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Girl Ninja always makes things difficult

Seriously. What’s her deal? We were having a little money talk yesterday, and I showed her a copy of my budget. I was explaining how it was configured and how all the different sections were calculated. We then started to play with the numbers a little bit, making our best guesses as to what we think OUR budget is going to look like. It was freakin’ tricky.

As I mentioned before, GN and myself, have different opinions as to how much of our income should go to rent. She would be totally comfortable paying a little more for a nicer pad, where as, I am all about finding the cheapest place we can live. I’ve blogged about this housing predicament before (here) so I need not bore you with it again.

That said, rent is the single largest monthly expense we have (except taxes) so we need to plan our budget accordingly. The only issue is … Girl Ninja makes my life difficult. Granted, there is nothing she can do about it, because it’s not her fault. No. It’s the stupid economies fault. She’s a credentialed K-6 teacher here in California, and if you aren’t aware let me tell you something… The California budget is jacked up beyond all belief! This means, Girl Ninja hasn’t been able to secure a contracted teaching position. Fortunately, she landed the next best thing: A long term substitute teaching job. She makes $150/day, but receives no benefits (no paid holidays, no insurance, etc).

Next school year is a different beast, however. We have no clue how many days a month she will be able to substitute teach. Seeing that we can’t anticipate how frequently she’ll be working, it gets rather frustrating trying to establish a budget. Variable incomes suck.

After our conversation, I came home and made my best guess as to what I think OUR budget will look like come marriage. Here are three possible outcomes…

As you can see, if Girl Ninja is able to work two days (out of 20+ possible school days each month), we scrape by with a $282 surplus. If she has the opportunity to work about half of the available school days, we should be sitting pretty with $1,582 in discretionary income. And lastly, if she is able to get a sub job every teaching day, I will pee my pants with excitement to the tune of $2,582/month.

I should also mention a few other things that help lighten the burden of her variable income…

You’ll notice towards the bottom of the spreadsheet I have a section called “Side Hustle“. This is all the money I bring in from tutoring, house sitting, and blogging. I was super conservative and only accounted for $240/month in extra income, when I have been averaging between $500-$1,000.

What’s more, 10 months a year I receive two paychecks. We decided to budget our expenses around those two checks, even though I actually get paid three times in April and October. This means, twice a year, we will have an additional $1,600 to put in to savings.

Although Girl Ninja’s income will is inconsistent, we should ALWAYS be able to get by. Even if she is practically unemployed, we should still be able to grow our savings account by $5,000yr (even after contributing to retirement). If she is able to land another long term sub job, or even better a contract job, we should be able to save $20,000 to $30,000 over the next year.

Of course all of this is based off a bunch of assumptions, but I did my best to make these assumptions pretty conservative. Barring a major unforeseen crisis, we should be able to start our first year of marriage with a positive financial outlook and that makes me happy. I’ll be sure to keep you posted as we actually start living these assumptions.

What assumptions did you make before combining money?

How do you, with variable incomes, do it?

Am I overlooking anything?

p.s. I did leave out the clothes/entertainment/etc from my budget, but I did so for a reason. I’ll have to explain it in tomorrow’s post. That’s my fault for not clarifying.



  1. Am I reading this right? You budgeted $0 for entertainment + vacation? It’ll be tough to stick to that one..even if you’re living in a swanky pad.

    My take on this budget is that income has to go up or saving has to go down because it’s not feasible to have $0 set aside for fun.

  2. I hope you guys can pull off this bare-bones, survival budget and have a little fun in your marriage, too. I am also curious to know how she felt after the money talk.

  3. I see no good reason why GN couldn’t look for a second, part-time job, with hours that don’t conflict with her teaching – perhaps something on the weekends, or retail work with flexible hours. I think also you’ll both be happier with the nicer paid in the long run.

  4. I agree with Sandy- shouldn’t you have some money for eating out and having fun? I know you live in California, but do you still go on vacation? It seems like your budget is mostly fixed expenses and I don’t see much discretionary spending accounted for.

