Author Topic: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances  (Read 32817 times)

ejh

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« on: February 14, 2017, 03:59:36 AM »
Hi All,

I really could use some help here.
My wife is unhappy about our finances, but I just can't relate to her feelings. I hate to see her unhappy, but don't agree with why she's feeling that way.

Some background.
We have 2 kids (ages 2 & 3).
1 income from my job.
Since the kids were born we both naturally decided she stay at home.
My income covers all our expenses - mortgage, utilities, daycare for both kids (until noon), food, etc.
Our mortgage, utilities and daycare take up more than 50% of our income.
Not much is left to save from our take home pay (at most 10% now, compared to a few years ago at about 50% if I recall).
I do have savings through work.

She's trying really hard to cut down on spending. We decided on a weekly amount that should cover groceries, maid, clothing, baby care, and other stuff that's under her 'responsibility'.
At the end of the month, she wants to see results from all her hard work (i.e. more money saved), but that doesn't really happen.
When I look at the numbers, I see how small purchases add up, how we buy stuff we don't need and how we can easily cut out spending. I'm even willing to forgo some luxuries (e.g. the maid) in order to save more.
But from her point of view she is constantly giving up on stuff she needs. She feels stretched way past then what she can handle and there is absolutely no way to give up on the maid.

She's upset that if she buys one thing at the pharmacy or one new shirt, then she can't buy anything else that week or month.
She's upset that she can't afford things for herself.
Some of what she wants is, in my opinion, a total waste of money. In her opinion they are necessities.
In my opinion we have way to much clothing and toys for the kids. To her, we are lucky the grandparents are buying more.

She sees other mothers with new clothes, jewelry, makeup, etc. and gets upset because this winter her mom bought her new clothes instead of her buying herself. It makes no sense to me. Half those mother work, the other half also get stuff from their parents. Who knows what kind of debt they're in. She has jewelry, but doesn't feel like wearing it all the time.

She realizes she has more than others, but still gets upset that all her cutting back doesn't have any immediate results and this makes it hard to see long term results like retiring comfortably. Heck, I'm more worried about us not saving enough at all.

I don't get it and I don't think rationalizing will help with her feelings. And if I don't sympathize, I come off too strict and not understanding.

So to return to my question, I hate to see her unhappy, but don't agree with why she's feeling that way.
What can I possibly do?

MayDay

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4029
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2017, 04:05:38 AM »
So you have both a maid and childcare until noon?

I'm not sure what to say. Was she raised very wealthy? Do you live somewhere that this is standard for a SAHM?

ejh

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2017, 04:13:24 AM »
Yes.
Yes.
I would say Yes here too, but I may be wrong.

This is why I say I can't relate.
But it doesn't help mentioning these facts to her.
She is busy, don't get me wrong. She takes care of both kids, prepares food, takes care of the house and much more.

When I present it as you do I am taken to be cheap who doesn't understand what it's like.


ejh

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2017, 04:29:16 AM »
I'd also add that talking about:
- wants vs. needs
- setting priorities
- realizing how much we do have and how we can do without
seemed to get nowhere in the past.

They may help technically for a while but I don't see any long term realization in her that we're spending too much.
The affect always boils down to how 'we always need to cut back'.
She may go along with some stuff but I don't think she's ever really happy about it.
For example I pushed that we cut out cable a while ago. She went along with it, but I'm sure she still wants to renew a subscription eventually.
I'm not judging, it's fine if she likes cable I don't care, but to see it as an issue that we don't have cable is beyond me.

I've pretty much given up on trying to change her outlook on life, and I'm trying to make personal changes that may reflect on her without imposing (such as biking to work).
But the amounts I can save on my own seem like peanuts to me.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2017, 04:36:11 AM by ejh »

Villanelle

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3055
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2017, 04:53:16 AM »
It's hard to tell without more details, but it doesn't sound like she's wanting to spend huge amount on ridiculous luxuries.  (And I could be wrong, but it's not clear how often she's buying the new shirt and how much it costs, or how many toys she's buying for the kids.)  I know many will balk at the maid, but it's not something I'd be prepared to fight over to hard with a mom of littles. (I am not a parent.)

