What I needed was a knight in shining armour . . .
By the time I married DH, I knew I was a disaster with finances. In overdraft every month, my accounts were chaotic, and rescue at the hands of a knight in shining armour seemed like a good thing. DH showed all the signs of being financially sensible. He worried about money. He controlled it tightly. I would leave it all in his hands, and we’d live happily ever after.
DH’s faulty money blueprint
What I didn’t realize at the time was that DH’s worry and control were symptoms of his own faulty money blueprint. “What is a money blueprint?” you might ask. It’s the idea, from T. Harv Eker’s book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, that there are messages about money that we all absorb as children. These messages become so fundamental to our way of thinking that it’s hard even to identify what they are. But DH read Eker’s book – shortly before we started our journey out of debt in June 2012 – and he gave it some real thought.
Here is what he realized: As he was growing up, he saw that his dad always worried about money. From this observation, he learned that money was stressful and needed to be controlled. An ironic result of this money blueprint was that when things were going well financially, DH was actually out of his element – because there was nothing to worry about. So without being aware of why he was doing it, he’d self-sabotage – making big purchases to get us back to a state where he could be comfortable worrying and controlling again.
I had always loved it when, out of the blue as it seemed, DH would say, “Let’s get new flooring,” or “Let’s go out for dinner and a play,“ or “Let’s do a week-end get-away.” It was such a refreshing change from the furrowed brows, anxious about every penny. I never questioned the wisdom of such big expenditures. I simply accepted them as a profound relief for my own pent up desires to indulge by spending. When DH explained his pattern of spending in light of his money blueprint, it was a real Ah-ha! moment for me too.
Two equal partners
DH’s humble recognition of his own faulty patterns with finances was significant for me. Although I had never put it into words, I always had the impression my own scattered financial brain was the only obstacle blocking our way to good money management. I wasn’t looking for relief from this impression, but I sure felt it when DH took ownership of his flawed patterns. And it set us up well for the equal partnership we were establishing as we began our journey out of debt.
Fruclassity Commandment #5: If you are married, approach your finances as a team of two equal partners. One person might have more money savvy, but to have success in your financial practices and goals, both of you have to be committed to them. The number one reason for divorce these days is conflict over finances, so take this one seriously! Find that balance between flexibility and structure – between tenacity and accommodation. Maintain high levels of detailed communication. Get on the same page financially, and write your story together.
Recognizing red flags as a team
Managing our finances together as a team requires our effort. I still have a powerful draw towards putting my head in the sand and leaving everything up to DH. I still feel the lure of take-out and other small but constant purchases of the feel-good variety. He is still inclined to worry and control. And still, on occasion, he makes one of those sabotaging suggestions for a big expenditure. But because we’re aware of our own and each other’s weaknesses, we can deal with them proactively. When DH wanted to spend several hundred dollars on an anniversary get-away last October, I pointed it out as a red flag, and rather than spending a fortune at a resort, we went camping instead – at a savings of 95%. And just this evening, tired and hungry after a workout at the gym, I tried to talk DH into a bite to eat at his favourite restaurant. He was tempted, but he resisted the bait, recognizing my spending weakness in it, and we made up a frugal fish meal at home instead.
Budgeting and tracking together
Every month, DH and I make up a budget together, and every Saturday, we sit down and track our expenditures for the week. I was hoping, after reading Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, that our budgeting sessions would be bonding experiences – as they seemed to be among those who gave testimonials in the book. “’We have made budgeting and planning our future together enjoyable and fun,’ say Cheryl and Ken Rhoads. ‘It’s like dating again!’” (Ramsey, 75) Well, so much for that hope.
Nevertheless, although our weekly and monthly budget meetings are less-than-romantic, they’ve had the result of making our marriage stronger. No longer does DH carry the burden of managing our personal finances alone. No longer do I accept and shrug off my own financial incompetence. I’m gaining some money savvy. DH and I steer each other in the right direction when our own weaknesses threaten to take us off course. And together, we keep on top of the minutia of our spending.
Functioning in isolation from each other, we created a situation of unstable finances and constant undercurrents of stress. Now, we’re on the same page. And we’re writing our story together.
If you are part of a couple, does only one of you manage the money? Or do you share that responsibility?