Handling Two Financial Houses

This article is by Adam from Money Relationship. You should really check out his 2010 financial resolutions.

If you’ve read my blog lately, you may have seen that I don’t live with my wife during the week. My current job is approximately 2 hours away. Because of the distance, I have to stay there during the week and then head home on the weekends.

There are many disadvantages of living away from my wife, both emotionally and financially. I won’t really get into the emotional stuff seeing that this is a financial blog. However, I can shed some light on how we handle our finances on a day-to-day basis.

First, let me give you a little insight into the added expenses. In order to stay in PA during the week, I have to pay for housing, groceries, parking, and fuel. All of those together add about $600 to our budget. Those are all in addition to what we already spend in MD. It’s definitely straining, but it’s better than me not working at all. My wife and I have been apart for long periods of time before (I went to TX for grad school) so we are used to being apart. However, it’s not something I want to do for more than a year.

Even though we are apart, we still need to make financial decisions as a team. Marriage is commitment and both partners need to have an equal say. Here is how we do it:

Communication Is Key

Just as the title says, communication is a key part in our financial decision making. We communicate daily about our finances on the phone and via Skype. We are constantly talking about our budget and how much we will have left over to pay down debt. We actually think budgeting is fun and are always looking for ways to save a buck just so we can pay off more debt at the end of the month.

Financial communication is a necessity is every marriage. If one partner is spending away while the other one is committed to getting out of debt, they’re not going to get far. You just need to sit down and talk about your finances. Heck, if my wife and I can do it every night when we are 2 hours away from each other, so can you!

Long Distance Budgeting

Almost all of my adult life, I have been a Quicken kind of guy. It was always easy for me to use and made my finances come together in one simple platform. Well, when we got married, I noticed one major flaw. It was only on my computer and it was really hard for my wife to understand how to use it. So, we made an executive decision to give something else a try. A written budget wasn’t really an option for us as we are more technical people. It would also be a little harder to keep track of being apart.

Keep a Positive Attitude

It’s easy to get a little depressed when you are away from your spouse for extended periods of time. It’s especially hard for us since we were married only six months ago. However, we continue to be positive about our situation and are trying to get things straightened out. Currently, I have an interview next week for a job in MD working for the same company. If all goes well and I get the job, my income will increase about 10%. It will also eliminate our need for addition expenses such as the rent.

Well, hopefully you will never have to find yourself in my position. It’s tough,  but we are making it work. If you do find yourself in this predicament, hopefully these tips can help you out. These are actually good tips for couples who are living together too. You need all of these to manage your marriage and finances.

Have a great weekend!

Comments

  1. Good for you for making this work. My husband and I have done this as well, I got a new job in another state and he stayed behind to sell our home and coordinate the move. It was about a 6 month time for us, not as long as you have been doing it. It was actually not bad as I was starting a new job and I was able to concentrate on that instead of worrying about the house and all that stuff. We contemplated doing it again recently as I was offered a plum job in another state again, but decided that now with kids it would be much too difficult so we stayed put. I agree, communication is the ultimate key to making a relationship, especially a long distance one work.

  2. My fingers are crossed for you to get the new job! I’m sure your wife misses you more than she lets on, and I commend both of you for making the best of a tough situation.

  3. Congrats on making this work, and I hope you’re able to reconcile this down the road and get a job closer to home. You seem to have a good long-term perspective on this, but I think this can only make your marriage better down the road. Good luck!

  4. I am currently in the same situation, with my husband working in a different state 6 hours away. I was wondering how you keep you budget in PA at just $600 – since it costs almost double that for my husband. A split up would be nice.

  5. I feel for you too. About 8 years ago my husband and I went through the same thing. I stayed in Oregon and kept working and he went to California for the only job offer he received after a long time of unemployment. We did it for almost 6 months. It was hard, a drain on our budget and emotionally a strain. We finally decided we could not afford to live in California (at least at a standard close to how we were living) and he quit and came home. I will hold good thoughts that you get the job that you are interviewing for.

  6. @Lenore – Thanks! Our fingers are crossed too!

