Our First Money Fight: The Trip That Almost Blew Our Marriage


KittilsonIn our Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.

Today, one writer explains how a backpacking adventure in South America—with one shared bank account—taught her and her brand-new husband how to talk about money. 

Two weeks after tying the knot, my husband, Robert, and I set out to Peru with $3,000, two one-way tickets, two backpacks—and two wildly different philosophies about how to handle our money.

I’d been raised with a fear of spending that verged on unhealthy, while he lived by an “it’ll be fine” attitude that had helped him acquire an astonishing number of defaulted loans before we met. This might have been quietly swept under the rug had we stayed in Seattle with steady jobs, but not so with our Indefinite South American Adventure. Traveling abroad with just our combined savings to depend on, there was no way we could ignore our money differences.

On our three-month anniversary, we sat in furious silence on the Playa La Curva in Huanchaco, watching local kids dive into the waves like fish. I was fighting back tears and my husband was close to storming back to the hotel room—and all over a simple budget discussion.

Our First Money Fight

What happened that fateful day? Well, let’s just say, nothing ruins a good mood quicker than having your partner say, “Babe, we need to talk about the bank account.”

In Huanchaco I’d done just that, springing a Budget Talk on my husband while he was trying to choose between a tamarind or guanábana (a native fruit) snow cone. We were walking on the beach, taking a leisurely day off from our hectic sight-seeing schedule, to celebrate our three-month anniversary. The sun had burned away the morning’s fog, and a stop at our favorite snow cone stand seemed like the perfect treat.

RELATED: 6 Money Questions You Need to Ask Your Spouse

Our conversation turned to what we would do once we left this sleepy beach town. Should we head back to Lima? Finally check out the Gringo Trail hotspots like Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines? Move on to Bolivia?

  • ADubs923

    What a great article. I appreciate seeing things from the “penny pincher” side and I will definitely be able to use the tips at the end of the article. thanks for sharing!

  • Sarah M Blood

    My favorite tip was that you “list out a few key topics that we’d like to cover.”

    I used to feel like I had to solve an entire issue all at once in order to be productive. Setting reasonable goals is much smarter.

  • Molly

    If writer and her husband traveled for over 6 months including return airfare from South America on $3,000, I think she has a lot more to share with us about how to make money stretch that far on the road!

  • AllisonMS

    Fascinating, isn’t it, how different money styles don’t significantly rear their heads while dating? It’s the crucible of marriage and foreverness of being married brings these differences into daylight, often as quickly as on the honeymoon, as in your case. I’m a psychotherapist for brides (www.emotionallyengaged.com) and I will be sharing this article with them. They’ll be glad to know they’re not alone — it’s universal, how our family backgrounds affect our money styles, and how they’re inevitably different from our new spouse’s.