One of the first things my husband and I bonded over when we met was that we both had a peculiar habit as children. While playing video games, we both refused to spend any of the “money” we earned while playing. Even if the video game currency was there to help win the game or unlock special features, we held onto our virtual cash. We were so fun, can’t you tell?
We met very young, and for many years, our spending habits were in sync. As cash-strapped college students, we worked hard and saved our money for a rainy day. We never knew when we would need money to help pay for school, cars, or living expenses, so we didn’t spend any of it. Our idea of a wild Friday night was a Blockbuster movie on the couch. (That gives you an idea of how long ago we met.) Why the movie love? We could afford to go out to dinner, but we were more comfortable not spending the money. We had a financial routine, and it worked well. But of course, when you least expect it, life throws a curveball.
When the friction started
For over five years, we were in perfect financial harmony. But a funny thing happened: We grew up. And we grew in different, albeit both good, directions. He started graduate school, and I jumped right into the working world. His grad school stipend paid his bills and left a little money to add to savings every month. I wasn’t bringing in the big bucks, but my entry-level salary felt hefty compared to what I was making babysitting in college. Within a few months, I began freelance writing on the side and had even more cash flow coming in.
I was working 60-hour weeks, and I was ready to treat myself—the occasional happy hour here, a new blouse there. As my income increased, so did my spending habits. I was never spending more than I could afford to—and I was saving money every month—but I can see how, from my husband’s perspective, it felt like my spending habits were changing drastically.
To this day, I consider myself to be thrifty. I only buy clothing on sale (and rarely at that). I don’t spend money on entertainment like Netflix or concerts, and I skip pricey beauty treatments like manicures or highlights. But I’m not as thrifty as my husband, which caused some frustrations as we adjusted to our new financial reality.
How we make it work
We still had the same financial goals and saw eye-to-eye in many areas of our financial life. But we knew there were some kinks to iron out if we wanted to live harmoniously.
Finding common ground
One of our biggest recurring money fights revolved around the fact that I wanted to travel after college. I didn’t travel at all during school and worked every spring break, summer, and winter holiday. Because I was making extra money freelancing, it felt like it was my moment to hit the road. Unfortunately, my husband didn’t feel the same way. He was doing his best to get through grad school in one piece and on a modest stipend. There came a point where we decided that it would be best if I traveled without him (this was before we married). Long story short, that plan lasted one trip before an opportunity for us to travel together arose. An opportunity that was too good to pass up. And guess who learned he loved to travel and that it was worth every penny? Yep, you guessed right.
Now that we both know for certain we are passionate about traveling, we never disagree about spending money on a dream trip. We learned from this conflict, that before rejecting any experiences because of the cost, we should be open to trying them first.
Respecting our differences
My frugal husband sure comes in handy sometimes. (Hello, hefty savings account and emergency fund.) But I get frustrated when he is too slow to make a necessary purchase because he’s debating the cost. Even if he knows he is going to buy that new pack of phone chargers, he’ll wait a week or two to wrap his head around the purchase. I don’t hesitate before buying a true necessity. It’s not like I want to spend my hard-earned money on a water filtration pitcher, but what can you do? Now, even if I am itching to cross a purchase off my to-do list, I patiently wait until he is comfortable spending the money. That doesn’t mean I’m not annoyed by this habit at times. But the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t harm anyone, and it makes him feel more comfortable.
Something that makes both of us more comfortable with each other’s financial decisions is planning together. We discuss everything in detail, with no topic off limits. We debate how career choices may affect our finances down the road, think carefully about retirement planning, and have financial plans for what we will do in an emergency. Keeping each other informed of the financial moves we’re making, whether we approve of the decision or not, means neither of us feels like we’re left in the dark or purposely misled. No secrets and no guilt for us, thank you very much!