What luxuries (or semi-luxuries) do *you* have?  Are you asking her to give up more and more, while being unwilling to eat meatless a few times a week or give up buying lunch at work once a week or drive a more modest car or give up your poker game or raise the summer thermostat 2*, whatever--things that feel like sacrifices for you, rather than her?  What cuts have you made, or have come from your sphere of responsibility?  Since most of the desire to save more and cut comes from you, it seems like you should be taking the lead on those cuts.  Show her that you are willing to shoulder more of the burden on this, and you might get more buy in. 

You say you are willing to forgo the maid.   If she would be the one picking up most of that slack (which I'm guessing, based on the fact that she's the SAHP), of course you are, if your end experience is more or less the same, it's not only meaningless for you to be "willing", it probably feels kind of insulting to her.  "I'm willing to give up your help with the house, and to have you do most of it yourself." This is especially true for someone raised in a wealthy household and used to typical levels of spending and outsourcing.  I assume she's been this way since you met, yes?  Have you volunteered to pick up at least 50% of the housework, if not more, if the maid service ends?  If it means this much to you to save the money, that seems like the place to start.  And/or find other ways to lighten her load.  Offer to cook dinner 3 nights a week (if she currently does all the cooking.)  Offer to give her 30 minutes of down time after you've gotten home.  This may be far more about her feeling overwhelmed than it is about her wanting luxuries.  Address that, and perhaps some more pieces will fall in to place.  Maybe it is just about money and clothes and makeup and wanting to keep up with the Joneses.  But maybe it's about a fairly new mom, at home with two small kids, perhaps mourning the life she used to have and struggle with the new normal.  If you can sort that out and see whether there's some truth there, maybe you can find ways to help her, and at least some of the money stuff might fall in to place.  If she's more content with her life and less overwhelmed, that new shirt or new shade of lipstick as an emotional bandaid might not feel as tempting.

Is she interested in going back to work, and would you guys come out ahead after paying for childcare (compared to the partial childcare for which you are already paying?  Can you start a side hustle of some kind?  Or can she (or both of you together)?

And perhaps you can look for more middle ground.  Could the maid come every other week instead of every week?  (Or every third week instead of every other)?  Would it be cheaper if you hired a teen or college student to be a mother's helper, so your wife could clean while someone watched the kids?  (I'm guess this would be a lower hourly rate than a housekeeper.)  Similarly, would an in-home sitter be cheaper than your current childcare?

Also, reading through the post on how to convert your SO to mustachianism might be helpful. 

ejh

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2017, 05:19:39 AM »
immattdamon  - She actually strongly believes in staying at home and raising the kids. I think it's great too, but it comes from her first.
I once mentioned she find a part time job, but that didn't come off well for a couple of reasons.

Villanelle - Thanks for posting an alternate view. I strongly appreciate it.
However I must say that I can counter 99% of what you mention.
Going meatless is something I can do 6 out of 7 days a week. She cooks meat many times a week as it's necessary nutrition in her opinion.
I do not buy lunch at work (we have free meals). My car is a 21 year old Honda I my parents gave me when they got a new car and I've been biking to work for the past months.
I don't go out much at all, definitely not to poker games and I don't drink. I rarely turn on the heater or cooler, regardless of the season.
Regarding the maid - it is her request to have one. I am willing to take care of 100% the cleaning, but she is not willing to allow it. I currently clean and wash up many nights a week. If not, I am washing the kids and putting them to bed. I used to do the laundry, but she didn't like it and constantly nudged about it until I let it go. When I get home I immediately chip in with the chores - cleaning, washing, whatever. I usually don't eat dinner until taking care of these things.
See my comment above about her going back to work.
Sorry, I don't mean to brag at all, I do all this with love and with no problem. But these are the facts.

Yes, she was overwhelmed for the past 2.5-3 years. Having 2 kids a year apart is overwhelming, exhausting and tiring. That's why both are in daycare until noon. In order for her to have a few hours on her own.

I am thinking a lot about a side hustle and so is she. But I don't really have any ideas of what to do.

ejh

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2017, 05:25:55 AM »
If there's one thing I did push for in the past couple of years it was when purchasing a house.
There were 2 options, and I chose the 4 bedroom/3 bath instead of the 3 bedroom/2 bath, realizing that we plan to have many kids and a bigger one would suit us for many many years to come.

ejh

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2017, 05:39:55 AM »
Sorry for all these separate posts, things just keep coming to me and I need to get them out.

