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PERSONAL

Bashing Out A Budget

THEY say that money is the cause of most arguments and the most common cause of failed relationships. So by the time you meet the person who you know you want something serious with, it would be a good idea to learn about the concept of budgeting – also known as living within your means.

I moved in to Ben’s home a short time after we got together. It may have been a little spur of the moment, but it was because Ben was talking about forever. He started the conversation about planning for our future and saving money.

We had already reduced our outgoings with me giving up my let of a different apartment. Ben had bigger plans for us though. He was happy in his job. He was a much loved, valued employee of a company he had worked for over a ten year period. Yet he wanted to build a life with me. He had been offered very lucrative contracts before because of his highly sought after skills. But he accepted an offer for a two year contract that he felt would provide for our future.

Ben and I moved to England, a place I considered more home than anywhere else, after spending most of my childhood with relatives here. The reason we are here is that Ben wanted a huge boost to his savings account which this contract enables for him. I also found a pretty decent job – the salary is good for England, but I know in other countries I would be paid more for doing this amount of work. Still I have no complaints because my boss has allowed me to work remotely so that I could accompany Ben when his work meant travelling for longer periods. (Ironically, she had to fight for me to make that possible, but since March 2020, most staff are working remotely.)

Ben and I both know how much is coming in from our combined salaries. But Ben did not want our life to be all about the future. Life is best lived in the present. So after we found a modest yet pleasant house to rent (outside of London proved a lot cheaper, but prior to the pandemic I had a two hour commute to work), we discussed how to divide the rest of our income. Deciding where to draw the line between enjoying life now and saving for our future has been a subject for numerous discussions.

As you may have figured if you know anything about Ben and I – he tends to be the one who has the most balanced view. I would tend to go to extremes. I have strange desire to ensure that I or we are completely independent from family. I have deep reasons for that. Ben has no wish to be reliant on family either, although it saddens him that I have such deep revulsion of being the recipient of monetary or material gifts from my wealthy parents. It’s complicated and emotional.

So for me, the desire to make sure Ben and I can do whatever we want in the future would make me practice strict self-denial, and live a monk’s life of simple fare and little comfort. I could do that until I was exhausted and then when I was burnout I would blow a fortune on luxuries to bring myself some happiness. Ben is balanced. He has no wish for us to live like misers but he does not want to waste money on expensive furniture when we don’t plan to be in this house for long.

He has made sure our income allows for us to save substantially and yet budget for us to enjoy life now. We do enjoy life now – even despite the lockdown. We enjoy good food and we have spent a limited amount of money on things to make our home (cushions, lamps and a decent coffee machine) as well as our garden (plants, cheap garden furniture and lanterns) more comfortable while we are here.

I am excited about the prospect of a future with Ben. We talk about what that future may entail – our own house, marriage, children…and more. We have made decisions to enable us to save more money for the future, including leaving jobs we liked, moving across the Atlantic, renting a pokey English house (lol – the size of typical English homes compared with those in the US is insane) and being content with a fairly modest lifestyle and lots of free fun. Yet we are still enjoying some of our earnings now. Our tomorrow could be taken away from us due to unforeseen disasters, disease or other tribulations.

So Ben has always felt it is important to make every day count. For him that means fine wine and fine dining. I found that hard at first because I do not derive as much enjoyment from food and wine as Ben does. To me it was a waste of money. But Ben works incredibly hard in a demanding role. He has a passion for fine cuisine and wine. I had to accept that it is not a waste of money to see Ben enjoying the things that enrich life for him.

He has accepted that for me treats now involve nice clothes, shoes, and more importantly, weekends away (usually camping with friends) so that Ben can get to know the UK while he is here. Of course the pandemic has restricted some of what we can enjoy, but we still enjoy everyday of our lives together. We saw a lot of the UK in 2019 and spent a lot of time with friends. We have tried to view the pandemic lockdown restrictions as an opportunity we may never have again to indulge in each other’s company without distraction.

Life is precious, finding someone you want to share your life with is special. Of course we hope that in our future we can make a more permanent home somewhere. But we are making the most of our time now, budgeting to allow us to enjoy making memories and tasting life’s pleasures. I think we both agree that our most treasured moments together have been relatively inexpensive, and yet are absolutely priceless to us.

