Tuesday, November 8, 2011

For richer or for poorer . . .

Before I married my husband, I was most nervous about whether he was a messy/neat person.  I was really nervous about clutter, for some reason. I wasn't thinking about financial compatibility at all.

Now, a decade-and-a-half after he convinced me to say, "I do", we make jokes about how I thought I was marrying a rich guy.  We started our marriage with him taking on the financial duties.  It only took about four months for me to realize something was really very, very terribly wrong:  we were going into debt fast. It's not that I actually wanted to be rich; but I really, really don't want to owe money to others.  This slide into debt freaked me out, but debt was fairly normal for him; his philosophy at the time was, "well, I always seem to find a way to make more money and pay for it."

I had thought my husband was rich because he spent a lot of money [caveat:  "compared to me"].  He had essentially no retirement savings, and similarly no emergency savings.  He carried a small balance on his  credit card.  I hadn't ever come into close contact with people who didn't compulsively avoid debt.  How do you buy a car, for example?  My husband thought EVERYBODY (except weirdos) financed the whole price.  I was sure EVERYBODY (except idiots) saved up the money and bought the car with cash.  It turns out I married an idiot and my husband married a weirdo.
(Note to Dogs or Dollars:  I'm cheering for your 8-month car plan!)
This is the point at which most couples would have fought epic battles ending in daggers or divorce.  Fortunately for all involved, the hearts-and-flowers part of our marriage won out over the cold-hard-cash part.  It helped a lot that the two of us quickly realized that the financial management in our marriage should rest on the shoulders of the person who obsesses about it most [= me].  He gladly handed over the reins, and I've been in charge of setting up accounts, tracking our monthly expenses, and monitoring finances ever since.

This doesn't mean we do everything my way.  Hardly (ha!).  I've had to learn the odd art of budgeting when vast proportions of my budget are completely out of my control and largely at odds with my own philosophy  (details to follow eventually).    It's not that we've come to some happy and harmonious compromise somewhere between our two starting positions . . . in fact, in many ways, our marriage has made BOTH of us become more frugal than before.  I'm much, much more parsimonious than when I first married him, out of that need I feel to keep us both in the black.  My guy has never come close to matching my early frugality (he goes to fast-food restaurants, can you imagine!!), but he's learned to watch expenses in a way that make his co-workers think of him as a thrifty guy.

In irony of ironies, the one large remaining financial weight on our shoulders is because of a house renovation that *I* decided to go for.  Aside from that very large debt, we've paid off our mortgage, have no car or credit card debt, and helped put our three daughters through college (our ex-spouses played large co-starring roles in that movie).  The retirement account isn't all it should be, but it's there.  The charitable donations aren't all they should be, but they're happening.

We're getting to be weirdos together, is what I guess that means.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the shout out MM! I too, am super excited about the 8 month payment program. I'm already thinking, 7 more, then 6...

    It's somewhere in between paying cash and being tied to a car loan forever.

    To your point, I hear ya. The Husband, by all accounts a wonderful guy, buys soda. Believe it or not. And he had atrocious credit, which we cleaned up prior to wedded bliss. I'm suddenly inspired to write about all that.

    I love weirdos together, and extra credit for the use of parsimonious.