I just feel so trapped. On the one hand she is trying hard. Even if to me or you it seems silly or completely wasteful, for her it is a struggle.
So I don't want to say 'let's get rid of the maid', or 'find a part time job' because I don't want to get her down. She feels like no matter how much she tries it's not good enough (for me perhaps?).
On the other hand, this is going nowhere. We either need to increase our income or reduce our spending. There's no other way. Any reduction in spending means another 'sacrifice' for her which leads to stress, sadness, whatever.

Jon Bon

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 922
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2017, 05:41:45 AM »
EJH,

I will bite, we are in a very similar situation. We had a 2 year old and a set of new born twins, so yeah I feel your pain! Kids are now 4, 2 and 2.

About a year ago my spouse had been working part time, and doing most of the childcare, I had a demanding job. After about six months my spouse needed a break from the kids, and I needed a break from my career. So we went from 1.5 incomes down to one income. Probably 30k less after tax a year. Trust me we felt the pain of adjustment despite my firm grasp of our spending and planning. My kids do in fact go to daycare 1 day a week, (take them to our sitters house.) This is good for my mental health, my wife, and breaks up the week for the kids so they don't go crazy. I also have a side hustle, that gives me something to work on outside of the house. Honestly it has really helped keep my identity. Its hard to work 10 years and then go to "only" being a SAHP.

I think you really need to post a case study if you want to get more directed advice. It sounds like your spouse is the one who is giving things up more than you. For example, I would much rather pack my own lunch than clean my own bathroom you know?

A few things:

Good lord let your Spouse have cable (or similar cheap at home entertainment). Get sling TV is 20 bucks a month.
Its winter, winter sucks. It drives everyone a little insane to be stuck inside so much.
How much is the maid? If its $200 a month its hard to fault her for that, if its $1000 you need to have a real conversation about this.
Sounds like your Spouse also needs an outlet. That could be a side gig, or something as simple as a night out with girlfriends.
This situation could be one of those where mental health > saving $50 a month.



Jon Bon

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 922
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2017, 05:44:23 AM »
Sorry for all these separate posts, things just keep coming to me and I need to get them out.

I just feel so trapped. On the one hand she is trying hard. Even if to me or you it seems silly or completely wasteful, for her it is a struggle.
So I don't want to say 'let's get rid of the maid', or 'find a part time job' because I don't want to get her down. She feels like no matter how much she tries it's not good enough (for me perhaps?).
On the other hand, this is going nowhere. We either need to increase our income or reduce our spending. There's no other way. Any reduction in spending means another 'sacrifice' for her which leads to stress, sadness, whatever.

Seriously where do you live?

As the previous poster said, Lack of sunlight and exercise can really suck!

Honestly see if you cant make a few temporary measures until spring, everything is easier in the spring! You throw the kids outside and clean the kitchen, that is a win!

tarheeldan

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 775
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2017, 05:48:24 AM »
Do you have the same financial goals? What are hers?

Who keeps track of the finances? What about if she keeps track of everything, and you have a monthly or biweekly briefing from her?

All that said, childcare plus maid with sahm is nuts to me.

ShortInSeattle

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 576
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2017, 05:50:00 AM »
You say she's trying hard, and she's struggling with her frustration. To me that sounds like someone who is learning, and someone who is trying. both very commendable in my eyes.

In the end, math is math, right? You've got finite resources and together you puzzle-piece your plan together. 

I wonder if you handed her the total budget and asked her to make recommendations, what she'd say?  If she wants to have more $$ for spending, something else needs to go.  Would she be interesting in trading maid service for some extra spending money, for example? In the end there's no railing against the math, all that's left is to continue to work on the right mix of saving, spending, and earning for you both.

In the short term, I'd recommend letting her know how much you appreciate her for her work as a SAHM, and for her efforts to manage your money well.

SIS

MightyAl

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 133
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2017, 05:51:13 AM »
My wife is a SAHM and we have 2 kids, 9 and 5.  My wife has outlets that allow her to get away.  Granted one kid is in school and the other is in preschool now but before that she joined a MOMS club and did all kinds of activities through that group.  This also included Moms night out. 

