Top Ten Things I Haven’t Bought (But Really Wanted To)

When my old boss was saving to buy a new house, she decided to keep a running list of all the things she wanted to buy but didn’t. Each day, she totalled how much she had “saved” as a morale booster. These are the things I’ve been jonesing for, but have not bought for the sake of our Total Money Makeover.

  1. Trip to New York over Spring Break – $1,500
  2. Adorable dresser from IKEA – $300
  3. Bed and headboard from IKEA – $800
  4. Window treatments for my living room, basement, kitchen, and bedroom – approx. $320
  5. Dyson vacuum – $550
  6. iPad – $500
  7. MacBookPro – $1200
  8. Vizio TV with apps – $2,200
  9. Honda Civic Hybrid – $24,000
  10. A mustang for Dexter – $23,000

In our culture, lots of people would have gone out and charged most of these things. I’m thankful to have had parents who made sure I knew how dangerous credit cards can be. So, for my morale booster today, I’ve saved $54,370 (+ tax and interest)!

Maybe it’s silly to think I would have bought all of these things. However, with the exception of the cars, I’ve thought to myself on more than one occasion, “It would be so useful. I should just get it before I think better of it.”

Find more Top Ten Tuesday at Oh Amanda!


Total Money Makeover Update: March 2011

Photo Credit: Egahen

The past 28 days have been busy. Although in January I resolved to use cash for all of our spending, we never made it to the bank to get cash for this month. Fortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time for shopping, either, so I didn’t waste money on things we didn’t need. We bought food and toilet paper, and we paid our bills.

We had a friend move into our basement for a three-or-four-month stay and invited another friend to eat dinner with us on a regular basis, so we had to increase our grocery budget. I’m still figuring out what a grocery budget for three grown men and one woman should look like. Fortunately, I don’t think it will quite double what we currently spend. Hopefully, it will help us to use up everything we buy and will force me to plan meals better. (It’s a lot harder to “wing it” at dinner time when there are four stomachs to feed!) I may have gone a little crazy buying canned food for the nights I don’t feel up to cooking. There were some good sales on Indian food and Muir Glen organic soups the weekend our friend moved in, and I bought about 16 cans (which is really only about 8 meals). I’m hoping to get some freezer cooking done over spring break to further save money and take the stress out of making dinner. (Dish suggestions welcome!)

Last month, I shared a review of the progress we made after having done our Total Money Makeover for a whole year. It was rewarding to see how all our hard work has paid off! When I made this month’s budget, I was a little disappointed. We had lots of extra income due to our tax return, but we also had some larger-than-usual expenses, so the extra loan payment amount on my spreadsheet looked pretty boring and average. However, after totalling our remaining debt and calculating our percentage, I’m encouraged. This month, we paid off 1.1% of our debt and we have 76.6% to go.

I’m also encouraged as I look at the balances for each of our loans. I can see a difference even in the balance even for the loans we haven’t paid extra on. Debt #3, which we are working on now, is looking pretty conquerable. I’m hoping to have it gone by July 1. Debts #4 and #5 are still dauntingly huge, but Debt #5’s biggest digit will drop next month.

Currently, I’m taking Leah’s advice and praying for God to provide opportunities to earn extra money and speed up our debt repayment. For now, we’re pressing on and are hoping to be at the 75% point very soon!

Total Money Makeover Update: February 2011 and One Year Review!

First Birthday
One year ago, Dexter and I made the decision to buckle down about getting out of debt. We pored over Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book, and my aunt and uncle gave us a subscription to Financial Peace University. Then we put what we learned into action. We cancelled our credit cards, switched to using a cash envelope system for most of our purchases, and we revised and tracked our budget month after month. We were encouraged as we tracked our debt repayment and had big months like April and July. We were discouraged the months we were lax about our spending or didn’t have much extra income.

It’s been a month since our last Total Money Makeover Update. In those 31 days, we paid off 0.9% of our debt. We also brought our baby emergency fund back up to $1,000 (because we realized after-the-fact last month that the money wasn’t all there to fill it up). We also took care of a few yearly expenses. We stayed pretty close to budget in most areas and succeeded in using the cash system *most* of the month.

Let’s take a look at the year in review, seeing what percent of our debt was repaid each month in the last year.

This brings us to a total of 22.3% of our debt GONE! We have 77.7% to go. Let’s break it down some more.

