Author Topic: How do I balance my desires to FIRE ASAP with my wife's wants?  (Read 5174 times)

Philociraptor

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Posted this to /r/relationships, but thought I would see what the MMM community has to say. Here is what I submitted:

Been together over 8 years, married this year. Since the wedding passed I've been really focusing on our finances, especially since I brought in around $80k in student loans. We both had financed cars and bought a house together (under my name) 2.5 years ago ($100k left on mortgage) . I came across the FIRE (financially independent, retired early) concept via MMM (Mr. Money Mustache), and after running some numbers we can be retired with fairly minimal effort by 40! All we have to do is continue filling out our IRA's and start filling out our 401(k)'s starting at age 30 at the latest.

I realize that I've become a bit of a tightwad, and it's become an occasional sore spot for us. I brought up the idea that we should both get a cash allowance each month for unconditional spending, and she agreed to it. I have all our spending for the month budgeted and keep track of every transaction. I've tried to loosen up a bit, and we've gone out to eat and drink several times this month (goes under a $1k "Everything Else" budget). We've also bought some Halloween decorations.

Here's the incident that inspired my post: we were at Party City getting decorations for a party we're hosting next weekend, and she wanted to get a few things. $10 here, $12 there, etc. All I see is dollar signs, but I understand she wants the house to look nice for the party. Then we come across this huge, skeletal reaper for $100 and she tells me she wants it. I say "okay", but she can see the reluctance in me. I mention that the things she's getting don't really have a central theme, with what we already have at home being kinda "cutesy".

She takes a second, then asks "well, what do you want?", clearly annoyed. I point out a few things that I thought meshed better with our current theme (and were much cheaper), and she doesn't say anything. Silence ensues, and she pulls out here phone and starts surfing Facebook. I know I've lost her now. I walk away for a few minutes and when I come back she's put everything back and says "let's just go". We ride home in silence, and here I am. What could I have done better?

How should I handle these situations in the future? Should I just play along and act enthusiastic about spending money on stuff? This kinda thing happens at least once a month.

TL;DR: How can I best handle situations when my wife wants to spend money but I think it could be better served paying down debt and/or saving for retirement?


VirginiaBob

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Re: How do I balance my desires to FIRE ASAP with my wife's wants?
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2014, 04:37:10 PM »
Posted this to /r/relationships, but thought I would see what the MMM community has to say. Here is what I submitted:

Been together over 8 years, married this year. Since the wedding passed I've been really focusing on our finances, especially since I brought in around $80k in student loans. We both had financed cars and bought a house together (under my name) 2.5 years ago ($100k left on mortgage) . I came across the FIRE (financially independent, retired early) concept via MMM (Mr. Money Mustache), and after running some numbers we can be retired with fairly minimal effort by 40! All we have to do is continue filling out our IRA's and start filling out our 401(k)'s starting at age 30 at the latest.

I realize that I've become a bit of a tightwad, and it's become an occasional sore spot for us. I brought up the idea that we should both get a cash allowance each month for unconditional spending, and she agreed to it. I have all our spending for the month budgeted and keep track of every transaction. I've tried to loosen up a bit, and we've gone out to eat and drink several times this month (goes under a $1k "Everything Else" budget). We've also bought some Halloween decorations.

Here's the incident that inspired my post: we were at Party City getting decorations for a party we're hosting next weekend, and she wanted to get a few things. $10 here, $12 there, etc. All I see is dollar signs, but I understand she wants the house to look nice for the party. Then we come across this huge, skeletal reaper for $100 and she tells me she wants it. I say "okay", but she can see the reluctance in me. I mention that the things she's getting don't really have a central theme, with what we already have at home being kinda "cutesy".

She takes a second, then asks "well, what do you want?", clearly annoyed. I point out a few things that I thought meshed better with our current theme (and were much cheaper), and she doesn't say anything. Silence ensues, and she pulls out here phone and starts surfing Facebook. I know I've lost her now. I walk away for a few minutes and when I come back she's put everything back and says "let's just go". We ride home in silence, and here I am. What could I have done better?

