Money and Relationships: My Squeeze and Me

As my loyal readers will know, I moved in with my main squeeze two months ago. It has been just lovely, but it did bring up some new areas of discussion. We are not just roommates, but we are also not married and do not have legal rights to each other’s property. We aren’t ready for joint accounts yet, but we do have a lot of joint expenses. The bills at his/our place are a little higher than what I was paying before, but it is also a much better location and has a number of perks (like I get to live with my dreamy boyfriend).

Figuring out how we wanted to handle money together is not always easy, but we have had some good compromises and hopefully have figured out a system. It has been pretty pain free. (Ok, let’s be honest…it has been pain free for me because I love personal finance, but D does not love talking about money with me and I can see him squirming every time in bring up the subject with my excessive enthusiasm.)

So to give him a break from squirmily discussing our money, I will tell you all about the system we came up with:

-We set up a private googledocs spreadsheet (a la Lionel and Wilhemina) to track all of our mutual expenses. We put the receipts in a clip on the fridge and/or check our credit card statements, and fill in the spreadsheet each month. Whoever ends up having paid less writes a check to the other and then we start a fresh page of the spreadsheet.

-D is responsible for paying rent and utilities on time, because he lived here first so he already has the accounts set up in his name. We enter it in the spreadsheet and it goes into the overall expenses for the month.

-We pay the bills according to our take home pay. D makes a bit more than I do (but I negotiated my salary very successfully, I’m sure I’ll catch up soon!) so he pays a little more of the bills each month than I do.

We had a big discussion about whether we should divide the bills based on our take home pay or our pre-tax salary (aka, the number they tell you you are making when you get the job, not the amount you get on your actual paycheck). I contribute to my retirement accounts and my flexible spending healthcare account before I get my paycheck, but D is one of the lucky few who will get a pension when he retires, so he doesn’t contribute to a retirement account or a healthcare account.

I thought that I should be contributing based on our pre-tax amounts, because only I am benefiting from my healthcare account but (depending on our future together) either we both will benefit from my retirement savings, or just I will. D wanted to split bills based on our take home pay because he wanted to make sure I had enough to live on without feeling pinched.

It might seem a little ridiculous to be worried about this type of question because it doesn’t actually come down to very much money, but it it is important in our relationship that no one feels they are taken advantage of. This means that neither of us feels like we are paying more than we should, and neither of us feels like we always take out the trash.

Because we don’t know for sure where our futures will end up, it is hard to make decisions that deal with long term financial planning (like will D benefit from my retirement savings in 35 years? Hard to say.) It is difficult to be exactly fair with planning finances now, so we are doing the best we can and making sure we talk about it and we both agree.

-We have also started talking about long term savings goals together. We discussed the amount we are each putting aside (in separate savings accounts) for our savings goals, and we are in agreement on our savings priorities.

-I recently read that you should divide up tasks based on who is better at what in a relationship. In our case, that means I do most of the household shopping because I am a coupon rock star ($38 for $106 worth of home goods today, what what). He is an AMAZING planner, and he is great at taking advantage of Groupon deals and planning sweet dates and activities.

 

Our joint financial planning has just started, but I suspect it won’t be difficult to keep openly compromising. We created a system together, and if it doesn’t work, we will scrap it and create another system together. What is really important is communication, common goals, and that we care about each other more than we care about money. (Vomiting yet? Sorry not sorry!)

 

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My Version of Extreme Couponing

By writing this post I am revealing a somewhat embarrassing part of my budget strategy. While I admittedly love the show Extreme Couponing, I also think those people are a little crazy and I don’t think that extreme couponers offer much wisdom to ordinary people who don’t have access to 200 newspapers and 40 hours a week.

However.

CVS + coupons= AHmazing savings.

And the thing is, it is hardly any effort! I swear.

The first thing you must do to start your CVS savings spree is to subscribe to the Sunday paper. I would do this even if CVS didn’t exist because I like to see what Dagwood is up to while drinking my Sunday morning coffee, but Sunday paper delivery is usually less than $2 per week so even if you don’t read it, it’s not that expensive.

