I am in a reflective mood today. I find that I go through waves. Yesterday I was frustrated with money because it was looking like I couldn’t do something I really wanted to do. The day before I had been on an emotional high. Today I am reflective, but at peace. It is interesting to see the waves as they roll through my life.
Yesterday, my husband wanted to make a planned purchase on a much more limited scale than I had hoped for. This brought up some of my old money frustrations and I asked him to wait. I explained that just like when I am upset and I say “I will forgive you, but I need a little time…” I am sure I will get there (and agree with the wisdom of doing this purchase this way)… but it isn’t urgent and I need a little time. So I would appreciate him giving me the time to get past my disappointment before we make the purchase. (I am much better at expressing my needs now than I was a few years ago!)
Sometimes I just need to have a good night’s sleep and some distance to the initial upset before I am OK. Sometimes I have to logically draw it all out on paper. Seeing the reality of the pros and cons makes it easier to be OK with the decision I know is right.
(Fast forward one day)
And sometimes as we work through all the details together, a new solution will appear. This is what happened in this case. But we actually waited even one more day. (It is now one day later that when I started my post.) Then we worked at it together and made a decision which both of us are satisfied with.
Just like any decision, decisions that apply to our finances need to be approached as a team. What that looks like is different for different families and for different times in different families’ lives. When my husband and I were still fairly newlywed, I took over the bill paying. He was a student and so that is what we decided. I tried to get him to keep records of the things he did, but time and time again there was too much missing information for how I wanted to do it. Around the time he finished his masters program we moved to his native country Sweden. I had beginner’s Swedish skills so this may have been when he took over the responsibility for the bills. But we still weren’t working as a team.
When he would start into the “record everything” kick… I resisted. Part of me was not as forgiving as I like to view myself, and I felt no motivation to make the extra effort since he hadn’t supported me that way in the past.
As for our long-term financial goals, we were unified. But we struggled to apply that to the regular budget. He always wanted every financial increase to go to debt payoff. In principle I agree debt payoff is important, but I had to make the food budget cover not only food but any hygiene or household products. And our family was growing. So in my mind we needed the increases in pay to meet the increasing needs of the family (not to mention catch up to what it should have been before!).
This went back and forth for years. I usually “won,” because even with my skills in shopping bargains and making things from scratch among other resourceful patterns of living, we frankly needed more. So the increases were blessings for the family living. And we just kept up with the debt payment plan.
(We tried really hard to limit ourselves to student loans, and later car and then house loans. But we took on some travel loans for some trips to see family for major events (i.e. visiting my mom when she was dying from cancer), while other times we missed out on the events.)
We managed to survive the tension about the money because we were united in our overall goals and priorities, but we needed to become unified in our approach. Early in 2015 my husband suggested we have a couple financial retreat. In this we would look at retirement goals and plans, current budget and our general priorities. It went pretty well. At this point we were looking at a career change and a large move, so it helped us better understand what we needed to accomplish with the changes. Later that year as we waited for our new job to start, the temporary money plans did not go as well as we planned. So of necessity we had many discussions about our budget and goals.
We decided to re-write how we thought about money. We also found mentors (both in person and financial books/cds). One of the things we decided was that we needed to reflect our belief that family is our top priority in our financial decisions. This was inspired by Dave Ramsey’s principle of taking care of the “four walls” first. His four walls are: Home (must have shelter), Food (must eat), Clothes (it is nice to be warm in the winter and protect your body) and Transportation (you have to be able to get to work so you can take care of everything else). As I heard Dave’s take on the “four walls,” I was able to articulate what I had been feeling for years. Daniel and I had a great conversation, where we reached new levels of understanding. We committed to communicate our family’s “four walls” needs and to prioritize them.
It is amazing to see the difference that this adjustment in our approach to our financial priorities made. We were able to start making much better progress in our financial goals. We regularly discuss our finances. I still let my husband do the major number crunching as it still stresses me out and he enjoys it (!!!!). But then we both look at the plan and communicate our feelings about it and tweak it as necessary. Sometimes I think I have been clear when I haven’t (like what happened with this recent decision). So we get to re-communicate and decide what is the best course. But having our money priorities outlined has been just as important as being unified on our family goals. Not only are we at peace with our financial decisions, but we are actually making greater progress. And our relationship, which we already felt was great, is even stronger.