How should I handle these situations in the future? Should I just play along and act enthusiastic about spending money on stuff? This kinda thing happens at least once a month.

TL;DR: How can I best handle situations when my wife wants to spend money but I think it could be better served paying down debt and/or saving for retirement?

My wife was the same way, but she is a lot better now, although still not frugal by any means.  But has made a lot of progress.  She actually quit hanging out with her friends that we're playing the spending competition game (who can buy the most expensive handbag, etc.).  I think it was a combination of things that has changed her, from the church ( old friends liked to go drinking/clubbing), to having kids, and generally just keeping her time more occupied.  She hits thrift stores now instead of malls and has also cut down on grocery spending.  I don't know what the magic bullet is, but it may just take time to gain some financial maturity.  $100 for a decoration is nuts.   That's like over half a share of VFINX.

tracylayton

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Re: How do I balance my desires to FIRE ASAP with my wife's wants?
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2014, 04:43:53 PM »
I'm a female, but I've got YOUR back. $100 for one decoration that you use once a year and then have to find a spot in the attic to store it is nuts. I think the fact that you're willing to host a Halloween party and buy food and decorations for it shows that you're not a cheapskate at all!

mxt0133

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Re: How do I balance my desires to FIRE ASAP with my wife's wants?
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2014, 04:48:02 PM »
I think you handled it perfectly.  You spoke your mind and told her your opinion without preaching, scolding, or controlling.  These things take time.  One thing that you didn't really clarify is if FIRE is also her goal.  You mention that you came across the FIRE concept.  I'm sure you have run it buy her and explained it to her but has she decided that it is her a goal of hers as well?  If that is not clear then you should find out what your shared goals are.

My life with my wife has become infinitely easier once we discussed what our goals were and how we can achieve them together.  Instead of me initially imposing my FIRE goals on her.  Do we disagree on certain thing sure we do.  Sometimes she wants to go out spend money, if it is within our budget I play along, if it's not I tell her the reason why I don't think it's a good idea and if she insists on doing it then I can't really stop her.  She know the consequences of her decision on our goals and it's a judgement call on her part.  I wanted her to be more responsible with our money and I had to learn let go and actually let her be responsible for it.

Lyssa

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Re: How do I balance my desires to FIRE ASAP with my wife's wants?
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2014, 05:26:57 PM »
Most important question is: Are you and your wife on the same page regarding FIRE being the goal you work for?

If you had "the conversation" already, I don't think it really has sunk in yet. Or she would realize how absurd it is to spend this kind of money on decoration.

If you have not discussed it yet or just in a very general "hey, let's try save more money, okay?" kind of way you come of as nagging and controlling. Even if you're not really saying anything, "the face" has the very same effect. And yes, men can pull it of as well. :-)

yddeyma

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Re: How do I balance my desires to FIRE ASAP with my wife's wants?
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2014, 05:52:54 PM »
It sounds like you guys have combined all of your finances.  That's what most folks do.  But most folks, in marriages that last anyway, have the same or at least similar goals and values.  Its okay if you don't, there are many marriages that work without both parties feeling the same about life goals and values.  But I've never heard of any that have such different views that ALSO combine all their funds (if you're out there, and have a system that works, speak up please!).

My advice would be to separate your finances.  Or, maybe not separate, but segregate.  She should have some discretionary spending money of her own (and so should you) that the other does not get to question.  You decide on budget categories for the "joint" spending, of which house decorating may or may not be a part of.  Then, you set up separate accounts for each of you and fund them monthly with a specific amount.  You could make these amounts be the same, you could make them be a percentage of your individual incomes, there are a variety of ways to do it.  If she wants to blow hers on a skeleton and you want to put yours towards debt paydown, that's up to each of you. 

Noodle

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Re: How do I balance my desires to FIRE ASAP with my wife's wants?
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2014, 07:47:41 PM »
The fail here was that you didn't have a budget when you walked into the party store. If you've agreed that you're spending $100 on decorations, then "Does the $100 reaper or 10 $10 skeletons make the house look more festive?" carries a whole lot less emotional complexity than trying to intuit each other's wishes, needs and priorities in the Party City.

