babysitting. Not a huge fan of this idea, but whatever pays the bills. Am I right?  In fact, I wrote this article at a family’s house after I put their kids down for the night. The cash I earned from that goes into the “rent” jar that we keep at home. So does the cash I get from driving my friend around. That way it’s automatically allocated and can’t be touched.
  4. Yardwork/house cleaning. In college, I worked for several different cleaning companies, and I enjoyed it. While I don’t like it enough to start my own company or to do it as a regular side gig, it was fairly decent money, and I’ll be advertising and see if I get any clients.
  5. Selling things. I have several suits that have just been lying around my house waiting to be sold. They retail for about $100 apiece, and they’re in good condition, they just don’t fit me well anymore. I’m hoping to sell them at half off, and get $200 for the lot. That should help even a little bit.

 

While that’s not a huge list of ideas, I’m trying not to overstress myself. Rent is only $1100 a month (a steal in our area), and I only need to make about $600 more to make ends meet. Otherwise, we have to dip into our emergency fund, which I guess is what it’s there for, but I was hoping we wouldn’t have to touch it these first few years of marriage.

What about you guys? How do you handle it when your cash flow is low? Any ideas or suggestions? Wanna hire me, haha? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below. And don’t worry, I’ll be writing a follow-up post sometime next month to tell you how my side hustle adventures went down. 

A Month In, Here’s How We Did in May

Honestly, not great. It’s a learning process, and we’re still trying to figure it out.  I will say, though, that I’m proud of us for staying in budget during our honeymoon! Woohoo! (We technically went $100 over, but that’s because my aunt gave us cash for the wedding and instead of moving it into savings like we did with the other $2000, we used it on whale watching and a fancy meal in San Francisco. Thanks Auntie!).  However, getting back to reality was hard, and because we didn’t set up a strong game plan, our finances suffered. Let’s break it down:

Category Money Spent Budgeted
Rent 1380 1100
Honeymoon 575 575
Automotive 271 20
Insurance 258 258
Gas 235 150
Restaurants 199 50
Groceries 198 150
Charitable Giving 114 50
Loans 105 800
Clothing 81 0
Books 78 0
Entertainment 14 25
Household Goods 46 10
Medicines 10 0
Fees 8 0

So obviously, we went a little over… On everything. Almost.

Rent was over because we both had to pay our landlords a little money for the extra days we were there before moving into our new loft, which we love by the way! It’s on a ranch, and we’re allowed to milk the goat and collect chicken eggs. Goat milk is a little bit to get used to (more on that later), but I love love love the fresh eggs. That being said, from next month on, rent will be a standard 1100.

The honeymoon I put on a separate debit card and we did really well staying in budget during our trip. So couple win! There’s not that many of those this month. But we’ll take what we can get.

My poor car had (another) flat tire this month.  I really need to stop driving over nails. The hubby and I had to share his car, which gets less gas mileage than my Smart so that explains this category and gas.  Also, gas prices jumped from 2.89 to 3.30 while we were vacationing. So we might have to recalibrate the budget. More on that later!

Insurance is a win because we stayed in budget, but a loss because I was supposed to call USAA and switch the hubby onto my plan. I have more accidents on my record than he does, but my insurance is still almost $50 less than his, so the switch from Statefarm is necessary.  It’s on my to-do list, but it just hasn’t happened yet.

Restaurants were our biggest failure.  We went out with friends, to a food festival, and had too many late night taco bell runs.  Next month, we’re going on a restaurant fast, to help curb our appetite for convenience. I’m also going to be meal planning on Saturdays to buy and make all our meals.  That way it feels like convenience food, and our budget doesn’t get hit so badly.

Groceries weren’t too bad. This is the first month I bought for two people.  Our goal is to bring it down to 150, but I wasn’t expecting us to hit that this month.  We’re still filling up our spice rack, buying staples like flour, baking powder, and sugar.  So the next few months, we might go over, but after that, I’m expecting us to be either at budget or under.

Charitable giving was over because I lost my debit card, and forgot to re-setup auto pay once I got the new one, so we got a bill for two missed months.  Whoops. It’s all fixed now, and next month it should only be 50 again.

