I, like many, am married to someone very different from me. This mostly works well, as our strengths and personalities are complementary. Qualities I admire yet lack, my husband has, and vice versa. Over the years, we’ve learned to understand each other better, and develop life plans with the other (as a partner and equal) at the core. We mostly have the same views and values in life (which is not to be confused with our families of origin having the same views and values). According to Sebastien, over the years he has trained me to be better behaved. On my side, things aren’t working out as well, as evidenced by my husband’s recent trip to the grocery store: no chocolate was purchased, and he doesn’t even remember my favorite brands. Sigh, first world relationship problems.
|This cartoon is wildly sexist - I initially assumed it was the man who was spendy, in fact.|
My husband inherently doesn’t spend money. He’s generous and enjoys spending money to be social, but generally is pretty frugal. He’s the person who in the past (as a single guy) bought and ate a Costco-sized tuna can, because … cheaper by weight. I am not naturally frugal - growing up there was always a ton of stuff I wanted, and I never saved my allowance as a kid. If I go into a dollar store, I want to buy everything. If I walk through an aisle of mini toiletries, I want them all because they’re so cute. When I’m in a clothing store, I start fantasizing about how great I’ll look in the clothes. But, I’m very much motivated by not needing to depend on someone else (an employer) for a paycheck, and in having autonomy and freedom. That pursuit of freedom lights my fire in a way that elegant decor and possessions (as much as I can appreciate them) simply can’t.
The way our finances work is basically: I’m in charge of everything, I monitor and pay everything, but give my husband regular updates about our net worth or spending (or hitting credit card bonuses). Sometimes I wish we acted more like equals in this regard, but let’s be honest I love tracking our finances (it’s a hobby, not), and we’re on the same page so things are low-conflict and mutually beneficial. All of our credit cards are linked on Mint.com, plus checking and savings accounts and Vanguard investments. Any transactions or paycheck deposits show up in one place, which is handy. I don’t particularly love mint, but it gets the job done. Personal Capital, I hear, is the cooler shinier new service that does the same thing (provides free tracking/aggregation for all your accounts). I transfer all of our transactions to a personal spreadsheet (one for each month, plus a master one for the whole year’s monthly spending), with categories like groceries, eating out, clothes shopping, transportation, misc, fixed (rent/internet/phone). I have a master spreadsheet on our investments (contributions, net worth, allocation). Travel of the international variety and charitable contributions get tracked separately.
I’m somewhat uncomfortable with the term ‘frugal’ (which evokes to me an image of someone who enjoys not spending money to the point where they avoid fulfilling activities simply due to the cost). I try instead to be thoughtful in considering how to spend my money, which doesn’t feel like deprivation. I’m not motivated by not spending money (a growing savings account … nice but meh) but rather by buying investments that will grow and compound and make me wealthy. My husband does not operate in the same way (at all). Take for instance, his Daily Bagel (™ - just kidding). $1.69 every morning at work, when he works a regular shift. I see this and think - personally, I’ve found that daily minor food purchases are not that satisfying in the grand scheme of things, I/he might be better off planning and bringing breakfast to work in that situation. Cheaper and could be prepared the night before, which allows you to avoid the extra time to buy a bagel the next morning, which means you can sleep more. And I truly value sleep. I also think, if you buy a bagel every workday and work 48 weeks/year, that’s $405. What a beautiful amount to add to our investments every year. But when I mention ‘do you think this bagel is providing you with more satisfaction than it costs?’, he is all ‘woman, don’t control my spending’. He doesn't spend much (inherently), and doesn't want his minor purchases questioned. Which, fair enough. I’m not trying to cut the spending (that's just what it sounds like), but rather to ensure utility derived exceeds the cost. It’s tough to be married to an economist-by-training, I guess. I need to let this drop, since my husband claims this bagel thing comes up on a regular basis. For real, we don’t argue about the big money stuff, but … bagels.
As the tracker, I’m much more cognizant of how much we spend and what we spend it on. As in most life situations, it’s easier to remember the good things you’ve done for others rather than the numerous things others do for you. Particularly, our own quirks or mis-steps seem minor in the face of the annoying things we remember that our partner has done. I think this is largely true even if you’re not particularly petty or inclined to keep tabs. Does it make me a little glum that in marrying Sebastien, I went from not spending anything on a car, to … spending on insurance, lots of gas, and costly repairs? A bit. But, not a productive thing to focus on, since the car isn’t going anywhere, and it also benefits us both. Similarly, I conveniently forget that I’ve spent over $600 on clothes this year, despite viewing myself as not a big shopper.
After 6.5 years together, you’d think I would internalize our differences and be uber-smart about how to approach getting my husband on board with an idea. But no: I recently presented him with a fun challenge to reach a certain (stretch) amount in our investments by the end of the year. That went over … about as well as when I ask about his bagels. The challenge motivated me, but not him. There was no clear way to achieve this goal, he was happy with his/our spending (and interested in going out for more dinner dates in fact). I always think my good influence on my husband will draw him to be more like me, but am forced to constantly realize that he remains his (wonderful) original self. And that I actually prefer things this way. See: complementary facets of our personalities, and all the things that attracted me to him in the first place.
For those with joint finances: do you have any big (or small) conflicts that come up regularly or unexpectedly? For those without: what are the reasons your current system works better than joint finances? What are the biggest benefits you see to not having joint finances?