Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Miser Mom with a non-Miser family

Frugal-to-the-bone:  She Is; He Isn't.  That's one of the melodies running through our marriage.

It's not the only melody.  There are some pretty big "We are" melodies, too.  We are active; inquisitive; occasionally irreverent; tough disciplinarians; book lovers; stinky when it comes to humility.  We both love taking on grand, idealistic, semi-impulsive projects.  So when I niggle about
"and then he bought an expensive latte!" 
and people might wonder
"What keeps them together?", 
the answer is that the magic in the marriage is that I can tell him something like,
"Even though I don't own a bike, 
I was thinking of trying an IronMan Triathalon" 
and he responds by saying,
"I'll learn to swim so I can join you!'  

It's that kind of marriage.  That grand, slightly nutty idealism is how we adopted N kids (where N is a number greater than or equal to 2, depending on how you count).  It's how my husband decided to reenlist in the military at age 54 (in army years, that's older than dirt).  It's how we decided to get married in the first place, really:  a whirlwind romance lasting less than a month, that 16 years and many kids later is still going strong.

But it's not the kind of marriage where he's going to give up cable TV.  Or fancy lattes.

Let's switch back to looking at the world entirely through Miser Mom lenses:  Suppose you marry a man who comes with a bunch o'debt and other financial obligations, no real retirement savings, and a spending philosophy which is impulsive at best.  Can frugality work its magic on our finances?  Is one-sided frugality even worth it?

Fifteen years ago, I would have told you I wasn't sure.  I would have said somehow the miser has to convert the spendthrift, or else the frugalist suffers while the spender revels.  But today the picture is different.   Even with me doing the bulk of the bulk-purchasing, so to speak, our entire family is better off, me included.  No car debt. The home is within a year of being completely paid off.  We give something like 6-8% of our take-home salary to church and other charities.  Several of the kids have been successfully launched into the world, and others are moving toward the launching pad.

And truth be told, my non-miser husband is a heck of a lot more miserly than he was when he married me.  He often brings lunch to work; he's figured out how to make his suits last longer; he stays in cheap hotels when he travels (much to the bemusement of his coworkers).

Although I admire (and sometimes am a little wistfully envious) of those couples that walk the frugal/no trash/garden extravaganza life together, the point is, if you want to be a frugalista, it's possible to lead that parade solo.  To march along with no marching band behind you.  And still to make sure that the whole family is better off than it would have been if you'd waited for everyone to line up in formation. 


  1. This post made me smile as I actually have been contemplating a "Training Up Hubby" post! LOL

    I come from a long line of frugality where my husband comes from a make it and flaunt it sprendthrift making lots of money line.

    It has been an interesting 13 year journey and he has come a long long ways from the money is everything attitude and what you buy with it gives you your status quo.........

    I am very proud of who he is today but the spendthrift does come out in him somtimes but the solo frugal act DOES make a difference even if he has come much more on board than in the past!

    1. Yes, you're right that it's hard to convince people that it's fun to be frugal unless you first do it yourself. Setting a cheerful example is more helpful in the long run than lots of nagging and finger-wagging. -MM