    I don’t know about in California, but subs here in Michigan can usually get jobs at least 2 or 3 days of the week. I think they can also buy insurance through the company that handles the substitute teachers. But I am sure each state has a different system.

    Personally, my husband and I didn’t think much before combining money. We got married one week after graduating college and we both had jobs. So, it all just kind of happened. Fortunately, both of us have very similar spending habits (we don’t like to spend) and similar goals. But I know that is not true for everyone. It is great you are having these conversations with the Girl Ninja.

    I know you want a cheaper pad. However, one thing to consider if you are going to buy a pad is resale value. Make sure you purchase in a decent school district and the house has attributes that would make it somewhat easy to sell. A cheap pad may be great in the short term, but it might be a bummer when it is time to unload it. (Pads are usually cheap for a reason…)

    Good luck!

  5. I just want to address one part, really!
    How many days is Girl Ninja currently working this year? Is sub jobs called out by seniority or by what she is qualified for? I work in HR at the school board here (CAN) and there are ways that our teachers are able to work more by getting more qualifications therefore are able to work more and are able to secure a contract position quicker. She should explore this!
    I know others suggested part time work but there may be things in at her board that she may be able to do and will help her in the long term (networking, more qualifiacations, all that good stuff us HR people love!!).

    Good luck!!

  6. How about girl ninja’s toiletries, cosmetics, haircuts, gifts she will buy for her family, etc.? Any misc spending should be in the budget! Entertainment needs to be in the budget as well as clothing expenses! Women like clothes, especially when they get pregnant and need new clothing. I second the part-time retail job idea… or maybe she can tutor as well? Teach Sunday school? Good luck!

  7. Looks like you are missing quite a few items in the budget.
    -car maintenance (this is important!)
    – Clothes

    Its not necessary to detail all of these out depending on how you want to go. But they should be there somewhere. Especially since you plan on saving her income.

  8. When I got married, I had no fear. I put her name on everything I owned. If there are any doubts, why bother getting married?

    My income is tipped based so I’m ultra conservative when I budget. That helps because I bust my ass working and always surpass my projected income. I’m sure the same will go for your wife, she doesn’t strike me as the lazy type.

    I believe you might be overlooking that it is easier to share expenses with your wife. I think Girl Ninja will make more money than you think regardless of the state of California’s budget. Young, pretty people always make lots of money 😉 The main thing I believe you might be overlooking is the future purchase of a home. That will be the most challenging thing your budget will face. Renting in California is probably the better thing to do cause real estate in Cali is sickening expensive. Any ideas about moving somewhere else?

  9. Entertainment
    Dining out (unless this is lumped in with entertainment)
    Clothing (even if it’s a slim amount, it should be included here)
    Grooming/Beauty (includes personal grooming, makeup, toiletries)
    Health/Fitness (yoga, memberships)
    Household – unless you’re planning on your wedding guests buying you a home filled with furntiture, cleaning supplies for 5 years, and everything of that ilk.
    Maintenance / Repair – for automobiles, property, etc.
    Renter’s insurance – always a good thing, pretty cheap.
    Life / disability insurance – maybe you have this, but if not, it’s a very good idea.

    Maybe I’m a complete Scrooge, but tithing should probably be at a variable rate dependent on income. $500, yeah that’s all good when you’re considering your happy and estatic scenarios, but it seems like you’re not close to covering your own rear in the stressed scenario. At some point in the future you’re considering living on one income AND having the added expense of children. That’s either a raise or a pretty severe expense reduction needed there.

    Yep, adulthood blows, eh? But, on the positive side, like others have said, dual incomes can be a blessing when both parties are contributing something to the picture.

  10. Unless I’m reading it wrong, you have a math error in there. You appear to be taking your company 401k match out of your salary for budgeting purposes. That’s an extra 260 for you there.
    As for expenses, I don’t see yoga, the occasional dinner out, or gifts (Christmas does come every year). Also, you might need to up your electric bill if GN is home more often. If she’s home during the heat of the day, your AC or ceiling fan is more likely to be on than when you are both gone, as are any lights, or electricity that she needs for her projects, or TV or…
    Overall, you did a great budget – much better than my hubby and I did when we first started out as newlyweds in San Diego 12 years ago! Good luck!

