My Marriage, My Man, and How We Survived The ‘Money Talk’

Saturdays are our days for connection.—we chill, cuddle, and get some of the heavy cleaning out the way early in the day. But last Saturday, while I was lying on the couch, my husband came beside me and said, “Mami, we gotta talk about money.”

A couple of weeks back we had spent a weekend in DC where we encountered some financial friction, which I thought we had overcome.

“Is this about you asking to use my credit card to buy gas?” I asked.

“Yes and no. I think we have been living like roommates financially and I hate having to ask you to “repay” me for something since we are a family, but I need that money.   I have been dipping into my savings to cover some of the bills!” he said matter-of-factly.

“Dang, Daddy” I replied, “but do you remember when I suggested that we NOT spilt the bills equally?—that we find a fairer system to attack our expenses since there have been changes in both our expenses and incomes.”

He did not say anything.

After some calculations, push and pull, and reflection, we both agreed that we would each put 48% of our incomes into our joint electronic savings accounts to pay for items considered “shared expenditure.” This set-up would help us start thinking of household bills and expenses as ours, lighten the financial burden from my husband, and free me from feeling that I “owe” my husband money—which is a concept that I abhor.

So, in addition to developing a household budget, our Saturday morning money talk taught me so much more about communication, the kind of marriage I was co-creating, and myself. Here is what I learned after a morning engaged in financial intimacy.

Plan Around Current Financial Realities Not Former Realities or Wannabe Ones.

When my husband and I were engaged, we talked about our views about money, savings, and how money would be used to fund our entrepreneurial endeavors and love of travel. We bought the book, 100 Hard Questions, where one section, dedicated to finances, helped us deepen our thinking about money in a global sense and in hindsight, our then-financial realities, as two single adults. I am very thankful for this process, I don’t think it could have fully prepared us to deal with the our financial realities as newlyweds.

Once we married and moved to a new apartment, my husband was not only paying more for rent but his new commute now demanded that he also pay tolls. Around the time of our marriage, I had sold my car, received a promotion, and finished paying off ALL my costly student loans.  So, my husband lost money by way of moving and commuting while I had an increase in income, not just because of the salary increase, but because I no longer paid for gas, insurance, or my student loan payments.

Use Technology To Create a Clear Picture of What is Going On In Your Family Cookie Jar

We used Excel to create spreadsheets that highlighted our fixed expenses and our temporary expenses.  More specifically, we used one color for fixed costs and another for temporary costs. What was great to see was that several of the items we currently have to pay for like our couch and car will be done in a couple of years and items like car insurance (God-willing), will go down as well.

In addition, we finally updated our joint electronic savings account so we could make good use of online banking. This makes attending to financial matters extremely convenient and fosters collaboration since it can be done at home when we are both relaxed and available.

We even used the site creditkarma.com to compare our credit scores from TransUnion as to be comprehensive and thorough, especially since one of our next steps is homeownership.

 Be Kind and Solution-oriented

Talking about money gets easier the more practice you have.  Our money talk went smoothly because we tried to be solution-oriented, not drama-seekers. As far as my husband was concerned, his problems included: having to use his savings to cover monthly expenses, feeling guilty about asking his wife for repayment, and feeling like we were financially separate. My issues included: never wanting to feel like I “owe” my husband, not knowing the extent to which the household expenses were not equitably distributed, and overall lack of knowledge about my husband’s financial specifics.

Because we started our money talk with a focus,  we ended our money conversation with a clear plan of attack. When our financial situations change (and I am sure that they will), we will use a similar approach  to uncover what best works for the family’s financial well-being.

If this post really resonated with you and you want to transform how you feel and think about money so you can live your best life, consider money therapy.   

Frugalistas: Have you had the “money talk”? How did it go? What did you learn about yourself, your man, and the relationship that you were co-creating?  

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