Asperis

Ideas, rants and raves, with emphasis on Science, Politics, Personal Growth and Finance

Realistic Budgeting Possible?

Posted by The Lukester on January 10, 2008

Over at Wise Bread, Margaret Garcia-Couoh has a cute and to-the-point post. Titled Realistic Budgeting: The Marriage Saver, she suggests that couples get real about their “little” and/or secret expenses. I certainly have this in my relationship: I often discover empty Ann Taylor bags in the recycling, or a new watch on her dresser. If I ask, these items were always “on sale” or she had been “looking at it for a long time”. Meanwhile, over at the husband camp, I’ve had my share of small (really!) eBay or Amazon purchases (“that first-edition folio edition of The Silmarillion was only forty bucks! How could I resist?!”) and I have various ingenious ways to sneak them into the house looking like they’ve been there for years…

However, I think Garcia-Couoh’s suggestion to be honest isn’t the final answer. Of course, being honest is always a good idea, and is always the preferred approach, but sometimes it’s just better to shift the issue away from the marital hot-bed of argument and not have it be about honesty in the first place.

My suggestion is to budget for those items, but allow them to be un-itemized. In other words, each partner gets an agreed-upon amount of “play” money to spend on that very-important-but-probably-not-approved-by-the-partner stuff.

Think of it as the CIA “black budget” that Congress votes for without knowing its contents, or the petty cash supply many business keep on hand; It’s money to be spent without looking at too closely.

Of course if the marital “black budget” starts to impact the visible budget (“uh, we don’t have enough to keep the heat on – but don’t ask questions about my new Dremel MultiPro Cordless Two-Speed Rotary Tool System w/50 Accessories – I’ve been looking at it a long time and it was on sale!!”) then it’s time to rethink the allocated amounts and even the whole idea.

Sometimes honesty IS the best policy.

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