Thursday, January 14, 2010

Two budgets, one paycheck.

"Money is always there but the pockets change; it is not in the same pockets after a change, and that is all there is to say about money."      ~ Gertrude Stein

One of the intricacies of having a spouse who works away from home for extended periods is maintaining two budgets - one for home and one for the road warrior - on one paycheck.

It costs money to set up a home away from home. Generally, Steve's options are to stay in a hotel or motel and eat most meals in bars and restaurants, or in the summertime he can find a campground and set up our travel trailer, cook his own meals, and be a little more comfortable.

We finally got to the point where we opened a checking account for work-related expenses because he never knew how much he would be driving (and spending on gas) from one week to the next and I was going a little bonkers trying to keep all the numbers straight in our main checking account. Throw in the occasional round of golf that every hardworking guy needs to partake in, plus maintenance and repairs on his truck, and a case of beer now and then - all mixed in with the regular household bills - and my head was about to explode.

It's much easier now that we have two separate accounts, but it is just as important that we continue to communicate about how much money is transferred from our main account - the "general fund" - to the work account and where the dollars from each account are being spent. It is far from a perfect system, but it allows me, the financial nerd, to keep my sanity.

This is a perfect example of why I love technology. I can work on the budget at home, send notes to Steve via e-mail, and he can look at it at his leisure and either send notes back or make suggestions the next time we talk. Technology also allows me to see current and pending transactions in either account, and to transfer money to and from our savings account with just a click of a button.

This week is probably the most frustrating for budgeting because we are between receiving the last unemployment benefits check and the first paycheck, Steve is trying to get settled in a new place, and I am looking forward to catching up on some bills. It's all about balance and I feel like we're teetering atop a high wire.

Have I mentioned that I am not a patient person?

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