Home

First year of marriage conversations: Spending

When I was 14 years old, I accepted my first job in the kitchen of a nursing home down the street from my home. Every two weeks I happily took my paycheck and deposited it in a savings account, which was opened for me when I was a child by my parents. When I would receive birthday money, they would allow me spend a small portion of it, but the rest had to be deposited in my savings account. I loved seeing the amount increase in the little passbook I carried with me to the bank. For this reason, I never thought about spending much of the money I made at that first job because I was so diligently saving all my earnings.

When I went to college, I had a healthy savings from my years working at the nursing home. My freshman year was the first time I had to assess my spending habits. I made new friends that didn’t have the same financial approach that I had. They encouraged me to spend, and I did. I opened my first credit card (which I still have today) and was one of those rare teenagers that paid off my credit card every month using my own money. However, I never liked seeing the balance of my savings account going in the wrong direction, so I continued working at the nursing home each summer to add to my account

Renting my first apartment with a friend during our senior year taught me even more about the importance budgeting. For the first time ever, I had to budget for bills other than just my monthly credit card payment. I also had my first experience in working with someone else to pay those bills. Fortunately, my roommate had an incredible work ethic and was determined to do things without the financial help of her parents. We would sit down twice a month, divide up the apartment bills, and talk about how our budgets were pacing each month. Honestly, the whole process came very naturally to me. I always seemed to know when to stop spending and I was able to pay my credit card off every month. This early budgeting experience formed how I would spend and save in the years after college… until I got married.

Enter the Spender

My husband, Dan, came into our relationship with a bit of debt. Before we got married we paid it all off so we could start our marriage with a clean slate. During the first year of our marriage, I realized that Dan didn’t approach spending and budgeting the same way that I did.

Don’t get me wrong, Dan had an elaborate budgeting spreadsheet. It was complete with color-coded categories and complex formulas – I don’t call him the “Spreadsheet King” for nothing. The problem was that he filled it out after the month of spending was over and never adjusted any categories based on the prior month’s spending. This type of ‘budgeting’ obviously led to charges carrying over on the credit cards – something to which I was not accustom to!

The Spending Conversation

The discussion of spending habits and budgeting is something every newly married couple goes through. Money is one of the most popular points of contention in a marriage. Our first conversation about spending (and there have been many) was a rather difficult one. It was a fine line to walk so I didn’t sound like I was preaching to him about good spending habits. It also wasn’t easy for me to compromise on a budgeting system when what I had followed for years was successful for me. Eventually, we developed a system that we both felt would work for our needs and move forward.

Budgeting is something Dan and I still struggle with in our marriage at times. Especially now that we are on a more limited income than when we were first married. Even though it is a tough subject, we try to talk about it every couple of weeks to make sure we are on the same page. The frequency of these conversations not only makes it easier to discuss but also easier to catch any spending that is going out of control of our budget.

Do you remember your first discussion with your spouse about spending? How did it go?