Money and Marriage


Maddie says...

This past week has found Doc and myself doing some shopping. Our newest foray into the world of retail was prompted by the computers that the younger boys use for schooling dying within a week of each other (drat!)   And while my preparedness factor when it comes to storms could be turned up a notch (ahem~) when it comes to money I am are all over that.  Since as a couple 4 years ago Doc and I waged the war on consumer debt and are thrilled to pieces (PEACEs?) to say that we won it.

Yes we are some of those freaky Dave Ramsey people who believe that living debt free is the best gift you can ever give yourself or your marriage no matter your income or debt level. ~ I will take this opportunity to say that we used Financial Peace-the online programbut you can do it by just checking out the book at your local library. Nor am I compensated in any way for this posting, (double drat!)~

How you deal with money as a couple really sets the tone for your whole marriage so it's important stuff to get right if you want a happy marriage. On our part I don't think we were much different than many and things just got out of hand mostly due to circumstances beyond our control ( or so I thought at the time).. moving, the death of our son, the subsequent premature birth  of our next child, it sort of snowballed into a number that once looked at in full was rather shocking so we tried not to look at it too often, and fretted when we did. We were paying it down but things were going slow. That was until I went and got all "eye of the Tiger" (and a wee bit nuts) about the whole concept of debt after reading the Total Money Makeover book.

Poor Doc, I am not sure he knew what hit him when I sauntered in the next day after reading the book with the pronouncement that we were going to get debt free in year, we would be living on beans and rice ( and rice and beans!). We would be getting rid of cable TV, ( no real loss) there would be no more going out to eat  and  misc. spending in the process. I have never been the most subtle, and my husband is a grace filled man not to have walked out the door that day since really I went about this part ALL WRONG! ~learn from me~

Even given this less than elegant start Doc was a champ and on board with the concept and was amazingly stoic about the limited allowance each of us got per two weeks for personal spending. The total pay off came each month when we knew to the penny how much money we had and how much we could put towards paying down our debt snowball. I kept charts and lists, we went to cash based living and used an envelope system for all of our spending.

During this time our already strong marriage flourished to even greater heights as we worked as a team for the future of our family. Stresses and worries about money decreased and this helped Doc as the sole provider of a family of seven. Any larger and totally necessary purchases were planned for (saved) and paid for with cash ( tires for the car was one I can remember off hand)  I can't begin to say what a liberating time it was.

Within a year we indeed did become free of all consumer debt and currently work at a double pace to pay off our mortgage ( what a day that will be!). The lessons we learned during that time have stuck and we continue on our debt free journey which brings us right back to this weeks adventure of  buying the computers for the boys...

The young sales girl at Mac Authority  said that she noticed how stress free the buying of the computers seemed for Doc and myself and that she said many couples have rather " intense" disagreements in the store when it came to their ability to buy a new computer and the always embarrassing situation of a customer having their credit card declined which she said happens more often than anyone realizes.   I thanked her and told her that we would be paying in cash and that was one of the  secrets to our content experience  let alone a very happy marriage.

Doc says ...

Maddie remembers her "pronouncement" as being more brutal than I recall it, and really when she's done with rice and beans it's a pretty darn good dinner! Be that as it may, it did seem a little crazy - until it worked.

When I was actively practicing, I used to say that couples always fought about one (or more) of only four things: dishes, sex, kids, and money. Whatever they came in fighting about was rarely the ultimate problem; usually they'd lead with the easier conflict - or at least the one that was more comfortable and familiar to them - and it took a while to get to the "real" fight. The "dishes" argument is actually about noticing what your spouse does - or doesn't - do to make your life better. "Sex" is about intimacy, and just how close you're willing to get; "kids" is usually about whether your spouse treats your children the way you think is right, which means the way you wanted to be treated when you were a child. And "money" is usually about power - who has control, who works harder, who is the better person.

I've seen so many couples get in trouble about money because one spouse, usually the man (I'm going to stick to heterosexual marriages for now, but the principles are very similar regardless) believes that his manhood is tied up in his ability to "provide," and to "provide" is to give his wife whatever she wants whenever she wants it. The other spouse, usually but not always the wife, realizes that they can't afford their lifestyle, but is afraid to say so because she doesn't want to "make" her husband feel inadequate. The specifics don't matter, but what matters is that the two have different ways of thinking about money, debt, giving, and receiving, and they exercise power in the relationships differently. As long as they are unable to talk about their different ways of seeing money, they are doomed to spiral out of control.

What Maddie did that day was to take the risk of saying what she wanted when it came to the power that money represents. Yes, I make the bulk of it for now, and yes she spends the bulk of it because she runs the household. By getting on a cash basis, the playing field got leveled - we are in it together, we make decisions together, and we know where the limits are - as long as we can pay cash, we're good to go.

We are fortunate, financially, but because we talk about money and the power it represents we did well even when we had less than we do now. And because we got out of consumer debt - no credit cards, no car payment, just the mortgage - we are in a position that we could get by on much less than we now make, which means that I don't have to stay where I am solely because our life would collapse if I took a lesser-paying position. I cannot tell you how liberating that is, for both of us.

The main thing that going to cash did for us, though, was that it forced us to be able to talk through what can be a very tough topic. When you begin to make those kinds of decisions together, each saying what you want and how you feel, your marriage gets stronger. By working through our money issues in the course of getting debt free, we got added bonuses in terms of the freedom we feel.

Try it. Set a goal, see what you're willing to do to get there, and then watch what happens between you and your love.

Maddie here again...  Thanks for hanging with us through this long post.. we would love to hear your reflections and questions about this topic or other topics that you would like Doc and I to tackle over the coming months, so please feel free to leave something in the comment section.  And if you would like Domestic Anarchy in your mail box each day please fill out the little form over to the side of the screen or click on the Facebook link and it will come to your FB page!


CJ said...

Very well said! I know many people who simply don't understand the freedom that comes from being debt free. They have all types of labels for their debts... investments, assets, needs... debt is still debt when you get right down to it, and paper assets aren't worth the paper they're written on when life turns topsy turvy on you, as it tends to do from time to time.

My husband and I also choose to live completely debt free. No mortgage, no car payments, whatever we earn is ours to spend, invest or donate as we please.

But it didn't come easily. A lot of hard work and sacrifices went into reaching that point. A lot goes into maintaining it as well. We don't live like our peers, in huge homes, or take expensive vacations (actually we don't vacation at all) but instead have many hobbies and interests we fill at home.

Keep up the great work Maddie!

Christine said...

Its funny, my boyfriend and I had a conversation the other day about boats. As in, how do people pay for this stuff? fancy boats, vacations, etc? then we remembered....refi the house and take cash out, charge the credit card, etc. we would much rather pay cash than go into debt. my only debt is my mortgage and I am very happy this way! it is indeed very freeing.