When I married my husband almost eight years ago, I knew that there would be many differences that would come to light in those first few weeks. We would have wrong expectations about an array of things: Who would take out the trash? Color Christmas lights or white ones? How many throw pillows would end up on our bed? Will our children play basketball (clearly the best) or soccer (meh)?
But I never expected the vast canyon of differences between my husband’s view of finances and my own. Add that we were two broke graduate students living in Southern California, and it made for quite a bumpy ride.
You see, my husband is known among our friends and family as the ultimate penny pincher. He picks up all change on the street that we find on our evening walks. He buys pasta in bulk to save the half a cent per ounce. He once got upset that I bought a Butterfinger candy bar out of a vending machine, telling me, “You could get three at Walmart for the price of that one!” I was eight months pregnant.
I am the free spirit.
I make sure we slow down and have a little fun. I’m not a crazy spender, but gosh-darn-it sometimes I’m going to pay extra for that guacamole. Or buy name brand coffee creamer.
But over the years, through many an argument and compromise, we’ve learned a few things. I’ve brought a bit more fun and adventure to our lives, forced us to travel, made memories that I know my husband wouldn’t trade for all of the on-sale rice in the world. And I’ve come to truly value his view of money, which has provided an incredible amount of financial stability for our family. He is wise with our finances, finds ways for us to save, and has stretched our money far above what our actual income has been. For this, I am grateful. And let me tell you; I would not have said that seven years ago.
We have not figured it out. If only I could replay our argument last month about how many times I went to Chick-fil-A, you’d see we’re still working on it.
But here are a few things I’d say have bridged the canyon-wide gap between our two personalities:
1. Talk about finances every month.
You free spirits out there are cringing right now. Go ahead, keep scrolling. But this has been important for us. I realize not everyone has a budget, but communicating about finances is crucial. I would get so frustrated because I felt like my husband was the gatekeeper, the one who determined how much we spent on each area of life (groceries, clothes, eating out, entertainment). And he would get frustrated when I’d spend $65 on a haircut, without realizing the cost of haircuts in Southern California. But when I started sitting down with him to map out our budget, I was able to see why some things needed to be tighter than others – we were broke! And he came to realize I wasn’t about to let someone butcher my hair at Hairs-R-Us.
Some of our biggest frustrations come because we don’t communicate (basic marriage advice, I know). Since about month six of our marriage, we’ve sat down each month and gone over our monthly expenses and spending. It forces us to talk through it, to work it out. To compromise. Which leads to point #2.
Okay, don’t lose me here, but I’m going to mention Dave Ramsey. We don’t follow everything he advises, but reading his book (Total Money Makeover) helped us to better understand one another and see how our differences actually complement each another. My husband enjoys punching numbers and doing the budget. He wants us to be financially stable and he likes to know he is taking care of our family. I quickly get overwhelmed with the details and shut down, but also bring a much needed work/play balance to our lives (am I right?!). So we compromise. I enjoy eating out; he hates spending money at restaurants. So we have a monthly budget that we’ve both agreed on for eating out that is much bigger than he would like, but prevents daily Starbucks runs that I’d like. He would like to cut down our grocery spending, so, as embarrassing as it is, I have bulk cereal in my closet as I write this. Giving up what you may want for the sake of the other person. Sounds a lot like marriage to me.
3. Don’t hide things.
This is a little harder to do when you share a bank account, but for those who don’t, be sure to be honest about your spending. You can’t have the same budgeting goals if one of you is spending money without the other knowing. Commonsensical, but worth mentioning. Honesty, openness, and transparency need to be cornerstones of your budgeting together.
4. Remember your ultimate goal.
Well, first you have to figure out what your ultimate goal is going to be as a couple. Better financial stability? Less debt? Better control of your spending? Saving for the future? Figuring out that goal is important, but be sure to remember this when you’re frustrated. When we decided together where we wanted to go with our finances, it made us both a whole lot more understanding and focused.
Read a finance book together. To be honest, this is my worst nightmare. But it was so helpful for us. Talk through it. Compromise. And always, always buy the extra guacamole.