Perhaps inspired by our single-income life, R and I decided to combine all of our income once he started receiving his paychecks.  I think we realized that ultimately, we are both responsible for one another.  If I lose my job, “my money” and “his money” no longer exist.  It becomes “our money” that we use to get by.

We set out to create a brand new budget for ourselves.  We divided our new budget into two sections: required expenses and non-required expenses.  Because of R’s contracting work, we don’t always have the same income every month.  The “required” expenses are not considered necessities.  It simply means that they are the recurring bills we have, in addition to our necessities (I will be talking about our Layoff Budgets later on).  The non-required expenses are items that we would like to fund, but we don’t need to.  If R’s paycheck is a little short, we will fill the required categories first, and let the rest trickle into non-required.  Here’s the breakdown:

Required Expenses

Budget Item


Monthly Deposit Current Balance
Rent Monthly rent for a 1-bedroom, near downtown apartment.  All but electricity is included in the rent. $925 $0 (just paid)
Taxes 30% of R’s paycheck is quarantined here in preparation for tax time. Varies $6,566
Electricity Average bill = $35.  Yes, we are overbudgeting here.  No, I don’t have a good reason for it. $60 $150
Internet High speed, at $29.99/month for 6 months.  It will likely go up to $60/month, which is the reason for our over-budgeting here. $45 $89
Grocery Includes food, household supplies, and other items purchased at the grocery store. $450 $273
Household Covers various household purchases, including cookware, bedding, furniture, etc. $130 $14
Savings General savings.  We haven’t established a delegation system for this money.  It will likely go toward our down payment, but we’re also discussing the possibility of funneling a portion into the stock market. $1,000 $3,661
Car & Renter’s Insurance Full coverage insurance on R’s SUV, and myself as a driver (I have a company car).  Renter’s insurance to cover replacement value of both of our possessions. $190 $399
Gas & Transportation Costs R has a 50 mile r/t commute to work.  My gas costs are covered by the company. $200 $246
Cell Phone R is on the family plan with his parents and siblings.  My cell is provided by my company. $30 $30
Gym Membership We are both members of 24-hr fitness.  My company reimburses the cost of my membership each quarter. $67 $71
Unemployment Protection A cushion to use in the event of a layoff for one or both of us. $500 $2,504
Personal Money $500 each, per month.  Transferred out of our account, into individual accounts. $1,000 $0
Student Loan Yes, part of combining income is combining debt.  Fortunately, this is the only debt R comes with. $240 $240

