Budgeting From a Woman's Perspective
Updated: Jul 17, 2018
Sunni Lippincott shares how she and her husband began their journey to financial freedom and how the habits of Cooperation, Spending Sensibly, and Gratitude can guide you through it.
I’m married to a financial advisor, so when I hear the word, “budget,” the best way I can think to describe it would be as a “General Partnership” (GP). Investopedia defines a GP as “a venture in which all parties share the legal and financial liability of the partnership equally.” Now, why would I portray a budget this way? Well, the answer is simple: unless you are single, you cannot fully commit to a budget or any financial plan unless BOTH parties are on board and willing to change.
I remember the first time my very determined husband approached me with his freshly-made budget in hand. Now, let me be the first to admit that my math skills are lacking! But even with my inadequacy at understanding numbers, I noticed the total debt amount was considerably larger than that of our income total. I immediately felt deflated. How can you take nothing (what I thought we had once our bills were paid) from a very large something (our debt), and make any progress? This is where the GP comes into play.
My husband saw the look of desperation and hopelessness on my face (so very common when most people look at a budget for the first time) and he offered a very simple answer to my question. My partner smiled and said, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
Now I know what you’re thinking. It’s probably the same thing I used to think every time I would read any self-help material: “Well, that’s great for you, but you don’t understand my situation! I’ve tried and tried, but (enter any excuse here).” I’m here to tell you that you could not be more wrong if you tried. I’ve been there; I had it all, then lost it all. I went from the big, beautiful home to a 400 sq ft trailer. I’m no different than any other woman. “If you prick me, do I not bleed? If you tickle me, do I not laugh? If you take away my ability to buy things, will I not bring down a verbal Armageddon?” The answer is a resounding, YES - just ask my husband.
So, then how did I get here, to the point of not just accepting but loving and fully implementing our budget? How can a wife see a budget as something to embrace and not fear? How can she take that first “bite of the elephant” and get started on making financial management a supportive experience? I’ve broken it down into a three-step process that I will explain in detail. It all goes back to the GP: Cooperation, Spending Sensibly, and Gratitude.
You have to cooperate in order to set a plan into motion. This will involve actually sitting down together and deciding upon a budget that is both fair and realistic. This is the part that can get dicey if you let it. A husband might think that $20 a month for clothing for a family of four is completely fair, to which a woman might reply with a not-so-kind objection, and may in turn point out something of her husband’s that should be taken away.
My point is just this: don’t point! Finger pointing will get you nowhere. You are not there to rehash the problems; this is the time where you only want to figure out and work towards the solutions. You must each give and take. For example, while $20 might not stretch far enough for a family’s clothing expense, find a common ground and amount that works for BOTH of you. The key here is to be reasonable in your expectations. Start by adding up all the bills that must be paid first, then divide what’s left into categories that allow you to have an “allowance,” if you will.
There are many budget breakdowns online that are available to you and your partner as references and examples, and if you’re still finding that you’re unable to find that commonality then look into asking an outside source for help. A financial advisor, or mediator, can help coach you through this step. What you have to remember is that budgets won’t break you as a couple. They will actually bring you closer together by allowing you, as a team, to tell your money where to go. This will lead straight into our next step.
Albert Einstein put it best when he said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It is the same with spending! It is crazy to think you’ll reach any of your financial goals by doing the same things that got you into debt. Women especially can help with this step in the ways that they manage their households. While budgeting is a joint venture, women generally have better insight into daily expenditures like groceries, clothing, personal items, etc. Making just a few changes here and there in methods of spending can make all the difference to the overall household budget.
For example, who has waited until the cupboard was bare and you were starving to go get groceries? I’m going to show my age, but do you remember the game show, Supermarket Sweep? Go to the grocery store hungry and you’ll be throwing any and everything in that cart with reckless abandon. But if you plan ahead, decide your meals for the week and tally all needed ingredients, you will then buy out of necessity instead of want. Watch your total bill decrease drastically from just that bit of planning and control alone! If you also locate a grocery store near you with online ordering, you can then grocery shop from the comfort of your home – making it easier to track spending, decrease impulse buys, and save time! (Remember, time is money!)
Going back to clothing a family, another way to spend sensibly is to hunt for deals. As parents, we know one glaring truth about children: they grow at an alarming rate. Consignment shopping is an excellent way to keep up with the demand of dressing your little ones. Not only can you buy very nice clothing, but they will accept your clothing to consign as well. Essentially, it works by you taking your outgrown clothing to the consignment store, where they will process and sell it, splitting the profit with you. You can accept payment in form of a check or store credit.You could shop for free!
I could go on and on, but once you open your eyes to the fact that you have other options besides just “spending,” you will see the plethora of opportunities around you to save money!
Lastly, I want to hit on the most important step for budgeting and managing your finances.
I cannot stress gratitude enough! How can you ever be happy with what you get if you’re not happy with what you have?
Who has said to himself or herself, “If I could just paint this house, I would be happy!” Well, what happens after you paint? In the light of the new paint, the furniture that was perfectly satisfactory before now seems dingy and worn. This domino effect will go on and on, and as much as you like to think that contentment is right around the corner, unfortunately it’s something that you will just never be able to afford.
Instead, start today with an attitude of gratitude! Be thankful for what you have right at this moment. Even if you’re starting your journey with loads of debt, you can be sure that you have something to be grateful for. Look around you, list them out loud and list them often. You’ll find that your list will start to grow quite quickly, as will your ability to live in the “now.” You will want to utilize this step, believe me. It won’t cost you a thing, and it will absolutely change your life.
So, there you go! There’s no secret formula or scientific method involved with being happy as a woman on a budget. I’m just a normal girl, focused on living a life of cooperation, sensibility, and gratitude. These are all traits that you yourself possess already; you just have to become conscious of them. I hope that I have reduced or eliminated some of the fear involved with starting out on a new budget. I know this has helped me change my own perception of the journey!
Are you and your spouse ready to begin that General Partnership? If so, then start right now! It’s time to stare down your debt, erase your doubt, and take that first bite.
Written By Sunni Lippincott