How My Boyfriend Inspired Me to Change My Finances

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I used to be the kind of girl who required a stiff drink when logging into my online banking account. If it was between a stocked closet and a stocked fridge, I’d gladly go hungry. And don’t even get me started on my previous understanding of a Roth IRA (frankly, there was no understanding).

Today, at 28.5 years old, I am proud to report that I pay off my credit card every month, have a healthy sum in savings and am preparing to work with a financial advisor on a low risk investment plan (and yes, I actually know what that means!).

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably irked by the premise of this piece, this idea that I only got my financial act together because of a man.

I hear you. I am you, so let’s change the title of the piece to, “How investing in a relationship made me realize it was time to invest in my life … through financial investments.” Now do you see why the first title is a little catchier?


Here is my story, and I promise it has little to do with 1950s stereotypes of the man controlling the checkbook.

Six months ago, my boyfriend and I started to talk about moving in together. It was a logical next step based on how our relationship was progressing and what our plans were for the future. But despite all my confidence in this decision, I was nervous. I was now responsible for contributing to half of a home (in this case a one-bedroom rental, but still), and I knew that I wasn’t as financially stable or savvy as my boyfriend. This brought me to my first moment of realization/transformation:

I didn’t want to cede financial control to my boyfriend.

I’ve known women who handed over the money reins once they moved in, and I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable with that situation. More importantly, I wanted my boyfriend to know I could be trusted to understand our finances–both independent and someday joint–and to help him make our money decisions. This prompted me to do some good old-fashioned research (some right here on LearnVest!) to better educate myself about short and long-term savings plans.

I negotiated a slightly higher yield on my savings account through my bank, opened up a second credit card with better cash rewards and kept track of my weekly spending to determine where I was going overboard (read: $4 lattes).

The more I learned, the more I realized that there were little things I could be doing to increase my slush fund savings–the money you keep for a rainy day, not the mighty retirement fund–which lead me to another conclusion:

I wanted to save for big expenditures versus small purchases.

When I lived in Manhattan on $30,000 per year, I had a closet full of fabulous clothes and the rattiest furniture known to man. At that point in my life, spending frivolously didn’t bear much consequence. Now I want a nice outdoor lounge chair for our backyard and a new mattress for our bed. My priorities shifted, and after some mourning over the fact that this means far fewer pastel-colored jeans this summer, I’m excited about the bigger “life” items that will last more than one fashion season.

Of course, that’s just the slush fund savings. Forging a life with someone is also an incredible motivator to think about financial security long after the lounge chair and mattress wear out. This is perhaps the biggest change I’ve experienced, but it was shockingly the easiest of them all.

I started the embrace the idea of living below our means to save for our future.

When my boyfriend and I first started to discuss moving in together, we planned to find a new, two-bedroom apartment to rent. I would be moving out of a house with friends, and he would be leaving his one-bedroom apartment for something larger. As we started to weigh our options and evaluate our finances (no stiff drinks required this time), we realized we could save a considerable amount of money if I moved into his one bedroom instead. If things got too cramped, we could always move to a larger space, but for now all the furniture and clothes fit, and the price was certainly right.

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but the idea of living below our means so that we could afford things like vacations while still investing more in our futures was thrilling.

There are, of course, a few other financial facts that come with the move in. It’s a lot harder to hide four boxes of shoes that you absolutely don’t need when you share a closet, and trips to Target now go down like a “Do We Have Room for That?” game show. But all in all, I feel more secure in my own future and myself now that I’m concentrating on the finances of sharing it with someone else.

That said, I still splurge on fresh flowers at the farmers’ market every week, and my boyfriend has been informed that I always will.

Jessie Rosen is a writer, branded entertainment producer and the author of 20-Nothings, a blog about her 20-something life. 

  • http://twitter.com/LaraTweeting Lara Stewart

    “If you’re anything like me, you’re probably irked by the premise of this
    piece, this idea that I only got my financial act together because of a
    man.”

    Actually, I was more irked by the “Why I Didn’t Want to be One of ‘Those’ Women” headline in the email. Why do that? Why paint entire swatches of the population with such a hateful brush? By painting women who have less financial savvy than you now have as “those women” you are participating in the divide and conquer actions that are part of what holds us back.

