I Was an Idiot with My Money, Then Married Someone Who Isn’t. Here’s What Happened

We got in a huge fight about 2 months into our dating relationship.

She said something akin to “debt is wrong.”

I, having a relationship with debt that closely resembled my relationship with oxygen, got offended by this. Most of my friends had insane credit card balances too.

I seriously reconsidered breaking things off – having such a fundamental difference of perspective might get toxic. So I went to my pastor to discuss…

…and vent.

He did a really good job of listening to my side of things, which led me to believe that I was in the right, and should consider a different direction with this relationship.

Then he turned a complete 180, called me a freakin’ idiot for entertaining the idea of me, breaking things off with a smart, beautiful woman who happens to have a super healthy view of money. Strongly implied in this dressing-down was the idea that someone like me was super lucky to find someone like her.

I don’t bring a lot to the life-skills table, but one thing I’m good at is responding when someone gets direct with me. I too turned a 180, changed my attitude, and got married.

When Personal Finance Gets Personal

One of the hardest things about marriage was the idea that my life would now be controlled, to a degree, by someone else, and vice versa.

I didn’t see this one coming.

All of a sudden, at the drop of an “I do,” I had to make a million decisions with someone who looked at life from a completely different perspective.

And I had been a mess with money for so many years. Things like saving, investing, not buying a drone, or eating out for every meal, felt stifling.

I had become addicted to spending money. If I wanted something, I bought it, even though I couldn’t afford it. I didn’t buy big things, just enough to soothe whatever mess was swimming around in my soul that day. Not only did I rack up a ton of debt, I couldn’t stop. Spending money I didn’t have on things I didn’t need had become a way of life.

From my perspective, it seemed like all my wife wanted to do was control me.

But it only took 8 years to realize that my wife was the healthy one, and that I needed to change. But in that short period of time, we did some fighting.

Thank god she’s not a weak woman. I needed to run into this brick wall.

I Fell in Love with Financial Management

Here’s a word that used to make me sick:

Budget

There’s no other word in the Western cultural lexicon that so opposes my illusions of freedom.

Up until my wedding night, I never budgeted, unless you count glancing at your credit card bill to see how much money you can spend before you hit your limit.

But, turns out that marital tension is more painful than budgeting, so I bit the bullet, opened a spreadsheet, and set out on the cold and lonely road of financial responsibility.

8 years later, I found myself up until 2AM, 3 different spreadsheets open, charting our previous year’s spending, and budgeting for the next.

If you would have told my 2001 self that one day I’d enjoy working with a budget, I would’ve laughed.

But like any other discipline, budgeting is super painful at first, but if you stick with it, you’ll come to enjoy it. Nothing good is easy, budgeting is no exception.

My wife and I are finally at a point where we sit down at the beginning of the year, look at how much $$ will be coming in, and decide where we want to spend it. It still feels stifling and un-free, but I’ve done it long enough to realize that feelings-based spending is actually less free than budget-based spending.

We check in every week for a “business meeting” where we discuss our calendar and take a look at our money. Most weeks it’s like pulling teeth to get me to do it, but my wife’s faithful here, thank God, and I do my best to follow her lead.

I still spend more than I should, and far more than she does. I haven’t yet managed to fully purge the urge to soothe myself with a quick trip to amazon for the latest camping gadget.

But I’m way better than I used to be. When you stare at a budget every week, and someone else is looking at it with you, it’s much more difficult to go into the next week with plans to blow more money.

I’m also learning what freedom is, and that being truly free involves boundaries, especially when it comes to $$.

All thanx to someone who doesn’t screw around when it comes to money.

Don’t Screw Around with Your Money

If you’ve made it this far into this AM’s post, you’re either someone who’s in a relationship where you’re great with money and your spouse is a bonehead, or vice versa – or worse, you’re realizing that you’re both boneheads.

It’s rare to be in a relationship where both are fiscal badasses.

I hate to do this, but if you’re in a budget-free relationship, I’ve got some bad news. You’re going to have to retire at some point, and you’re probably not going to have enough.

Pour yourself a cocktail to ease the pain, and do the math.

30 years from now, you’re going to need, at the very least, $60,000 a year to live on. Many would say that’s not nearly enough, but to ease the pain we’ll low-ball it.

And there’s this thing called inflation, which means that, 30 years from now, $60,000 is really 110,000 (if inflation hovers at 2%). When you retire, you’re going to need enough money tucked away to generate over $100k per year in interest.

Pour yourself another cocktail and do the math – this’ll hurt.

In a nutshell, to retire 30 years from now, you’re going to need somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,700,000 in the bank.

The good new is that if you have 30 years to play with, and you start now, you can do it. Pull up a compound interest calculator on the web to cypher how much you’ll need to add each month to get to your goal.

But if you do what most people in the US do and invest your discretionary income in the credit card companies, you’ll never get there.

Pour yourself another cocktail and imagine yourself in your late ‘60’s, with maxed out credit cards and not enough money to live on.

It’s a real thing. Happens all the time to budget-free people.

If it sounds like I’m trying to scare you. I am.

Painful and boring as it is, my wife and I try our best to let a yearly budget run the show. And I’m happy to report that it hasn’t killed me, or made me horribly depressed.

It has however forced me to deal with some of the crap that led me to find comfort in spending money I didn’t have. That’s been less than comfortable, but has resulted in me finding comfort in other, much more healthy places.

Thank you annoying, fiscally mature, more-responsible-than-me, wife

9 thoughts on “I Was an Idiot with My Money, Then Married Someone Who Isn’t. Here’s What Happened

  • Wow! I agree with your view point here,it’s so painful to know that one of the major strains in any marriage is the M word, MONEY. Thanks for sharing.

  • Excellent post. We are becoming more comfortable with our budget and household bills spreadsheet. I’m so grateful that we are debt-free, with the exception of our mortgage. So many of my friends are drowning in student loans and credit card debt.

  • So so good. I was/am in your spot. My husband was the smarter one with money and taught me how to properly spend/manage money. Although I’m still not 100% I know better now and know how to do it (if I really had to, which by the sounds of your retirement estimate, I really have to). I’ve shared this as well – thanks for writing it. It spoke to me!

  • LOL I read your post and looked at my husband and said, “I’m reading a post you wrote five years from today hun!” We’ve been married 3 years… Your post is very reassuring to me 😉

Leave a Reply