I worked with two women who used to buy clothes and have them shipped to the office so their husbands wouldn’t know how much they were spending.
I’m not judging. Heck, I’m the spender in my marriage. Right now, I have several hundred dollars’ worth of stuff I can’t wait to get – a banjo, a workout bench...the normal stuff.
But there’s a problem. While I’m very much a spender, my wife is very much not a spender. In fact, she loves saving money. So when we first got married and our two money-spending inclinations collided, there were a few…sparks.
That time I really wanted that book
Early on in our marriage, our budget was tight – so tight that we both agreed we’d stick to our budget, come hell or high water. That is, until we were going to the beach and I had no good book to read. (Fellow book nerds, you know what I’m talking about.)
When we walked by a bookstand the day before our trip, this book – the book – sat aloft a golden book throne and had the most majestic light shining down on it. It was the one. It was my beach book.
But when I inquired as to our status on our budget that week (an answer I already knew, but was in denial about) I was gently reminded about our pact to keep to our budget.
Well, I pitched a full-on toddler fit over the book. And, in the end, I got it. But during the whole beach trip as I read that stupid book, I felt guilty about acting like a toddler and breaking our pact. I look back with embarrassment on that moment.
Fast forward nearly 10 years and we’ve both learned not only how we each work, but also how to best work with each other, and best love each other.
Here’s how we make it work
1 | Admit the benefits of the other side
I am extraordinarily thankful that my wife is a saver. If it weren’t for her, I’d have a pile of toys around me and nothing in the bank. But for my fellow spenders in the house, it ain’t always easy to appreciate your spouse’s inclination to save when that means you have to use a spender’s two-letter curse word: “no.”
I know my wife would say the same about me. I’ve helped her to see the benefits of a good dinner out and an upgrade on a vacation. The sooner you can admit that the other side brings much needed benefits, the better off you will be.
2 | No secrets
Fellow spenders, don’t make secret purchases. I’m not talking about buying shady stuff. I mean, don’t buy anything that you will be tempted to hide from your spouse. It just makes everything worse and prolongs the real conversation you need to have about why you might need that thing, or whether it’s worth saving up for it.
Secret purchases are toxic for a relationship. Just don’t do it.
3 | Agree that you need “spend money”
To all the savers: everyone needs some spend money. Yes, yes, we don’t actually “need” spending money. Anything above paying the bills is just extra. That being said, us spenders will eventually go crazy if we can’t have an occasional treat, even if that treat is inexpensive.
4 | Define “spend money”
Is going out to lunch considered spend money? What if that lunch out is a steakhouse?
My wife and I agreed a long time ago to tell each other before we spent over a certain dollar amount. We also agreed to tell each other about those “little,” “inexpensive” habits that actually add up to a lot over time – like that $4 Starbucks five days a week.
5 | Work together to save up for awesome spending times
Do you know what many of my best childhood memories come from? Vacation. Vacations utilize the best of both of your strengths. You have to save in order to go on vacation, and you get to spend once you’re there.
At the end of the day, it’s all about letting go of control, whether your inclination is to control spending or control getting what you want. Instead, let love and submission (the good kind) rule the day in your relationship and you won’t look back with any regrets.
Because of all this, and so much more ... I resolve to stay the course set out by our courageous foremothers who fought pointedly, persistently for equality. I'm a woman raising a daughter in a world that values her more for her bone structure than her brain. This is my resolution. This is my feminist manifesto.
I now know there are steps I can take to change how I think, to find the true me again. That is why I am going to take better care of myself this year. In fact, that’s the only resolution I care to make. For both my own health, and as an important example to my kids, this year, I'm resolving to practice a kindness that starts from within.