Lots of times I take the girls out on errands and since we don't get to do this often they find it to be a special treat to go out with Dad.  (That sounded like I don't spend time with my kids but what I mean is we do this about every other week)  I often make a game of going out and give them special tasks or jobs.  If I go grocery shopping I ask them which brands that Mom wants since I often forget.  My wife finds it difficult to take both kids out but I find it fun and enjoy the time.  Of course I don't spend all day every day with the kids.

Neither me nor my wife would consider having a maid.  We were both raised where that just wasn't an option.  It doesn't even compute with me so I can't speak to it.

Villanelle

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3055
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2017, 05:56:58 AM »
Did you guys discuss any of this kind of thing before marriage?  It really seems like there is some fundamental incompatibility about some huge issues.  She's seen a lot of cuts and is struggling with that, and you've seen not enough cuts and are struggling.  I don't think either of you is right or wrong, but it sounds like you'e both moved about as far as you can toward the other's ideal, and you are still so far apart.

Is she happy with a 10% savings rate, or less?  Has she looked at the budget and suggested what she thinks could change? Do you guys have longer term goals, both financial and otherwise?    If she were 100% in control of the budget and al spending, what would that look like?  Keep everything you have, add more spending money, and reduce savings?  Could you get a higher paying job?

You mention having lots of kids, and yet it seems like you are very different pages about some pretty major things.  Do you both want many more kids?

Also, it seems like you took my post more literally than intended.  Meatless meals were just an example.  Is there truly nothing else you con possibly trim from your own side of the expense sheet?

former player

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4684
  • Location: Avalon
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2017, 06:02:47 AM »
Please make sure you don't have any more children.  Probably ever, but certainly not until you and your wife have implemented an agreed, sustainable financial situation.

You say that you feel trapped.  You have a lot of responsibility as sole provider for your wife and two children (and sole or part provider for the maid as well) for the next 16 years at least.  Succeeding at meeting that responsibility depends on you maintaining your physical and mental health and continuing to earn at a high level for all that time, so a feeling of trapped seems pretty natural to me.  Does your wife understand how you feel?

As to how your wife feels about expenditure, you say that mortgage, utilities and daycare take up 50% of your income and savings take up another 10%.  That does mean that your wife is at best seeing only 40% of what you earn as "available" - this might account for some of the discrepancy between you seeing a lot of spending and her seeing less.

yachi

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 248
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2017, 06:08:00 AM »
Can you cut back Childcare to less than every day?  Everyday seems excessive.  Do you watch over the kids when you get home, that should allow her 'me time'?  Is she sleeping in and you drop the kids at childcare, or is she getting up early to drop them off only to return to an empty house?  Is the hard work grocery shopping and cooking, laundry, or is keeping the budget the hard work?  For us, laundry was difficult early on because we cared more about stains/pretreatment, etc.  but we got busier so now we care less.  Now I can help with laundry when I get home.  You could order groceries delivered for little extra cost, especially if it saved you on childcare.  I agree that a case study would help.  I imagine all of our advice would be different if you had a $1,000/month racecar building hobby.

ejh

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #16 on: February 14, 2017, 06:09:52 AM »
Jon Bon -
The maid is about $250. I don't have an issue with the maid specifically. I raised it as an expense which can easily be cut out and I am willing to take that load.
We didn't really cut cable, but 'downgraded' to a cheaper option with less content.
If she wants to go out, by all means she can. She does go to a study group once a week or two and if she wants to go out more that's fine with me. But as I said we are pretty much at the limit of how much we can spend.
She used to be a gym member, but cancelled it because she doesn't go. This was her decision even though I pushed her to go. I cannot force her to exercise.

ShortInSeattle - I agree that she is trying hard. This is making it difficult for me to approach as I wrote in my previous reply. We used to budget together. It worked before the kids and house. Then it became arguments about saving vs spending. So then she offered we set a weekly sum for her to manage and I budget the rest on my own. Fine with me. Even ok with me when she exceeds her budget. But today she say how much we actually saved end of month and got upset that it's so little even while she's trying so hard.

MightyAl - I take the kids off her hands as much as I can and enjoy it too!

I like all the replies, but at the end of the day, I don't see what I can offer other than increasing income or reducing spending, and both of these are hard for me to get across.