Next you need to sign up for a CVS card. Sign up for email too (even if you are normally opposed to sharing your email). Just do it.

Once you have your CVS card and newspaper in hand (plus coffee and a donut, because it’s Sunday)- look at the CVS circular. There will be a list of sales.

  • Some of the sales will be listed like a normal store- say, “2/$5”. Easy enough.
  • Some of the sales will have a little picture of a black scissors in the corner. This means that there is a coupon IN THE VERY PAPER YOU ARE READING for that product. Also very easy.
  • Some of the sales will give you something called “Extrabucks.” Extrabucks are basically free money to use at CVS on future purchases. You can find them at the end of your receipt after you have finished your purchase. They do expire, so make sure you use them. I keep them in my wallet just like normal cash (I live closer to a CVS than a grocery so it is good to have them when I need to pop in for more handsoap).
  • Sometimes the items on sale will have coupons in the paper but there won’t be a little black scissors symbol, so keep your eyes peeled when you are looking for the coupons that you already know are in there.
  • Almost every week, CVS has a deal on something that is completely free. This week it was a packet of M&Ms. Sometimes it is a roll of paper towels or a tube of toothpaste. CVS wants to get you in the door, and you can get free stuff!
  • Usually the items that go on sale are on sale in phases- so if you see that contact solution is on sale one week, buy it then! If you wait you probably won’t get as good of a deal. This is part of why all of those crazy couponers are kind of hoarders as well- but you are my clever reader and I know that you can be reasonable and realize that you don’t ever need 150 deodorants.

From just checking out the one flyer in your Sunday paper, you can plan a pretty good trip to CVS. But there are a few more tricks that can help you save even more!

  • That crazy price scanner machine at the front of the store is actually an amazing coupon dispenser. Swipe your CVS card at the scanner (before you start shopping!) Good. Now swipe it again. Keep swiping until the machine is out of coupons. That is a little trick from me to you!
  • When a CVS coupon says, say “Save $3 when you spend $12 on hair products,” the $12 is the pre-coupon amount. So say you have 3 coupons for $1 off of a shampoo that is normally $4. You can buy 3 shampoos, apply the $3 off coupon, and then apply the 3 $1 coupons. You pay $6 for $12 worth of shampoo. Totally legit.
  • Those emails that you signed up for will send you awesome coupons in your email. Like $10 off when you spend $30. Or 25% off of your purchase.
  • Sign up for the CVS beauty club (men can do this too). This offer gives you $5 in extrabucks when you spend $50 on applicable “beauty” products- which not only includes makeup but also includes shampoo and lotions. Basically 10% off of certain purchases all the time.
  • If you get really into CVS coupons you can use iheartcvs.com to plan your trips. I find it a little tricky to use, but lots of people love it.

Here is an example of what you can save at CVS with a minimal amount of work (this week, so you can still get these deals!)

-Cheerios are on sale 2/$6, but when you buy 2 your get $2 in extrabucks back. The newspaper had a buy 2 get $1 off coupon, so I paid $1.50 per box of Cheerios. They usually cost $4.50 per box. Yum.

-Men’s Gillette razors are buy 2 get $3 extrabucks. The newspaper had a coupon for buy 2 get 1 free. Each 4-pack of razors was $8.50. I spent $14 and I got $26 worth of razors.

-Women’s Bic razors are on sale for $6.99 and when you buy one pack you get $2 extrabucks. The paper had a buy one get one free coupon, so I spent $4.99 for $14 worth of razors (even better!)

You get the idea. Today I spent $45, got $13 in extrabucks back, and got $112 worth of products. I didn’t have to go dumpster diving for coupons, I didn’t spend 60 hours prepping for my trip, and I only bought things that I need or that I will need in the next few months (not deodorants I won’t use until 2050). Sometimes when there are excellent deals on things I won’t need or don’t use (free diapers anyone?) I donate them to charity, but I don’t let it take over my life or my closet space.

Mainly, I just think of it as a game. If it ever becomes unfun or too much work, I won’t do it anymore. But until then, I’ll keep on enjoying my free M&Ms.

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