When Our Spending Habits Come Into Conflict
I say more power to couples who are totally in spending-saving sync, but that’s just not us. Usually, my husband holds steady when it comes to big spending decisions, but every once in a while, I manage to convince him otherwise.
Sure, there have been arguments along the way–like that new Gucci watch I just had to have back when they were the “it” status symbol. We argued about it for weeks . . . and eventually put it on our credit card. It took months to pay off, and it’s now a decision that I, too, regret.
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A few years later I just had to have a red sports car, and after badgering him about it for months, he finally caved and we bought something that we definitely could not afford. Looking back, that was an even dumber decision than the watch.
But it’s hard not to argue when my husband’s immediate reaction to any trip or major purchase is “no.” Without even taking the time to listen or review our budget, his first response is usually, “We can’t afford that.” Sometimes he is right. But other times there’s room for compromise. Would it be better to save more? Sure. Am I willing to only give our kids one childhood vacation? No.
I like to think that we’re still growing and learning about money management and our core values as a couple–and as a family. We aren’t in debt, we don’t use credit cards and we have a retirement account, so we’re doing enough to satisfy both of us, which is what really counts.
What Our Differences Have Taught Me
One of the biggest lessons that we have learned: If one of you is a spender and the other one isn’t, it’s not time to call the divorce attorney.
We all know that money is the number one thing that couples fight about–in fact, a recent survey revealed that couples argue, on average, three times a month about finances. But, for us, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve had our share of I-want-to-buy-this-no-you-can’t fights, but each of us “wins” about 50% of the time, so it’s all fair in love and money.
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For example, last summer, I really wanted–no, needed–a vacation to the tropics. (OK, no one actually needs a trip to a tropical island, but I was severely burned out at work and had to get away.)
My husband immediately started to stress about our finances. “We’re poor,” he said. So I broke out the spreadsheet–and the wine–to show him precisely how much we had in savings and where the money would come from for that vacation. In the end, we compromised and settled on a trip to a more affordable spot in Costa Rica, where the hotel was only $40 a night.
Another important lesson we’ve learned is to keep some play money for ourselves. From day one, we’ve combined 75% of our finances, leaving the rest for personal “mad money” that each of us can spend how we wish. This way, we’re both contributing to the bills and our savings accounts, but we still get some spending money.