  • Highest Month – April (thanks to the tax-credit we received for buying our home!)
  • Lowest Month – September (my third consecutive month without a real paycheck)
  • Average Per Month – 1.9%
  • Projected finish date at the beginning: March 2014
  • Projected finish date at 1.9% paid per month: June 2014
  • Projected 50% date at 1.9% paid per month: May 2012

I so badly wanted to sell off everything we own to get down to 75% this month. I thought that being a quarter of the way through our debt in a quarter of the time we wanted to take to pay it off sounded really good. It’s disappointing to realize that we’re a few months behind schedule. However, I’m so thankful for how far we’ve come. Our debt is scheduled by the banks to be paid off in 20-30 years. Four years and some extra months is so much more encouraging than 30!

I’m also refusing to be discouraged because of some things we’ll be changing in the next year.

  • Last year, we saved $200/month to replace our car whenever that becomes necessary. Because we think we have enough saved to replace our car’s transmission if that were to go out or to buy an old car to tide us over till we’re out of debt, we’ve decided to stop saving for a car. From now on, we’ll have an extra $200 a month to put toward our debt!
  • Starting this summer, we’ll be having the housemate who lived with us last year move back in. Although last summer he lived here for the cost of groceries and a little for utilities, since he’ll be staying here long-term, we’ll actually be making a little profit from rent. We researched how much he’d be paying for accommodations nearby and are charging him a lower price. We’re hoping to save him money and speed up our debt repayment a little, too!

Most importantly, we’re refusing to be discouraged because we’re trusting God to work out our financial situation as he sees fit. If he wants us to be done in March 2014, that’s when we’ll be done. If he wants us to be done in June 2014 (or later), we’ll trust that his plan is good. If he wants us to be done earlier, I definitely won’t fight him either!

We’d like to say thanks to all of you who have encouraged us over the past year. Your positive comments, especially in the slowest months, meant a lot to us. Although we’ve heard stories about people being mocked and even berated about their decision to live frugally and become debt free, we’ve been blessed to have family and friends who think it’s cool that we’re making these financial decisions.

Let’s get year 2 of this Total Money Makeover started!

Money Monday: How I Track My Budget

It took me a long time to find a method of keeping track of our budget that was simple and efficient. Everybody has a different system. One of my aunts doesn’t have Quicken (or a system like it), online banking, or a debit card. She loves the simplicity. Alicia uses a handwritten ledger, and explains her system here. I used Microsoft Money before they stopped updating it and no longer offered online support. I tried for a while, but it wouldn’t upload all my accounts, or I’d have to change my password and it wouldn’t let me login, and it wouldn’t let me split transactions (if I bought both gifts and groceries at the same store) the way I wanted to. We splurged for Quicken, and I finally have a thorough but easy-to-use system.

At the beginning of each month, I figure out how much money we have leftover from the previous month, predict our salaries and expenses for the month, and record them on an excel spreadsheet* (shown above, download here).  Once the income and the necessary expenses are filled in, I allot money for birthdays or weddings we’ll be shopping for that month, date nights and spending money, and most importantly, I use up the rest of our money in an extra loan payment as part of our total money makeover.

Then, I take out cash for several of our spending categories. Ideally, I’d walk into the bank and get the exact bills I need in one trip. Unfortunately, we often fail to get to the bank when it’s open, so we hit the ATM several times over the course of the first week to fill our envelopes. When I withdraw the cash, I categorize the transaction in Quicken with the exact amounts of cash that went to each category. Here’s what typically goes into our envelopes each month:

  • General Groceries: $200
  • Stock-Up Groceries: $50
  • Church Groceries: $20
  • Clothes: $50-100
  • Toiletries, Cleaning & Other Household: $50-100
  • Date Night: $50-100
  • “Blow Money”: $20 for each of us
  • Love Budget“: $10 for each of us

We try not to use our bank cards of any of these things. If we do, whether because we left cash at home or we bought something online, we deposit that cash back into the bank and note in Quicken what category that money should go to.

Ideally, several times throughout the month, I download my transactions from my bank’s website, assign each one a spending category, and compare Quicken to my spreadsheet. This process shows me how much room we have in the budget for non-cash categories and lets me make sure none of our envelopes “owe money to the bank.” In real life, this happens once in the middle of the month before I write our extra loan payment check and before our mortgage and other larger bills go through, and then at the end of the month.