Being aligned on spending and values is the expert level of marital financial alignment. Maybe someday you will reach that point where you naturally laugh and walk away together from the Reaper, and then go home and whip up DIY decorations out of the recycling bin without further discussion. For now, help yourselves out by separating the "how much should we spend" and "what do I want" discussions whenever possible. Optimization, of course, is lowering the "how much should we spend" levels or even asking "should we spend this at all?" But a good first step is conscious, planned spending instead of random impulse spending.

Oh yeah, and definitely work on being on the same page with goals. Otherwise, it's hard not to come off as a micromanaging jerk.

Philociraptor

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Re: How do I balance my desires to FIRE ASAP with my wife's wants?
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2014, 07:51:50 AM »
I definitely agree that the best way to have avoided this would have been to discuss and set a spending limit on decorations beforehand. We ended up returning to the party city, and the reaper was sold, so we got a big angel of death as the big item and a bunch of other stuff for what we would have spent on the one item.

Mrs. Frugalwoods

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Re: How do I balance my desires to FIRE ASAP with my wife's wants?
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2014, 08:17:24 AM »
Most important question is: Are you and your wife on the same page regarding FIRE being the goal you work for?

If you had "the conversation" already, I don't think it really has sunk in yet. Or she would realize how absurd it is to spend this kind of money on decoration.

If you have not discussed it yet or just in a very general "hey, let's try save more money, okay?" kind of way you come of as nagging and controlling. Even if you're not really saying anything, "the face" has the very same effect. And yes, men can pull it of as well. :-)

This is exactly what I was going to ask you. Could your spending disagreements perhaps be a symptom of the larger issue of not being aligned towards a shared goal of FIRE?

retired?

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Re: How do I balance my desires to FIRE ASAP with my wife's wants?
« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2014, 09:28:40 AM »
I think you handled it fine.  There are two sides.  Just because she reacted by shutting down doesn't mean you could have done things better.  Maybe, but sounds to me like she needs to learn how to react.

You don't want the tension, but the outcome was likely as desired.  Let her pout.  It will pass.  That she put it all back implies (somewhat) that she actually agrees, but just didn't want to admit it.  The much worse outcome would be that she bought it all and you guys drove home silently.

I'm in the same boat sort of..........I think we can do it, but my wife is doubtful.  I figure it is one thing for the spouse to say "yeah, I like the idea of FIRE" and to actually follow through via actions.  It will usually be one spouse's idea and that person needs to convince the other.  Unless a couple started early on like MMM and were on the same page from the start, there will be one person needing to spend a good bit of effort convincing the other that a) it is doable and b) the trade-off is worth it.

I am going through that now.

DecD

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Re: How do I balance my desires to FIRE ASAP with my wife's wants?
« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2014, 01:48:52 PM »
In this case, you should be proud of yourself for avoiding an unnecessary expense.  Given the amount of debt you're attacking (yay for progress!!) your Halloween decorations budget is $0, so your best option is getting creative with homemade paper chains, ghost, a jack o' lantern.  Maybe your wife could find free ideas on Pinterest.

It sounds like you gently steered her purchases in a better direction- it's progress.  Somehow, she needs to understand your hair on fire debt situation...but how to communicate that to someone you love who doesn't get it...that one is beyond me I fear.

Eta: oops, wrote this before I saw your update.  So- it wasn't really successful after all.  I think you're right to be concerned- you guys have a disconnect.  This shouldn't have been a discussion over which decorations to buy with $100.  It should have been a discussion about the fact that you don't own $100 to spend on decorations.  You're thinking of FIRE, but you can't even start on that until you kill your large debt (I can't recall from your journal how much it is, just that it's substantial) and the debt isn't going away, at least not quickly, with this kind of unnecessary spending.  :(
« Last Edit: October 19, 2014, 02:05:12 PM by DecD »

 

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