Non-Required Expenses

Budget Item Description Monthly Deposit Current Balance
Gifts Includes $50 for birthdays and $50 for Christmas for each of our 3 siblings and 5 parents, plus an extra $200 annually for friends, extended family, and miscellaneous gifting. $100 $382
Entertainment Includes nights out with friends, daytime activities, etc. $270  $246
Dining Out Eating out – we separated this out of our entertainment budget, because we felt that they were separate beasts. $150  $150
Liquor Includes liquor, beer & wine $60  $60
Recreational Equipment R and I enjoy a lot of outdoor activities, such as snowboarding, bouldering, hiking, camping, fishing, etc.  There is a lot of expense that goes into the equipment for these activities, which comes from here. $50  $28
Celebration To celebrate promotions, raises, anniversaries, etc. $20 $40
Travel For visiting R’s family in the NW, my father in the South, and vacations for just the two of us. $175 $206
Vehicle Maintenance For oil changes and maintenance on R’s SUV $100 $128
R’s Clothing For R’s wardrobe needs $30 $105
Braniac’s Clothing For my wardrobe needs $30 $115
Miscellaneous For miscellaneous and unexpected expenses $300  $13
Health & Hygiene Doctor bills, medicinal needs, etc. $40 $84
I have been very lazy lately. 
No, I’m serious.  In August?
1.  I’ve hardly run at all – this is a drastic change from running 20 – 30 miles a week while training for my half-marathon in June.
2.  I didn’t send my good friend a birthday card earlier this month.
3.  My house is a wreck, and the only reason I did laundry last weekend was a desperate need for a clean pair of jeans.  
4.  I hadn’t planned a weekly menu all month, until yesterday.
5.  Since I didn’t have a menu, I didn’t go grocery shopping.
6.  No grocery shopping = no ingredients
7.  No ingredients % 2 weeks = a LOT of eating out
As I watched my bank account dwindle and the number on the scale rise, it occurred to me how much eating out actually costs. 
First of all, you’re paying a highly marked-up price for the raw materials of the food.  And you’re paying someone to cook it.  Then for someone to serve it to you, and fill your water glass too.  All of that, just during the dining experience.  But we all know that, and we know that before, during, and after going out to eat. 
But we’re actually paying a lot more than that.
Monetarily?  Topping the actual cost of the meal, we have lost opportunity costs.  I have posted before about brown-bagging my lunches.  Often, after eating out, I won’t have anything to bring the next day.  This may be because R and I split a dish, or perhaps the meal won’t keep well.  In either case, I am left without a lunch to bring to work. 
I realize that many people who brown-bag it stock their pantries with various items that will make a nice, healthy lunch.  We don’t.  I tend to plan our weekly menus, and we will grocery shop, weekly, for only those items needed for the menu.  Everything we cook, it is assumed we will double, to provide us with a lunch the next day.  My menu tactic is typically very effective – and if I buy a loaf of bread for work-lunch backup, it will mold.
Since I don’t have leftovers to bring, and also have no backup plan, that means I have to go out and buy something.  This costs more money.
And on top of the money I’m spending, how about the weight that I’m gaining?  Restaurant meals are almost always less healthy for you than cooking at home.  At home, you choose how much butter and oil to use.  The chef just wants to make it taste good; he’s not counting the calories as he dumps the cheese on.  Then, eating out the next day!  Instead of an occasional diet-splurge, it just turned into a double-header. 
One more – the post-workday workout.  When I run, it’s usually after work.  If I eat a cheeseburger for lunch, guess what?  I don’t feel like exercising when I get home.  My stomach feels heavy, and my energy feels low.  So eating out is also costing me in the exercise department.
Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy eating out.  It’s just a little shameful for me when eating out becomes more routine that special occasion.  When poor planning forces me to sacrifice my budget, my diet, and my exercise.
Soon after announcing my resignation from my current employer, a colleague emailed an invitation to a celebratory happy hour.  “Sometime next week,” she said.  “Maybe closer to payday?”
I didn’t think much of it, until I saw this article on the  Smart Spending blog.  Only then did I realize that I, too, was no longer living paycheck to paycheck.  Not all that long ago, I would count the days until payday.  This behavior applied to both my personal account, and the account R and I share.  I was perpetually out of money, and my savings were minimal, at best.  And then I finally started using a budget again.
The first couple of months produced little perceptible change.  I still felt broke.  All the time.  And it was a struggle; for myself, and for R as well.  He complained that we worked hard for our income – why can’t we enjoy it?  I kept insisting that it would eventually pay off, that we would become comfortable in our finances.  But even I had a hard time believing that. 
Eventually, though, it did pay off.  We are now carrying money in our checking account from one month to the next, versus a rush to deposit some extra cash for the rent check.  There’s no panic when we’re invited to a birthday party; we know we have the money socked away for a gift.  And when that quarterly water bill comes, we’re expecting it, and we’re prepared for it. 
On my personal side of the finances, I’ve seen the same kind of progress.  Just over a year ago, I can remember being on vacation with my sister.  We were on our way out to eat, and needed to stop by the ATM.  Before I pulled any money out, I had to run a balance inquiry to make sure I had the money.  Honestly, I can’t imagine feeling the need to do that now. 
I also realized I stopped paying attention to payday.  While reading the article mentioned above, I had to think to myself whether payday was this week or next.  Of course, I haven’t stopped paying attention to our accounts, and I am not completely absentminded regarding payday.  My paycheck is divided between and direct-deposited into R’s and my account, my personal account, and my ING account.  When my boss hands me the physical copy, I make sure to check that the funds were correctly transferred.  But I don’t wait for payday the way I used to – how refreshing!
Of course, it’s possible that my colleague wished to wait until payday because her personal entertainment funds had dried up for that pay period.  Who knows? 
All I do know is that I am much happier now that my life no longer revolves around my employer’s payroll schedule.



I hate introductions, and I’m not great at first impressions.  So I’ll just get to the point…I have had the great fortune of falling into a lucrative career, that could easily carry me into an early and blissful retirement.   By day, I toil away as a systems administrator, managing servers, networks, and security.  In a word, I am a geek.  My goal, until recently, had been to sock all of my “extra” income away, until the day I had enough to retire on.  I have come to realize the problem with that plan: I have zero passion for what I do.  My success in this field can only be attributed to my knack for it.  But my interest in continuing down this path has wilted.  

And so.

I have decided to return to a formal education, to pursue a career as a neuroscientist.  Brain science.  The goal is quite lofty, I understand.  The potential for failure is likely quite high.  But for the first time in my life, I feel a pull to do this.  My “spark” is igniting, and, frankly, I am excited.  Which brings me to the point of this blog. 

Within the last year, I have made every reasonable effort to be, as they say, financially independent.  That will all change in the coming months, as I re-enter the expensive world of higher education.  I will go from having no debt and a decent income, to having student loans on a part time wage.  My frugality factor will likely need to increase, and my finances will take on a whole new meaning.  This blog is intended to be a place where I can track where I was, where I am, and where I hope to be.  A bit more about me in the next post….