To quickly compare my spending recorded in Quicken to my budget spreadsheet, I use the exact same category and subcategory names in Quicken that I do on my spreadsheet. Quicken will create a report for me of my spending in each category for a period of time (shown above), so I pull that up alongside my spreadsheet whenever I want to check how closely we’re following our budget. Unlike Dave Ramsey’s worksheets that put things in order of priority, e.g.: tithing first, then housing, etc., my spreadsheet alphabetizes the categories and subcategories so I can quickly glance from Quicken to the spreadsheet to compare.

At the end of the month, I enter our actual income and expenses. The surplus shown in our spreadsheet should exactly match the balance in Quicken on the last day of the month. (That works for us because we’re only tracking these categories in one account. It would be harder if you had multiple checking accounts or credit cards involved in the process. Which is exactly why I don’t have those!) If the numbers don’t match, I double-check Quicken and my spreadsheet to find the problem. Then, I start over again and prepare our budget for the following month.

What budgeting tips do you have? What money management system works for you or your family?

*I didn’t create this entirely myself. I found one from a friend of a friend of a friend online and adapted it, but I can’t find the source now. If it was you, thanks!

Total Money Makeover Update: January 2011

Photo Credit: brokenarts

Thanks to Dexter getting three paychecks this month instead of two, we were able to recover from last month’s spending spree, refill our emergency fund, and make a big extra payment on Debt #3. The first digit (biggest place value) in Debt #3 dropped by two this month, which is exciting for me as I look for any glimmer of hope as I calculate our debt each month.

Our day-to-day spending wasn’t as good as our big payments. We ate out more than we should have this month, and I definitely didn’t update my checkbook every day like I promised. I also gave myself permission to only use envelopes for groceries. This wasn’t very effective, because I kept forgetting about my envelopes altogether and used my card anyway. We’ll be back to the envelope system next month. We only use our bank card for the ATM, gas, and online purchases. I’m trying to devise a way to leave my bank card at home so I’m not tempted to use it or don’t accidentally use it. I wonder if I can use gift cards to pay at the pump at any gas stations? Then, as long as I get all my cash ahead of time or by going inside the bank, I shouldn’t need my card.

I was thinking about buying a refill of Dave Ramsey envelopes and reinforcing them with packing tape, but they’re currently out of stock. I like that they’re bound together, but they didn’t last long. I’d also probably cut the flaps off the envelopes because it takes too long to find my envelope and open it when I’m checking out. (It doesn’t seem like a legitimate problem, but I felt so slow when I used it before!) I also found this template for cute tabbed envelopes. I’m still deciding if it’s worth my time to make these when I can just use the plain white standard envelopes I already have. Maybe it would give me some inspiration to get back on track with my envelopes!

In summary, we paid off 1.8% of our debt this month and have 78.6% to go. We hope to pay off the rest of Debt #3, almost 8% of our total debt, this summer. Then we’ll just have two (miserably huge) debts to go!

Tune in next month for the one-year summary of our Total Money Makeover!

Total Money Makeover Update: December

If I were to choose a month for Dave Ramsey himself to swing over to my blog to check up on how we’re doing, I would not choose this month.

I didn’t use envelopes. We used money from our emergency account for a definite non-emergency. Gasp! (We bought a camera and fixed the car. I’m going to pretend the car stuff was a surprise so it will count as an emergency.) We bought lots of Christmas gifts and didn’t pay any extra on our loans.

I really loved not using envelopes. I’m so tempted to stop. 

I promise I would update the budget on the computer every single day.

Any thoughts? Do you think cash is worth the hassle? When I first started using it, my grocery spending dropped by 1/3. I’m hoping I’ve just developed wiser shopping habits and that I’ve been trained to spend sparsely.

As I predicted last month, we didn’t make monumental progress on our loans this month. Without making any extra payments, we paid of 0.8% of our debt this month and have 80.4% remaining.

Next month, we’ll refill our emergency fund and resume making extra loan payments. Funding for my after school job was almost cut entirely, but thankfully, I’m still able to be paid for 5 days of tutoring a month. I’m looking forward to having a little more planning time after school while still getting to work with my students once or twice a week.

