Ask MP: How Can We Get Our Holiday Spending Under Control?

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Ask MP: How Can We Get Our Holiday Spending Under Control?

My husband and I can’t keep our joint checkbook balanced. Now that we’re in high-spending season, I’m worried! What can we do?

When the right hand doesn’t know what the left is spending, all kinds of calamities can result. Restore order by taking these two steps:

  • Start Talking: Set up a regular money meeting to coordinate bill payments and purchases, timed to the joyful arrival of each paycheck. My husband and I do it every week. Make sure you both track the account balance online and, more important, keep a joint check register. It’s old-fashioned, but – because your online record can lag – it’s the best way to keep a real-time tally of your cash flow.
  • Switch to Cash: Using debit can lead to overdraft fees because banks sometimes allow purchases to go through even when your balance is too low, and then they assess a fee. (Ask about your bank’s policy.) Instead, use this basic budget method: Add up your core monthly expenses (rent or mortgage, utilities, food, etc.), then subtract them from your monthly take-home pay. Unless they’re pre-deducted, take out the amounts you set aside in retirement and personal savings, too. Divide the sum left over by four – that’s the cash the two of you can spend each week.

Ask MP Dunleavey your money questions at