    @Jan – Well, all I need in PA is housing and food. I rent a room in a house for $400 a month. I have access to the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. I also try and keep my food to a minimum so nothing goes bad. I guess it also depends where he is staying. My job is in a relatively low-cost area.

    @Ken – I wonder that every day. We are successful even when we are apart. Why can’t some people talk about it when they are in the same room? Maybe people should turn their TVs off.

    @Oregonsun – I was unemployed for about 7 months before I accepted this job. Even though it’s tough, it was a good decision to take the job. Otherwise, I am guessing we would have accrued a lot more debt and be in a much tougher financial situation.

  7. My brother and sister in law did this for almost 15 years. They bought a second house in Utah and a small commuter car for the weekend drive. Since she was a homemaker- she cooked five meals for him every week. They kept their five kids inthe rural community where they felt comfortable and loved instead of moving them to the “city”.
    They figure the pioneers did it- why couldn’t they? They dated every weekend.
    Last year my bil retired. The biggest thing was getting used to living together again. I asked this summer if they would do it again- “in a heart beat”.
    I am not sure I could do it- but more power to those who can. It is sure better than the alternative-divorce!

  8. I am also currently in this situation. It is for school, though, not a job, which means a four year commitment, but at least I can come home between semesters! We also have two kids. My husband, house and kids are in Austin while I am in college Station two hours away attending vet school. My additional living expenses are about what yours are, including factoring in the additional gas for the weekend commute. I keep costs down by renting an efficiency apartment and foregoing luxuries like cable (after all, I need to spend my time studying!). I also do the grocery shopping in Austin, then take my “share” from the larger packages I purchase to save money. It is way cheaper than buying smaller packages of things just for myself in College Station.

  9. My husband and I are in the same situation as you and your wife as well. Since we are both employed approximately and 11/2 hours apart, we treat each house as our own to take care of financially. We do own both of these homes–no renting.
    Going from an initial 2 check/1 home income to a 2 home/1 check income has been a real challenge financially and emotionally. But, it’s possible as some of us know.
    CarA

  10. Best of luck getting the other job. Husband & I did this some years ago before kids. He is a truck driver and took a position long-haul anywhere east of the Rockies. We were renting in a 3-family at the time, so no expense for home maintenance, taxes, etc., but it was costing a bit in food for him when he was away. He would be able to come home about every 3-4 weeks and would be able to take some food with him, but his truck didn’t have a fridge or anything like that, so he ate out…a lot! After a year, for financial and emotional reasons, he left that company and took a job in the northeast, so now he has only one overnight a week and for him to eat out that night is a treat (and reimbursed by his employer, as well as a hotel room). It can be a very difficult situation, and I could not imagine doing it like that (gone for long periods of time) again with the kids. Communication is definitely important!

  11. My husband and I lived apart for nine months on opposite coasts while we attended graduate school in CA and NC. It wasn’t easy, emotionally or financially. It sounds like both of you have the right attitude, though.

    Good luck with the interview!

  12. In the past my wife and I discussed the scenario that you are currently in. I was thinking about trying to get a job in a bigger city that’s almost 2 hours from where I currently live. I was going to try to work out a deal with my sister who lives in the city. Maybe renting a room from her.

    But we had (at the time) 2 young kids, and that would have made it too difficult. Hopefully, you’ll be able to work things out before kids come alone!

    Good luck!

  13. I was a routine traveler for over a decade, so I understand the challenges. We have faced the challenge of communication. What we found is our relationship grew even more and became stronger. Our time together was much more focused as a result and we spend time on the phone/skype every night to keep in tune with each other. While I always missed being home, I wonder if doing so would have made us both more complacent.

  14. I was having an affair with a man in the same situation. Here’s a tip- DO spend money on whatever “movies” or internet you may want while away. The pastor is right. Loneliness is hard to manage long term. Have phone-fun dates with your spouse. They are Frugally FREE!

  15. My household was military for 7 years of our marriage and my husband now works for the railroad so separations are just part of a routine for us. My husband does call every night without fail when he is on the road to catch up. We have a separate “on the road” account that is maintained to keep finances straight(we are fortunate because he is kept ina hotel so we don’t have another rent to deal with but he does have to pay for food). I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you on your interview.

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