Top Ten Tuesday & My First Blog Giveaway

Top Ten {Tuesday}

Ten months ago, Dexter and I started on our Total Money Makeover journey. Since then, we’ve built a $1,000 emergency fund and paid off almost 20% of our debt. Last month, Dexter and I gave a presentation at our house church about the basics of Dave Ramsey’s baby steps and biblical money principles.  Dave doesn’t pay us to be excited about his financial plan or to tell people about his methods, but beginning to follow Dave’s baby steps has changed our financial future so much that I can’t help but be excited about the hope it can bring people.

Don’t buy it yet? Here are our top ten reasons to do a Total Money Makeover with Dave.

  1. Freedom from financial bondage. Proverb 22:7 says, “The rich rules over the poor, but the borrower is slave to the lender.” There are things we can’t do or don’t feel like we can do because of our debt. Once it’s gone, no one will be making claims on our income.
  2. Building character through discipline. Many people believe God doesn’t care about their money. In one sense, they’re right. God doesn’t love rich people any better than he loves poor people. However, our money habits often shed light on the condition of our heart, and God cares about our hearts. Persevering through a journey toward debt freedom can build character as well as financial security. James 1:4 says, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
  3. When we honor the Lord with our finances, we reap his blessing. I’m certainly not saying that God will reward you financially or immediately for the responsible choices or generous giving you do. However, Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine.” God sees the bigger picture and may choose to bless you eternally rather than materially on Earth.
  4. Ability to give generously. It is thought that Theophilus, who was mentioned at the beginning of the book of Luke, allowed Luke to dedicate time to writing important accounts of the life of Christ and the early church by providing financial support. Being able to support children through Compassion or missionaries through Gospel for Asiais a great way to participate in the spreading of the gospel worldwide. Right now, Dexter and I do tithe at our local church and give to certain charitable organizations, but once we are free from debt, we’ll be able to give more and accomplish more with our money.
  5. Know how to provide for loved ones through debt-freedom, insurance, savings. We’ve learned about the benefits of debt freedom (and how to get there), important kinds of insurance to purchase, and what good savings goals are. Hopefully, we’ll be able to keep our future children’s childhoods free from stressful financial chaos, teach them biblical and practical truths about finances, and help our family and friends on their journey to financial security.
  6. Everything is simplified. After we canceled our credit cards, I was amazed at how streamlined balancing the checkbook and tracking our budget became. Instead of tracking purchases from 3 or 4 cards, forgetting to pay bills for cards we didn’t use often, and accidentally recording transactions for the wrong card, I now only have to look at our checking account. Since we use cash for groceries, household items, and discretionary spending, the number of transactions I have to track has significantly reduced. This has been a huge timesaver.
  7. Preparation for emergencies. Things that used to be stressful emergencies can be planned for, or at least taken care of with the emergency fund or sufficient insurance.
  8. Actions and patterns of thinking to set us apart from the world. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Dave Ramsey often says, “If normal is broke, I don’t want to be normal.” Having the priority of financial responsibility and generosity will set us apart in a consuming culture.
  9. Fulfilling dreams. Some of our dreams include traveling, working from home, and adopting children. All of these will require saving money and building financial security. What dreams could you fulfill if you weren’t worried about finances?
  10. Learning how to change your financial future just got easier! Because Dave Ramsey’s plan has blessed us so much, we wanted to pass on some of our newfound knowledge to you. Below, see information on the books I’m giving away and how to enter the giveaway.

The first book I’ll be giving away is Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. I’ve read this book a number of times and have consulted it to refresh my memory on some of Dave’s core concepts. It contains lots of inspiring stories about people who worked hard and succeeded at paying off their debt.

I’ll also be giving away a copy of Financial Peace Revisited, the companion book to Dave’s Financial Peace University class. In it, you’ll find information about Dave’s own journey from wealth to financial trouble and back again. It also contains snippets written by his wife Sharon.

Finally, I’ll be giving a way a copy of More than Enough: The 10 Keys to Changing Your Financial Destiny. In it, Dave addresses unity in marriage, building financial vision, and practical information about how to implement a financial plan.

If you’ve never learned about Dave’s plan, these books are a great introduction. If you are well-versed in the seven baby steps, these books make a great gift to someone you know who is looking for financial guidance.

Enter the giveaway up to four times by following the steps below.

  1. Leave a comment below telling me what you do if you were financially free. If I don’t know you in real life, include your email address or your name on Twitter so I know how to reach you if you win.
  2. Post about this giveaway (with a link) on Twitter. Leave a comment here telling me that you did.
  3. Post about this giveaway (with a link) on Facebook. Leave a comment here telling me that you did.
  4. Write about this giveaway (with a link) on your blog. Leave another comment telling me that you did.