I have to say – the best things in life really really are free. But to enjoy the magnificent wonders of nature, it helps to have cut as much stress and anxiety as possible by being sensible about your finances and using practical budgeting.

money matters monopoly

13 replies on “Bashing Out A Budget”

Lovely post Jenna. I do agree with Ben – we need to live in the present and with a firm eye on the future. Food and wine are important in my household too – to share a wonderful home cooked meal is often the highlight of my day
May x

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Thank you May.
Ben is very good at finding the right balance. He also is a big believer in making each day count because you never know what might happen.
He is fascinated by the technique that goes into fine dining. He is an engineer and I think the way things are made intrigues him and food has become a passion for him. To me – the warmth in a home cooked family meal is massively appealing. I would rather eat in the home of a close knit family than in a restaurant. But Ben absolutely loves exploring the best restaurants.

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I know you are taking a little break from your blogg Jenna, but I was very impressed by this post.

I read it several times as I know you so well and considered it a very open admission of how important it is to you to be able to stand on your feet financially. Ben has always seemed such a sensible practical person. We are thrilled that you and he came to England so we could spend more time with you and get to know Ben. Selfishly, we would love the two of you to stay here and make England your home.

I think that Ben is right about finding the right balance. Saving so much that you are miserable with extreme frugality is no way to live. If necessity demands it, it can be done short-term, but there is no need for long-term extremes just to save for a future. Things change so much in the course of time. To plan ahead by ten years is like trying to pinpoint what the weather will be when you book a holiday months in advance. In some ways, you need to be prepared for anything.

This economic world is shaky. But enjoying life, whether that means inexpensive camping trips and long walks, or if it means new shoes or a fine dining restaurant meal, gives you the motivation to keep going if the economy crumbles and you do find yourself having to scrip and save for a while. Free fun is often better than costly activities. Experiences always top possessions.

I think that the practical and sensible view Ben and you have adopted is balanced and will help to enrich your life together.

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It baffles me that living in England is “affordable.” I think it must very much depend on what you do for a living. No way could I afford to live there! 😱

I think you make an important point — accepting someone else’s “luxury” expenditures as something that person enjoys, even if you personally don’t gain enjoyment from it, is a difficult thing. It’s important to talk those things through, and to be on the same page in terms of “acceptable spending” versus “waste of money” — if you don’t share the same tastes/priorities, this can be a huge cause for strife.

I am not a gourmet by any means, but I do like restaurant dining. So to that extent, I can see where Ben is coming from. (Also, I hate cooking. Lol.) But I also have a bit of a thing for clothes and shoes. (And books…) So while I am in the habit of treating myself to all those things, I do so within a budget, and buy quite a bit secondhand. My husband has hobbies he likes to spend money on that don’t interest me in the least. But I’m happy to allocate funds to the pursuit of those pleasures; moreso, because he doesn’t begrudge me mine.

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We had some friends who helped us find the place we rent. It is a fraction of the price of London rents. The house we rent here is small really, but in London we could probably only rent a room for this price. London particularly and some other desirable pockets of the country are ludicrously expensive. The main reason we came here is the huge amount of money a company were willing to pay Ben to pin him to a contract. I can earn a very decent wage here too – well in London. I have rarely seen my official office since the pandemic began. But I know compared to many other areas England has a high cost of living.

It is so interesting to read of the example of you and your husband. It makes me feel so much more normal about the differences with Ben and I. Just as I cannot understand paying a day’s wage for a tasting menu of tiny dishes that all look freaky…Ben may not understand me wanting to pay a day’s wage for a beautiful pair of stilettos. But these are the occasional treats that for some reason do something for us. We love to see each other happy – I do know that.

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It’s always good when at least one of the partners is balanced with money. I see it with our daughter too… her husband is very sensible about it, where if she had to be in charge, too much money would’ve been spent 😉
~ Marie

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Thanks again Jacob.
I had a really rough week or so. I had to take a break.
I am feeling a little better now. I am going to spend a little while replying to comments and do some reading. You are always so sweet! ❤

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Lovely post! Money conversations are so important in a relationship. Different ideas about spending can be problematic! I remember when J took me out for our first anniversary to a restaurant that was charging $18 a drink, $50 on a main course. I saw it as unnecessary, and he just wanted to spoil me but we talked it through. Finding a balance is definitely a great way to be!

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