    • Carrie

      Hi Lara, 
      I just wanted to explain the subject line in the email that you didn’t like. 

      What we meant by that was simply that, as Jessie stated in her essay, she didn’t want to be a woman who let the man in the relationship take the financial reins without knowing what was going on herself. In other words, she wanted to empower herself about her own finances.

      It was never meant to refer to women who are less financially-savvy than she’s become. We apologize for the miscommunication! 

  • LaurenLever

    I would be interested to know if you had any student loans or “good” (is any of it really good??) debt that you had to deal with, I lived most of my 20s above my means, but now as a broke nearly 31 year old it looks like I am going to have to live well below mine if I even want to make the minimum payments!  :(

  • Laura Hayes

    Up until now, I have been super impressed with the content on LearnVest – it’s always been empowering without being preachy, and made me feel like I could get in control of my finances all on my own. This article felt like a giant step back – why was it impossible for the writer to reign in her spending “just because” – was it completely necessary to base this transition around a decision to move in with her boyfriend? 

    • http://twitter.com/macykoch Macy Koch

      People have different spending habits. While it may seem like she did it for her boyfriend, I think her motives were actually to get herself into a better position financially. 

      If it doesn’t work out with her boyfriend (which I’m not hoping for), she’ll be financially sound as an individual. 

      I give her credit for not handing over the finacial reigns and remaining a large decision maker in her (and her realtionship’s) financial decisions.

    • Jessie Carter

      Big life changes in general have a tendency to make us look harder at these things, and moving in with a significant other is a doozy! I hardly think this has anything to do with her boyfriend, and way more to do with taking a long hard look at her life before making a big life change.  Not to mention, it isn’t like her boyfriend had to push her into making these steps in the right direction. As far as we know he may have been the first person she’d ever met who had their act together financially!

      Also, how many people reign it in “just because”? The majority of people have to have a reason or some eye opening event make them evaluate years of bad spending habits that they are comfortable with. You don’t just wake up one day and go “Oh, well, I think I’ll drop my $4 latte habit for no other reason aside from that I can!”. If my life hadn’t changed from what it was a few years ago, you can darn sure bet I’d still be sinking $4 a day into frappes!

      I say kudos to Jessie, for getting things together, regardless of what triggered it! And I’m not just saying that because I like her name ;)

  • S Wonderful Sue

    I think this article was great! Wake up calls are different for everyone, mine was the scary number on my credit card bill – so I paid it off and cut the card up. I will be debt free hopefully by the end of summer and I’m only 24.5. That is exciting.

    PS living below your means to save for travel does sound thrilling!

  • T Ralston

    i found this article to be refreshing! it’s time that we start living below our means….living above our means is why the recession happend. kudos to you for being honest and evaluating your budget and priorities. my husband and i took a hard look at our finances about six years ago…and made paying off our debt our goal. proud to say we have paid everything off except our house and my student loans. openly talking about money should not be taboo- we can all learn from one another…
    thanks!

  • maracujation

    living below our means is harder than it seems. In my case it is hard because my own family perceives success as determined by the car you drive, the neighborhood you live in, the clothes you wear..and since making my parents proud has been a big priority in my life I am falling in the disappointing pile because I didn’t go to get a brand new car after graduating with my doctorate and getting my first good job. It was and it is still hard to live the way I want to live and not feel bad when they make comments about my lifestyle and my “lack of ambition” because I prefer to have an older buy paid off car. Well, I prefer the new one honestly but I am so close to pay my last $1600 of bad debt that I don’t see myself piling more for a car..not worth it for me. Yes, I want nice vacations, nice things and all that but sometimes I ask myself if I truly want them or if I want them because I am suppose to. I hope I can continue to resist the pressure so I can have the luxuries I really want by saving and rewarding myself…I know things will come at the right time..and if I forget that and start feeling like a failure  I just have to remember how annoying is to pay for crap you already did or used…is like throwing money away due to lack of planning and self-control

    • nikki

      i think that you should figure out your personal financial/ life goals and don’t let your family peer pressure you into things that you aren’t comfortable with.

