Happy Spouse, Happy House

MOVING IN

One of the biggest challenges of being single and managing your finances is that you don’t split your living costs with another person unless you live with a roommate or a few. Managing your own money involves more creativity, drive, perseverance, and self-discipline. The good thing about it is having the independence to make your own decisions on your life and money.

When you live with your significant other, you have two key advantages: 1) You’ve got two incomes that contribute to living costs; 2) You have a combination of strengths to work with. When a couple unites their income and money management skills they can be unstoppable with this winning combination.

Uniting forces and income can also pose many challenges, especially since we each have a unique relationship with money. You might be okay at budgeting, yet your spouse might be hopeless with money. You both could be terrible at money management. You might disagree entirely with your spouse and have very different ideas on how money should be spent. The worst is when the spouse with worse habits has greater influence over the other’s habits or efforts; from there develops resentment or a dynamic of enabling which will sink the household’s finances.

I never want to fight over money with my man, JP. I had seen plenty of that growing up and I know it gets nobody anywhere. Since my biorhythms are obsessively in sync with the days all the different bills are due each month, I’ve always been the one to budget and do all the banking. This seemed like a workable situation until our needs shifted and called for further action.

When we both started trading stocks, we scaled back on shopping and going out so that we could commit more cash to buying stocks. Life felt more frugal because on the surface our spending activities changed; in reality the amount of spending didn’t. As the one paying the bills, I became stressed out from knowing things were heading in a desperate direction. When I tried to make suggestions for improvement, the conversation got tense, and at times, confrontational. I avoided talking about what was really going on — until things got so frustrating that I had no choice but to somehow get JP on board.

Instead of trying to win through argument, I decided to let the numbers do the talking. I printed out all the statements from our banks and credit cards over the previous six months. I made a spreadsheet that divided up our spending into housing, utilities, groceries, alcohol, healthcare, and entertainment, and I tallied the spending for each category. It became very obvious that in lieu of going out for fun, we were shopping more online, eating too much takeout, and drinking a lot at home instead. When we sat down to analyze the numbers, we were both humbled and quite embarrassed with how far we had let things go.

What happened after that, I didn’t see coming. JP became an unstoppable force in minimizing our household spending and he revealed his genius at making a dollar stretch. He got busy looking for the cheapest discount brokerages to trade with, got rid of unnecessary data services, and basically found a way for us to trade stocks the cheapest way possible. All our bills are lower than ever now thanks to his charming persistence in negotiating lower rates with our various service providers. JP also has an uncanny skill of remembering the prices on everything he sees, so he knows where to get the cheapest of anything. He became the rewards points king and we always get money back on things we regularly spend on. He sold everything in the house that we didn’t need in yard sales and on Kijiji. I can go on about his many strategies, but I’ll save it for my ‘fun’ancial tidbits!

Now, we use our combined skill set to optimize our money management. While I do our quarterly budget projections, JP figures out a way to cut the costs down further on those projections. Doing this has also enhanced how we work together in building our investment portfolio.

We have so much respect for each other’s personal ambitions and have made a lot of sacrifices for the other to make these things happen. There were times when it looked like we’d have to walk away from trying to accomplish these goals (such as learning how to trade stocks and writing my book), but it took a united effort with managing our finances to make these possibilities become realities. We still are a ways away from where we want to be financially, but our confidence lies not in how much we have, but in being on the same page with how we manage our money.

The glaring truth came to surface from a few monthly statements and a telling spreadsheet. We can convince ourselves to believe whatever we want to hear, but the numbers don’t lie. You and your spouse just have to be ready for the truth and have the will to evolve your situation TOGETHER. 

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