I think this was the section that I struggled the most with.
I felt like a detective, a P.I. for my own life and there were a lot of times when I didn’t feel like it was going to be enough.
For a start, if you don’t keep hold of your receipts, start doing it – we keep all of our receipts and naturally I already have them in date order, but it was often the ones that I really wanted that would go missing.
I’ll touch on it more in the memories box post, but make a game of it.
Pick a month, sit down together and spent an afternoon reliving all the great memories you shared during that month.
This is a team effort, and it can very quickly feel isolating and one sided, despite everyone’s best efforts – doing your best to enjoy the process, makes it another wonderful chapter in your story.
Here, joint bank accounts are your best friend.
If you don’t have one, open one now.
Ideally you have got one and you’ve been making regular savings towards something exciting together. It’s the simplest, easiest way to show your financial commitments to each other.
We actually had set up a joint bank account in Australia before we came back to the UK, in the knowledge even in our fledging relationship we were in it for the long haul and that was a key piece of ‘evidence’ many couples fell down on.
It also became our ‘dream house’ fund, and even though we might only put a few dollars in every month, it’s nice to have something so positive to work towards, little by little.
Once we got to the UK, it was a natural step to have a joint savings account to contribute towards savings for the visa, and despite being so independent, it was really reassuring having those joint savings accounts.
And when things were tough, I was happy to know we were both sharing the burden.
Other things that will help are ‘big ticket’ items like car purchases, joint rental agreements/tenancy agreements, holidays (flights, accommodation etc), surprise puppies, or in our case pet fish.
And if you do split the finances, transactions in each others bank accounts that are explicitly towards joint expenses e.g. bills are also really useful to find and add to your evidence.
Thankfully, Zac and I are specific anyway, if we’re transferring money to each other we always state exactly what it’s for, so despite not being on the same lease, we could prove we were living together from Zac’s transfers to my account for ‘Gas Bill‘, ‘Food Shopping‘, ‘Internet‘ etc.
As I mentioned above, I’m an idealistic tree hugger and while we were at the Good Food Show we decided to sponsor a tree with the Woodland Trust.
This spur of the moment sponsorship actually was a blessing in disguise and meant we had consistent joint mail coming to the house, that was official, and not just ‘fun post’ (like Christmas cards and invitations).
By and large, for the most part we’ve been ‘put up’ by family and while we’ve paid our way, we’ve never had an official lease or tenancy agreement. Most utilities companies won’t let you put bills in a joint name any more and we had quite an ‘ad hoc’ agreement when it came to paying gym and phone bills.
We were really worried about being able to prove we lived together, but all these little things, framed and explained properly are enough.
We had post coming to the same address and our parents explained in their statements the details of our arrangements.
This was the most arduous task and in the end I didn’t feel like I could do it alone any more.
I was going through bank statements, printing them off, highlighting according to the key and then scanning them back in again.
In an attempt to keep some of our privacy I was striking through all the irrelevant transactions, but I hadn’t realised how much stuff we buy together!
The HMV transaction was for a Teenage Dirtbag compilation album for the car, classics from when we were dysfunctional teens (that still resonate as dysfunctional adults). The Paperchase purchase was a photo album, we wanted to print off some of our favourite snaps from our year and make something tangible.
When Zac saw the detail I was going in to, I think he was a little overwhelmed himself, and then he was his wonderful empathetic self, finally realising why I was getting so worked up about the evidence and touching my piles of papers.
He made me stop, took me out for the weekend, walks and coffee and gym, anything to be outside and away from the physical of the visa.
He cleared my head and when the weekend was over, he sat me down and told me he was going to help, wouldn’t take no for an answer, he’d left me to it because he knew how anal I was, but we were in this together and it was his turn to step up.
Zac organised the paper copies in to month piles.
Between us we scanned everything in.
Then it was my job to create a PDF file for each statement.
It’s true when they say a problem shared is a problem halved.