The giveaway will end on Sunday, December 12, at 11:59 pm CST. Winners will be announced on Monday, December 13.

This post is linked to Top Ten Tuesday at Oh Amanda and Giveaways Galore at Money Saving Mom.

Total Money Makeover Update: November

I have to admit, it’s not very exciting to post about this “plodding along” stage of our Total Money Makeover. Months like April and July are WAY more fun to write about. I feel like we’re not making a lot of progress and that this stage will last forever. You know the verse that says “the borrower is a slave to the lender”? I can attest to that this month. Part of me feels like since Dexter and I are young and have no kids that we should be embarking on all sorts of expensive fun adventures…but we’re working and having at-home date nights with frozen pizza and Netflix (not that I don’t enjoy those!) all in the name of becoming debt free. Dave Ramsey also talks about being gazelle intense (watch this video)–working as hard as you can to get out of debt as fast as you can. I feel like we’re being fairly “gazelle intense” with our budget. And really, we have plenty of income and can make payments that I think are pretty impressive toward our debt each month. However, we have a pretty big amount of debt. So, I feel like I’m trying to drink a swimming pool a bucket at a time.

This month was really busy (hence the blog neglect). It started with Dexter’s birthday. Then, all of a sudden, we got a social life! We went got into a concert for free (on a school night!), had friends over for dinner and Thursday night TV, had respective girl/guy outings, I had a conference for work followed by an unexpected girls’ night with an old coworker, had an evening meeting or two, had a Guy Fawkes Day party, and took a day trip to Illinois for a church conference. All in 10 days. And my house was clean for most a lot of that. I’m even more amazed than you are.

Because of all that busyness, I did a crummy job of keeping track of my envelopes. In fact, I even hired a friend to clean my house (on the last day of that whirlwind while we were at the conference) and used cash pulled from random envelopes to pay her. Luckily, being busy with things that don’t cost a ton means there’s no time for dilly-dallying around in the clearance aisles at Target, nor for scoping out the deals at the health food store, so we came in under budget. (It’s ironic that finding deals is how I often break our budget.)

We also had the privilege to teach some of what we’ve learned from Dave Ramsey to our house church. It was a challenge to compile so much information into a short presentation, but it was a good mental exercise and helped us review what we know and reminded us why we’re doing what we’re doing.

The raw numbers: this month we paid off 1.5% of our debt and have 81.2% to go.

Next month, most of our extra cash will be going toward Christmas gifts, so I’m not expecting a huge drop in percent. However, in my January update, I fully expect to be reporting a “percentage remaining” that starts with a seven. And I think it would be even better if the seven was followed by a digit lower than nine.

By George, I think she’s got it!

I’ve been using the envelope system since February, and every month is a new fight. Generally, by the end of the month, I have decided to “remember” that the purchase I made at Target used cash from the clothing and household envelopes, but also contained items that fall under the pet care, grocery, and gift categories. I’ve lost the receipt so I can’t remind myself of what I bought, can’t read the abbreviations on the receipt, have forgotten how much I took out of which envelopes, and/or have tried to re-organize the envelopes, but did it wrong because I was distracted and can’t figure out how to get back to square one.

This seems much too complicated for a system that works by putting money in envelopes, spending it, and stopping when it’s gone.

But, this month, I have a new plan. Here’s how I plan to combat Envelope Stupidity System.

I will:

  • Keep the envelopes with me at all times–no “I’ll just remember I put this on the card” for me. This will  be much easier now that I have a wallet with envelopes cut to size and labeled with cute stickers.

