First Year Finances

Investing in Each Other

Kristin & Bill Hall of Norwalk, CT

It all started in Mystic, Connecticut, when Kristin Mulrane was hired to work at Azu Restaurant. Helming the business was executive chef and owner Bill Hall. When it came to working together, the two were definitely in sync. Add to that a mutual passion for sandwiches and the pieces pretty much fell into place—they were meant for each other. Despite being on different paths, the couple foresaw a joint future, not only in marriage but in business. "We decided we wanted to build something together that could start small and grow over the years," says Bill. A kernel of an idea began to grow.

While Kristin was off earning her master's in neuroscience and Bill was expanding his businesses, that idea began to percolate. Two years later, they moved to Norwalk, Connecticut. Personal savings in hand, they were ready. Melt Sandwich Shop opened its doors in downtown White Plains, New York in 2009. It was time to share their passion with the public. As for a business contract between them, they had a verbal agreement. "We said if one of us decides we don't want to do it anymore, then that's okay," says Bill. "We opened the business for each other and our future."

One happy commitment led to another. Three months later, Bill popped the question to an elated Kristin. With a wedding looming on the horizon and a newly opened business, they took a closer look at their finances. Says Bill, "For the business, we had a budget and no debt, so it was pretty easy to figure things out in that area as we went along."

Kristin took the reins when it came to budgeting for their August 2010 nuptials. "We budgeted down to the dollar," she says. "We saved the entire year we were engaged, putting aside money every week until we worked up to what we wanted to spend on the wedding and honeymoon." How did all that budgeting work out? "We not only came in on target," says Kristin, "we had about $400 left in our wedding fund."

Regarding her finely honed budgeting skills, Kristin gives Bill lots of credit. "He taught me how to save for things and put money aside," she says. His tactic? "It's all about controllables versus uncontrollables," says Bill. "We know what we're paying for rent, gas, food, and how much we spend every week. At this stage of the game we're building, and knowing what our fixed expenditures are makes it pretty simple to stay within our means." How does this system work with an unpredictable new business? "Very well," says Kristin. "If we ever go over our allotted expenses for a week, we look at our income and decide where it's going to go."

Prior to their marriage, Kristin, now 26, and Bill, 46, had separate bank accounts. Now all their accounts are joint. Bill says this was more of a technicality than anything. "We always did everything together, so it didn't matter what was in her account or mine." The same goes for when one of them wants to make a special purchase. "We both agree on what to spend our money on and where it goes," says Kristin. "We live within our means and set reasonable goals." Goals are something the Halls discuss frequently. "It's okay to have a wish list, but you have to be realistic," says Bill. Together, they decide on what they'd like to accomplish and put money aside little by little.

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