    • The 401K (and it’s match) is not taken out of my net pay. It is included in my budget to show how much I put in to retirement each month, but does not get substracted from my net. I totally see why you would think that since you can’t see the formulas for each cell block.

  11. I did leave out the clothes/entertainment/etc from my budget, but I did so for a reason. I’ll have to explain it in tomorrow’s post. That’s my fault for not clarifying.

  12. great tip larry, if her teaching gig doesnt pan out as you would hope, she couldnt definitly find a part time gig doing retail or something along those lines. and yes, i agree with sandy that i think you are underestimating your expenses when it comes to fun or”other expenses”. i hope im wrong and you are in fact very good at not spending money on random items every month, but i know for me i usually set aside at least 100$ each month that i know will be spent on random lunches out, nights with friends, or a drink after work with co workers.
    Preferred Financial Services

  13. I agree with Angie about the error. Also, where did your take-home pay amount come from? Doesn’t your health insurance/vision/dental etc come out of your salary pre-tax? Haha sorry – it’s the numbers nerd in me coming out! 😉

    Us girls can be expensive! Would the NI be what you & GN can use for yoga, clothing, gifts, household items like TP, paper towels, cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc?

    Btw, I’m convinced you can find a 1-bedroom in a great location for LESS than $1,500! Your tithing seems VERY generous! Why not cut that in half while you & GN are trying to figure out your joint budget? Then if you’re at the top end of NI, you could tithe extra 🙂

  14. Have you ever read “It’s not about the money” by Brent Kessel? I think you should both read it together to see how your spending/savings types differ (It’s like the Four Love Languages, but for money). Opposites tend to attract where fiscal responsibility is concerned and since you make a lot for your age, and everything is being kicked off with a big fancy wedding, she might have fancier expectations than either of you presently realize…

    Also, if she considers a PT job… and she loves yoga… maybe she could become an instructor? It pays well. 🙂

  15. One thing Girl Ninja might be able to do PT is teach SAT/GMAT/GRE, etc. classes. I get $100 an hour for that! And if she’s qualified as a teacher and had 99% scores (or could get them, which on the SAT I’m sure she could after 4 years of college!) I’m sure she could get work! Some places only require 90% scores (they pay approx. $30 an hour – still not bad!).

    Also, bear in mind that after the big day, the first few months may not go according to plan. Although its great you guys are planning so well, things always come up when you are building a life together.

  16. I’ll reserve comments about your budget for tomorrow since you’re explaining something then.

    My husband and I got married right out of college. He had a part-time job at Gamestop and I got my current job two weeks after we got married. While he was working at Gamestop, he was also a substitute teacher and was called at least 3 times a week at 5am (sometimes 4 or 5 times a week). Once he landed a full-time job as a bill auditor, he stopped substituting. 6 months after that, he was offered his first full-time teaching position even though he had given up. Life’s weird like that.

    When we had a variable income, I based our budget on a conservative amount…but realistically conservative. I doubt Girl Ninja will only get two jobs a month. Substitutes are a necessary school expense…the kids have to have someone. Our budget had hubby working as a sub twice a week…that ended up being about 2/3 of what he really made.

    Here’s the categories in our budget:

    Emergency Fund
    Tax Account
    Home Account
    Roth IRA
    Vacation Account
    Car Payments
    Car Insurance
    Cable & Internet
    Cell Phones
    Fast Food/Restaurants
    Car Maintenance
    Misc Bills (like EZ Tag billing for toll roads, etc)
    Entertainment Joint
    Hubby’s Fun Money/Charity
    My Fun Money/Charity
    Lawn Service (biweekly 8 months a year)
    Pet Expenses
    Massage Envy

    401k (6% and matched 6%), pension, and insurances are taken out before we receive our take home pay.

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