I've been stewing for a week now since I saw my decimated benefits for 2011. My company was recently sold. The old parent company was a bohemoth, and the benefits were truly amazing. The new parent company is interested in maximizing our profits, and that coupled with corporate reactions to new medical insurance regulations means that my upcoming benefits are lean.
To put it plainly, I'm taking a significant pay cut with no real discussion as to how that's going to go down. If I were having this baby at the end of December 2010 instead of the end of January 2011, I would save a substantial amount of income in the form of health care, leave and other benefits.
I know I'm not the only one in the reduced benefits boat. It's just that I've never been one for timing could have caught a break had I gotten pregnant four weeks sooner. Still, Leighton's prenatal care, delivery and maternity leave only cost me $220 in 2009 and I received 100% of my salary for three months, so I guess I'll just mentally split the difference to keep from lamenting my perceived misfortune every five minutes until baby #2 is attending the college I can't afford.
The long short of this whole ordeal is that it created a big, unexpected, monthly expense for my family. In response, we are looking at ways to make up the difference and it's not a simple task. If it's tough for a family with two people gainfully employed with decent salaries ... how do people with less make it all work?
We try hard to not be wasteful, to buy what we need, and to save money. But, I have a sneaking suspicion that Suze Orman would still rip us a new one if given the opportunity. So we decided to take a closer look at our financial situation.
We have a master spreadsheet. We've had it for years, and I'm in charge of updating it. Much like the spreadsheet I created to plan our wedding, I sometimes refer to it as the "disrespect sheet". Thankfully, we have now recommitted ourselves to actually using it to measure progress.
The disrespect sheet has a separate tab for each thing or category "Savings" "Retirement" "House" "Condo" "Revolving" "Student Loans" etc. All information for that account is on each tab and the total in or owed on each account is at the bottom. Then all of those totals are linked to a "Balance Sheet" tab that also has a box for other monthly expenses - utilities, groceries and the like.
The Disrespect sheet is encrypted. And, if anything ever happens to me, the only password Ryan needs to remember to get our affairs in order is the one that let's him into this damn document.
Then, our paychecks are automatically deposited into our join account minus an allowance that we each give ourselves, that goes straight to our individual checking accounts. Expenses are paid from the joint account. If we want to go out to dinner, buy new clothes, take a vacation or buy presents, that money needs to be saved up from our "allowance". This is the hard part.
The whole regime is somewhat exhausting, and there's not much left over at the end of every month anyway, but at least we can see where our money goes and try to figure out where we're going to come up with the extra cash we need. It keeps us from ever arguing about money because it's all out in the open and we're both responsible for it.
Money issues are a leading cause for divorce and unhappiness in marriages, so I guess I'm wondering how other people limit money disputes or what methods are employed to solve them. Does one person in the house handle the finances? Do you keep every receipt? Use Quick Books? Do you have a disrespect sheet too? What happens when the unexpected occurs?
Do you clip coupons? Ride a bike to work? Buy second-hand toys? Shut off the cable? Pause retirement contributions for a while? Use credit cards? Sell some stuff on eBay?
We've done all of these things at one time or another and I know there are better suggestions out there. Or, maybe we're just players in a fixed game - floating along, business as usual, hoping this whole economy thing blows over before the bills come due.