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Budget Advice for Millennials: Itemize Your Lover

By Motley Fool Staff - Mar 5, 2016 at 6:03AM

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Being practical about your budget means accounting for romance too, and other personal finance tips.

Do you have your budget figured out as well as it should be? In this clip, Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp ask guest blog writer Johnnie Weathersby for some advice about establishing an emergency fund that you won't be tempted to tap into. They also discuss making a budget (or, where to find a template) if you haven't already, and how to tell your significant other that they're a line item on your budget spreadsheet.

To hear more finance tips from Johnnie, check out the other articles from this series:

Part 1: Itemize Your Lover (this article) 

Part 2: Establish a Line of Credit! Do it! Now!

Part 3: One Easy Way to Bring in a Little Extra Money

A transcript follows the video.

This podcast was recorded on Jan. 26, 2016. 

Alison Southwick: So you talked about seven steps, essentially, that millennials -- and really, anyone who needs to get a handle on their finances -- need to take. First step is open two basic bank accounts. What bank accounts are we talking here?

Johnnie Weathersby: Basically, we're talking about your checking and your savings account. You really want to look at things in terms of, you need something to operate from and live off of in your day-to-day, and you need something to have as reserves. We're not talking retirement, we're talking reserves. If something bad happens with your car, if you suddenly lose your job and you need to live off it for a little while, these are things that you're looking to your savings account for.

Southwick: Emergency fund.

Weathersby: Exactly.

Robert Brokamp: And the great thing about having two accounts is, the emergency fund is usually in a savings account separate from your checking, so when you go to the ATM and see that balance, it's out of sight. You don't look and see, "I have all this money, I can spend more!" When you see you have a smaller balance in your checking account, it makes you feel like you don't have quite as much, because you've squirreled that other money away.

Weathersby: Yep. Get into the habit of squirreling. It'll definitely help you in terms of, this is money you're used to living without, and it adds up over time. And that's what the savings account is for. 

Southwick: Step No. 2! Create a budget. We've talked about this a lot on the show, but what specifically do you use to create a budget?

Weathersby: Specifically, for me, I use Excel to create a budget. I've made this monster little Excel form that--

Southwick: Monster little?

Weathersby: Yeah!

Southwick: Aw!

Weathersby: It conditionally formats and all these other things, it's kind of cool.

Southwick: (baby monster noises) That's a little monster.

Weathersby: I'll take a copy to Bro and have him evaluate it for me.

Brokamp: As I mentioned before, the people I know who are the most ardent budgeters create their own spreadsheets. They usually do it on their own. You can find templates for budgets at, as well as sheets. Lots of people have created these and put them up there for free. So, if you're looking for one, just go ahead and download it. I'll also point out that in your budget, you point out that you should make someone that you're romantically involved with a line item in your budget.

Weathersby: It's true. That's just kind of like an inside joke. And I also note that I leave it to you as to whether or not to tell that person they're a line item in your budget. Know that person well, and think before you do that.

Southwick: Wait, you've seriously done that?!

Weathersby: Seriously.

Southwick: You've been like, "Jessica, this is the Jessica line item." Did you tell Jessica, or whatever her name is, what you spent on her?

Weathersby: All right, fictitiously, her name is Jessica, and yeah, I told her after dating her for like two and a half years.

Southwick: What did she say?!

Weathersby: We were long distance, and she knew me really well and she understood.

Southwick: All right, first off: How much money did you spend on her? And what did she say when you told her?

Weathersby: Well, I mean, we were long-distance, and when we'd hang out, I'd set aside $900 or $1,000 to go see her. So, that was like, plane ticket, hanging out over the weekend, all this different stuff. And we would see each other like once every other month or something like that. Once we got closer, it picked up, so things had to get adjusted accordingly. But, if you're doing something like that, and you know you're shelling out that kind of money on a regular basis, you're young, you're starting off, these are just things to consider. Otherwise, you end up having to decide between a teddy bear for Valentine's Day or your ring. That's what happens.

Southwick: So, are you also ...

Brokamp: (laughs) I think it's great.

Southwick: No, it's not!

Brokamp: No, it's awesome. He also color-codes the name based on her FICO, so if it drops, it starts going closer to red.

Weathersby: That's not in the article. Bro's making it up.

Brokamp: (laughs)

Southwick: Alright, so ... (groans) are you looking at this on an ROI perspective? 

Weathersby: No!

Southwick: Are you like, "Well, I spent $500 on her, and I only got a smooch ..."

Weathersby: No.

Southwick: " ... so, maybe, I'm not going to spend so much on her."

Weathersby: Nope, nope, it's all in terms of just making sure you have a balance somewhere in your budget, and that if, for example, you decide you want to go and take her on a $1,000 shopping spree, that $1,000 shopping spree doesn't set you back $500 next month or something out of your checking account. Ultra-practical, that's all it is.

Brokamp: Right. Budgeting is about tracking what you spent, but also planning for what you're going to spend. And if you have a recurrent expense like visiting a long-distance girlfriend, then having that as part of your budget, I think, makes sense.

Southwick: To be honest ...

Brokamp: I want to date Johnnie, that's really what I'm saying.

Southwick: Well, obviously.

Weathersby: I'm going to Florida!

Southwick: I guess, if this is how your mind is set, and you tell someone like Jessica this news, and she's less than thrilled about it, then maybe Jessica is not the girl for you, and you need a likewise-practical woman who's like, "Oh, get out! Check out your line item on my spreadsheet!" And then you guys can geek out over spreadsheets, and then smoooooch!

The Motley Fool's romantic financial advice, that's what we do.

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