    • Suziem85

      Seriously, you cannot live your life for your parents, family, friends, or anyone else. You have to live YOUR life YOUR way, otherwise you will never be happy. Take it from someone who’s been there. Take a good long look at what you really want and ask yourself why. Is it because it’s the “in” thing to do, or do you legitimately want it? Then ask yourself if ”x” will make you happy and if so, will it make you happy in the short-term (trendy clothes that wear out quickly or aren’t in fashion very long), mid-term (will this help me/be useful/be practical 5-10 years down the road?), or long-term (good long-lasting memories)? Just remember money cannot buy happiness, but you can obtain things that will lend themselves in the direction of your dreams. As long as you are comfortable, but not too comfortable, you’ll be alright. :)

    • PallavB

      Everyone around the world is just the same. Trying to fulfill everyone’s expectation.
      I have learned the hard way that you can’t make everyone happy at the same time. 
      Ultimately you should be satisfied with yourself in whatever little or major achievements that you accomplish in your life.

  • Kendal

    Thanks for a great article, Jessie! I, too, learned a lot about finances from my husband and I’m not ashamed to admit it! We all have wonderful people in our lives — male and female — who contribute to our growth and understanding of life’s challenges. I definitely credit my husband for helping me view money as something to be saved and not needlessly spent. I credit myself, too, for listening to his advice and making it part of who I am. 

  • Jbyars

    Having flowers in your home is good for your health (ask Dr. Andrew Weil). It is a necessary expense.

    There is much to be said for having limited space. I am toward the other end of the financial lifespan, having recently retired, so I speak from experience. About 20 years ago, my husband and I owned a three bedroom, two story home, with an entirely finished basement. Read: you never have to get rid of anything. We accumulated and accumulated–didn’t even get rid of old paint buckets! The house we are now in is much smaller but certainly big enough, and only 1/4 of the basement is for storage.

  • PallaviB.

    Your article is a mirror image of my life at 30 something. 
    I went through the same thought process when I decided to pack my 30 something life in two suitcases to live with my husband in one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn from New Delhi last year.
    Its a journey I’ve realized that you need to undertake together.
    Everyday is a new learning in terms of managing our finances together and spending thoughtfully on things that make you happy.
    I hope to keep it up and wish the same to you too!

  • Sarahashley13

    Its great to hear/see an example of how combining finances can be so rewarding and positive.  I’ve been getting my finances together for the past 14 months (thanks mostly to Learnvest!) to the point where I’ve gone from credit card and school loan debt to looking for my first home! As I turn 26 this week, I can’t help but think that when I finally do find a man I want to share my life with (which includes things and money) I freak out at the thought that he’ll just have to hand the reins to me since I’ve got it considerably more together than most men my age.  I feel as if my finances could hinder my ability to find a man.  Reading your story gave me hope that no matter what the situation is for a couple and their individual finances, there is an opportunity to build a rewarding financial future!  Thanks Jessie!

    • Jenna

      If being smart about your finances is important to you but a “turn-off” to a man, that’s not the right guy for you!

      My fiance is not a numbers person and appreciates that I’m the one that manages the day-to-day details of our household finances!

  • Sarahashley13

    Oh and I also treat myself to flowers once a week at the Saturday market from May to October.  The cost is factored into my budget and it is worth every penny….there are worst vices!

  • Ashley H

    This is great! I helped my boyfriend do the same, and we are about to take our first “real” vacation in August! So nice to see other people using the “split finances” thing to their advantage. We’re both paying off debts, are happy and comfortable! Excellent story!

  • Kat R.

    Good for you, getting intentional (and aware) about your finances!  I can promise that, the older you get, the more rewards you’ll reap from it.  DH and I are little farther down the road than you are, and we have friends who are farther still.  We’ve all found that the best thing about living below our means is the freedom it gives, especially in life-changing situations (like having a child or switching jobs).  It’s really sad when debt keeps people from following your dreams–stay on this track, and that won’t be you!

  • merrybelly

    I love this!! It totally hit home for me!!!
    merrybellyland777.blogspot.com

  • ari

    my (wealthy) boyfriend also inspired me to change my finances.

    when my financial situation went to hell and i had no financial income he didnt even make the smallest inkling of offering me help. so while he spends enormous amounts of money on useless crap i go to sleep next to him hungry. so i’m going to quit uni, get a job, make some money, and move out. he can go f himself.