Loans… and now you see how we stayed in budget. This month was a transitional period, and thank goodness I’m still in the grace period of my loans, but still. Ouch, I’m not sure we’ll make our 10k down on debt this year because April was a bad month as well.  And in June, my pay gets cut because I lose some clients.

Clothing, honestly… I’m not sure why it’s this high.  It’s totally my fault. I needed new work clothes, but apparently, I went to several thrift stores and WAAAAY overspent.  I’m personally adding clothes to our shopping ban next month. It’s a bad habit to browse through stores and I need to kick it. That and coffee… coffee has to go too.

The books were actually justified, even if they weren’t in budget. We were at a used bookstore and found a gorgeous New Testament reader and a translation workbook for 1-3 John, which I need to be working through during summer to be ready for Greek III in the fall. The hubby also bought a cookbook at the Greek food festival we went through. Both were frivolous purchases but enhanced our lives. I’m excited to start translating and to work through the recipes we have!

Entertainment, another win for us! We would have been over, but then I realized we used the rest of the honeymoon money to take his brother’s to see the new Avengers movie. Well worth the watch. We only paid for popcorn and sodas out of pocket.

The household goods are high this month because well… we’re moving into a loft. We don’t have a lot of stuff, and we’re still trying to figure things out.

Unfortunately, I’ve been sick for a month and we’ve had to buy medicine. And this month I’m going back to the doctor because I can’t kick whatever I have. We’ll have to shift some money around to make it work, but I’m tired of coughing every time I breathe.

And fees will be gone next month. This is an expense I didn’t realize we had. His bank was charging him an 8 maintenance fee. But now that we’ve consolidated to one bank, this should be gone next month.  

Overall, I’m looking at this as a “way to improve” post.  We failed. Epically. BUT that just means that we’re able to see our weaknesses and work through them.  I’m still playing around with the budget and seeing what works for us.

Hiccups We Ran Into While Merging Finances, and How to Avoid Them

If I had to do it again, here’s what I would have done differently.

I really like my bank, and my husband was indifferent to his, so we decided to switch to mine. However, instead of just adding him to my account, we decided to open a whole new account and close both of ours. We thought it would symbolize the two becoming one. And in some ways, it did. The money in the account, really truly is our money. It’s not mine and his. But our money, that we had together.

The downside to this was that both of us rely heavily on automatic banking, and there were some hiccups. One that came with a pretty hefty price tag.

First, when I added our new account to Acorns and asked it to round up, I thought that I had actually asked to switch funding to the new account. However, I didn’t. I’m not exactly sure what I did, except that it wasn’t what I wanted. It continued to draw from my closed account. Whoops.  

Now, my bank doesn’t have service fees, and it has a decent overdraft protection policy. It takes from your savings and moves it into your checkings. Which normally isn’t a problem. I have $3000 sitting in savings at all times. However, we had already closed the account, but it dddntd automatically stop the pending transfers. So when Acorns, my investment app, pulled out $15 from my account instead of the joint account, it sent us into overdraft, and it was a $29 dollar convenience charge.  Not super exciting. That money would have been better spent elsewhere–like student loans.

I’ve been on the fence about Acorn, especially after they added a $1 a month service charge. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and we closed the account. Thankfully we closed it on a good day of the market and made $30 instead of losing $30 like we would have if I had closed it a week before. Anyway, I’m now looking at Vanguard and doing research into “big girl” investing to see what options we have. Ideas on that would be super helpful, so feel free to drop some hints in the comments. In the meantime, we’re sticking it into our money market account, which gets slightly more interest than a regular savings account.  

The other hiccup was with my account Qapital. We couldn’t get the funding account switched. I tried every day for a week, so I finally decided to cancel it. I didn’t particularly like the app anyway. It took a few days (3-5) to take out the money, and sometimes I forgot to account for that (I normally move all my money around manually so I can see where it’s going and it happens automatically) So I decided to transfer all of the funds out ($600 worth). However, they transferred into my personal account instead of the joint account.

