Meet Kim and Joe
I’d like to introduce you to a couple I know.
The spouses, Kim and Joe, are 40 years old and live in a suburb of New York City. The couple have two children, ages 11 and eight. They both work, and their combined annual income totals $110,000.
For many people, this is no small amount of money. In their neighborhood, however, Kim and Joe are considered middle-class. This is in large part due to their location. Living so close to the City can be expensive. There’s lots of pressure to keep up with the Joneses. Plus, neither Kim nor Joe come from a wealthy family, and they don’t have much in the way of retirement savings.
Now, Kim and Joe have about $15,000 in their checking account. This allows them to cover monthly expenses and maintain reasonable cash flow.
On the other hand, they also have a sizeable mortgage and over $150,000 in student loan debt.
This means that each month, Kim and Joe are barely covering their bills. They aren’t adding much to their savings outside of their 401(k) salary match. And while they have tried to create a budget, they find the process frustrating.
You see, Kim and Joe don’t like micromanaging each other’s expenses. It makes them uneasy, worrying about every little thing they buy. And while they don’t yet blame each other for their financial woes, it looks like things might move in that direction if they don’t take action quickly.
They have tried to create a budget—but both Kim and Joe find this process frustrating. They simply don’t know which areas to cut back on their spending. It’s a real struggle, because Kim and Joe want to stay in their current house and neighborhood. Even though their mortgage, insurance, and taxes eat up a large part of their finances, they aren’t ready to make drastic lifestyle changes.
They aren’t even necessarily ready to make less drastic changes. Both spouses maintain up-to-date work wardrobes that they find necessary. And they don’t want to spare any expense on their kids’ schooling or extracurricular activities.
Yet each time they look at their budget and overall expenditures, Kim and Joe agree their finances look overwhelming. Since there are no obvious expenses they can cut, they resign themselves to barely scraping by. Kim and Joe decide instead—in an effort to break free from this financial treadmill—to focus instead on increasing their income. But in reality, they recognize that any salary increases will quickly be eaten up by new expenditures for their family. Either that, or they’ll go toward paying off debts.
Nonetheless, Kim and Joe are aware that something needs to change. But since they are not spending more than they make, they do not have enough financial pain to fully embrace a traditional financial planning and budgeting process.
They still aren’t saving much, if anything. So Kim and Joe sit down and discuss their goals, and they jointly determine they want to increase their savings account from $0 to $25,000 within a year. To achieve this, they agree to cut their expenses—noting that their salaries won’t increase enough to fill the gap.
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And so they came upon the idea of a Spending Window™. Intermittent spending, they decide, will help to force a sense of mindfulness. The couple believe that this kind of custom approach will put them on a better financial path. And so they start planning their own personalized window.
Kim and Joe begin with a 16:8 Spending Window™, which we’ll discuss in more detail in Chapter Three (along with other common window shapes and sizes). Since the spouses work full-time, they figure they can make a real difference by eliminating their morning expenditures. So they commit to only spend their money between noon and 8 p.m. each day—even on weekends.
As you’ll learn in the pages that follow, it’s important to take things in stride while navigating your intermittent spending journey—to make changes along the way. You don’t want your window to give you too much leeway, but conversely, you shouldn’t deny yourself all the things and experiences you enjoy. Your Spending Window™ should be just flexible enough to fit in your life.
Kim and Joe decide to try their new window for a month and then revisit its size and structure. Before they begin, they gather their bank and credit card statements, their online payment transaction history (platforms may vary, but these two use Venmo), and start looking at where their money has been going. Rather than analyzing the validity of their expenses, they commit to taking an objective look at the payments they’ve been making.
Here’s what they find: Kim is primarily responsible for their household’s major payments, including their mortgage, insurance, taxes, childcare, and other recurring expenses. She decides to leave those items alone; she and Joe agree that these are necessary items on which they cannot compromise.
The automated expenses under Joe’s jurisdiction, on the other hand? Those they can take a closer look at. Kim and Joe decide to pause their gym membership, their online movie and music subscriptions, their video game subscription, and more. They determine that instead of making recurring payments on these nonessential items, they can discuss each expense in real time and make manual payments on a case-by-case basis. For instance, Joe claims the family gym membership is an essential expense—but in the spirit of intermittent spending, he’ll consider the expense each month before swiping his card.
This, both Kim and Joe find, will encourage mindfulness. It will also improve their communication. The spouses start to feel confident in their process. They commit to a $20 cash allowance for purchases inside their window, and they set a zero-tolerance policy of expenditures outside their Spending Window™.
Finally, Kim and Joe are ready to dive headfirst into intermittent spending. Their window is set, and they are eager to get started.
You can do the same thing as Kim and Joe. The results may well astound you. And this book will teach you everything you need to know about curating your own intermittent spending experience and creating your own Spending Window™. At the end of the text, we’ll check in with Kim and Joe. I won’t give too much away, but I will say that several months in, they’re very happy they took the plunge.