  • Plan ahead. This means meal planning and making grocery lists. This means planning meals that I will have time to make and eat on the nights I plan to eat them. This means planning dates that are free or cheap (which takes more planning than, “Let’s go to Olive Garden.”)
  • Divide my cash into very specific categories. This month, instead of one envelope for groceries, I have three. One is labeled “Stock Up” for things I want to buy in bulk when they’re on sale. The second is labeled “Church” for when I need to take food to church. The third is labeled “Groceries” which I will use for food items I need that week. I plan to take out 1/4 of my monthly grocery allowance every Saturday and make my weekly purchases with that money.
  • Ask cashiers to ring up my items separately. Often, when I’m shopping with Dexter, I’ll give him one envelope and send him to another checkout line with a few items so my envelopes stay pure. However, sometimes I’ll be by myself or have more than two categories I’m buying in. I’ve asked several cashiers to do this for me this weekend, and they’ve all been really nice about it. I always feel like a jerk for creating more work, but I think it will be worth it when I can easily figure out how much money we have left at the end of the month.
  • Say no. Last year, my students were constantly asking me if I had change for the vending machines. The poor little creatures were hungry, so I dug through my envelopes pulling out ones helter skelter, making one of my very helpful “mental notes” about which envelopes that $5 bill needed to be split into. This year, I’ll be Mrs. Mean-Teacher. If I don’t have all the ones in one envelope, no change for the kiddos. It also helps that they’re turning off the vending machines until after school this year.
  • Update Quicken at least every three days. This way, whenever I take out cash, I’ll be assigning it a category in Quicken soon enough that I won’t forget which envelope I put the money in. It’ll also keep me up-to-date on assigning categories in Quicken for items we don’t use cash for–like gas, dog food, and bills.

I don’t know that things will run perfectly in the envelope department this month, but it can’t hurt to identify specific problems and work out solutions. One thing I still need to work out is how to give Dexter some grocery money for any, “Can you pick this up on the way home from work?” trips to the store. He carries a minimalistic wallet like this which makes it hard for him to divide his money–and if does get divided, there’s very little chance he’ll remember where he put what money.

How do you keep your budget straight? Do you use cash and envelopes? A debit card and Quicken? Are you a religious receipt keeper? I’d love to hear any tips you have to help us keep on track!

The Love Budget

Sometimes, you just need a little romance in your life. I believe that marriages that have budgets can also have romance. I don’t know how to make this work well yet, but I am determined to learn.

Last month, Dexter and I bought Wild at Heart by John Eldredge as an audiobook on iTunes. We listened to it on one of our many trips to visit family. It gave us a lot of insight about Dexter and a lot to consider as we make life decisions. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it. There is also a “women’s version” of Wild at Heart called Captivating (co-authored by John and Stasi Eldredge) which Dexter ordered for me on paperback swap. Fitz chewed it up, but it survived and I’ve read most of it. Being the well-rounded, nice, Christian girl that I am, I didn’t expect to learn much from the book.

I was wrong. Although I did skim over a lot of parts that seemed more descriptive than helpful or that seemed to repeat what I had just read in Wild at Heart, whenever it was Stasi Eldredge writing, I felt like she was telling me about myself. I learned that a lot of women feel lonely, even when they have good husbands. Wow, am I glad that’s normal. The book also talks about how women are often made to feel guilty because they are “too much and not enough,” meaning that they require too much (attention, romance, consideration) but that they don’t have it in them to do what they need to do (raise kids, keep the house spotless, exercise and eat right, exhibit general perfection). Captivating argues that women’s desires to be loved and romanced aren’t too much, but that they are a reflection of the way God wants us to love him. Reading Captivating helped me to realize I can be (and need to be) honest with Dexter about missing the “good ol’ days” of flowers, little gifts, surprise dates, and gazing into each others’ eyes over mochas (or, since our metabolism has slowed down since high school, tea or coffee with skim milk).

In one of our conversations about ramping up the romance factor in our lives, Dexter mentioned that it was hard for him to plan things because he was never sure what money to use or how much was left at that point in the month. He has a valid claim. I keep all of our cash envelopes in my wallet, and I keep up on our spending on Quicken throughout the month. I don’t usually bother to give him updates because he is so rarely the one to spend the money.

In our date envelope each month, we get $50. We hope to be able to squeeze two meals out (or ordered in) out of this. That doesn’t leave a lot of change in the envelope for romantic gestures. We also each get $20 a month of “blow money” as Dave Ramsey calls it. Sometimes, this lasts a long time (when I don’t have time to shop!), but sometimes, on day two of the fiscal month I spend $13 on a wallet that fits my envelope system and have enough left for about two lattes.

So, I’m looking for your advice. My advice to Dexter was, “I don’t care. Get a credit card. I just want you to do something!” but we both knew how mad I’d be if that happened.

How do you budget for romance? Do you add onto your “blow money” fund? Spend what you want and hope it works out? Have a “gift” envelope? I’ll try anything!