The only nice thing is that I have an academic conference in Massachusetts coming up in a few weeks, and I needed to transfer the money out anyway since I used Qapital to fund short-term savings goals. I might try it again later, but for now, the hubby and I are just going to move the money around manually. I like doing that better anyhow.  It forces us to have bimonthly meetings where we sit down and see where our money is and how it is being allocated. Plus, I like watching money piles grow and this puts me in charge of it all.

However, some things are still automatic. The 15% 401k contribution comes straight from his pay check, and our $300 student loan payment is automatic because we get a .5% discount on the interest, but anything extra, for the time being, we’re moving ourselves. At least until we work out the kinks in our budget.

So a month in, two weeks after “closing” my account, and we’re still dealing with the switch over. It’s fairly frustrating, but a good learning experience.  I was able to close accounts on apps I didn’t like and I’m starting research on other things. It’s been a clunky process, and I would definitely change the way we did some of the things, but I’m happy with where we are.  

Did you have any hiccups along the way? I’d love to hear about them.

 

Meddling Money and Love

Welcome to our very first post on Table for Two. I’m very excited to go on this journey with you, and so is my husband, but he’s not writing this particular post. I am. Table for Two was my brainchild, and he more than happily hopped on. So he’ll write some posts; I’ll write some others, and we’ll have a grand ole time together. That’s what marriage is, isn’t it?

This blog will primarily be about marriage and money. And to that point, I wanted to give you an idea of our financial situation.  Currently, our net worth is roughly -$21,000.00–go student loans–but thankfully that’s all the debt we had. His family invested in Amazon when he was a little tot, so he doesn’t have any.  My family, however, was not so fortunate, and I graduated with just over $32,000 in loans. We’ve since paid it down to $29000, and I’m hoping to be under the $20k mark by the end of the year, but we’re still not sure if that’s possible.  

This month has been all about learning to mesh finances. Before we were married, we knew where each other were financially, but we kept everything separated.  His life, his money. My life, my money. But now that we’re married, and living together, that needs to change. We figured out pretty quickly that it doesn’t work well for us to run the household with two accounts. So we took the $2000 we were given from the wedding and open a joint savings account.  After that, we kinda paused on financial conversations and focused our efforts on unpacking our loft.

That shift was because a messy life makes for a stressed wife, and I was at the point where I couldn’t handle anything else until I felt like I had a safe (clutter-free) space to come home to. We’ve been in our place a week now, and it’s only now starting to feel like home. I finally unpacked the kitchen and the library. The bathroom is next. Then we’re going to move the rest of our stuff in from the in-laws and buy a bed. All that to be said, I feel like when I come home, that it is home and not someone else’s space that I’m renting. That type of security is important to me since I’ve never rented a whole house, just rooms from people.

The shift is exciting for us because we get to craft our space. However, the transition messed up a lot of my money habits. When I was single, I checked in almost religiously with my finances. I knew what was going where at any given point. I was in charge of my bills and debt repayment and would spend hours just for fun figuring out how I could allocate things and save more and more. I still want to do that, but budgeting for two is a lot bigger of a project, and I need his input.

Personally, that’s been a hard transition for me, especially since my husband has a different approach to money, and we’re learning to be lenient of each other and to find a system that works.

As part of that, we’ve combined all of our assets into two joint checking accounts and a money market savings account. The first checking account, we use for groceries, gas, eating out, and other flexible expenses. The second we allocate bill money, and bills are drawn from that at different points in the pay periods. For example, I know that rent is $1100 for us, including utilities. When I get paid, the 5th and the 20th, I allocate $550 to the account, that way, on the 15th, when the bill comes due, there will be enough in the account to cover it, and we don’t accidentally spend the money. We do that for car insurance, rent, student loans, renter’s insurance, our investment account, and our phone bill. Health insurance comes out of his paycheck, and so does a contribution to his 401k. This way, all of our expenses are covered directly out of the paycheck, without worrying about spending allocated money.

It’s a new system, and so far, I’m happy with it. It still has kinks we’ll have to work out, but overall, I’m excited.  What about you? Do you like it? What would you do differently?