Maybe the root of the problem is just she's too stressed out in order to make any more changes, I don't know....

Villanelle

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3055
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #17 on: February 14, 2017, 06:20:39 AM »
You mention a study group.  What kind of study?  It doesn't sound like she's in school, so is this a religious group of some kind?  If you are active in a spiritual community, would that be a source of free or cheaper activities?  Friendships she might be able to cultivate with people who live a bit more simply?

If you tithe, is that a possible place for budget cuts?


KBecks

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1950
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #18 on: February 14, 2017, 06:23:15 AM »
It's good that you are talking about it and this stuff is not that easy.  A few notes

-- I find myself getting stressed, sad and mad in accordance with my monthly cycle, yes, PMS.   Now, this is only background information, don't you dare talk to her about PMS, but realize that if things are tough or unusually stressed/emotional, you can take a break and resume talks a few days later.

-- It is harder but better for you two to work on your goals together.  Make the budget together

-- Having more kids will present more challenges, in terms of time and money so you both need to decide how that works in your life.

-- In my early marriage when money felt tight I put a sheet of paper and a golf pencll on the wall and my husband and I wrote down any money we spent that day.  It didn't work perfectly but it raised our consciousness.

-- Is her alone time -- shopping time?   That would lead to frustration.   I think the child care could be switched out to things like baby classes or outings some of the time.  Budget for a babysitter so you can go on dates maybe once a month.

Good luck!!

ejh

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #19 on: February 14, 2017, 06:23:55 AM »
Villanelle - Yes she has looked at the budget and even set the weekly amount she thinks she needs. At first when she set the amount it sounded like a whole lot of cash to her. 3 months later it is constraining and she has no room to move (her words). Look, she's trying, I get it. I'd be happy if we spend less, but I'm not on her back about it (I used to be). But at least given the ability to set your own sum, have the freedom to not work, etc. - all I ask is to be happy about it and not constantly upset about what we don't have.
And I really can't see any area I can cut back. I barely buy anything for myself. I don't go out much. Don't get new gadgets.

ejh

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #20 on: February 14, 2017, 06:30:39 AM »
Perhaps I will post a case study with all details of how much we have saved, equity, etc.
Hopefully I can get some insight into how we are doing holistically and then I can look at the monthly spendings differently.
Because my main concern is that we are not saving enough.

Laura33

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2384
  • Location: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #21 on: February 14, 2017, 06:49:55 AM »
Sorry for all these separate posts, things just keep coming to me and I need to get them out.

I just feel so trapped. On the one hand she is trying hard. Even if to me or you it seems silly or completely wasteful, for her it is a struggle.
So I don't want to say 'let's get rid of the maid', or 'find a part time job' because I don't want to get her down. She feels like no matter how much she tries it's not good enough (for me perhaps?).
On the other hand, this is going nowhere. We either need to increase our income or reduce our spending. There's no other way. Any reduction in spending means another 'sacrifice' for her which leads to stress, sadness, whatever.

Well, it's not, is it?  Because you're not happy with what she has done so far.  First rule of communicating with a spouse:  own up to the obvious.  Every "helpful" suggestion of yours about how "she" can cut back you see as a logical solution, and she hears as a criticism of her efforts.  No wonder your conversations don't go anywhere.

It sounds to me like you guys started from very different places/expectations and are talking different languages.  You are assuming that your view of the world is correct, and that since she has a different view/expectation of what life is supposed to be, she is wrong, and therefore it's your job to convert her.  You said it right up front: "I don't agree with why she's feeling that way."  Dude, that is not your place -- you don't get to tell her how she feels.   She is a fully-fledged independent human who is entitled to her feelings, whether you agree with them or not.  The more you ignore that, the more you force her to double down to try to make you see. 

This is a communication issue.  If you want to move past this impasse, she needs to feel heard -- she needs to come away from your next conversation fully convinced that you respect her needs/wants/goals as much as your own.  And that means talking feelings instead of dollars and cents.  You say she feels like her efforts aren't enough; hear her out on that, and take a hard look at things from her perspective (e.g., are you patronizing, do you talk to her as if you're a parent/are the one with the authority, etc. -- I see you say you used to be on her back about this but have gotten better; women have long memories, so the subject probably still leaves her feeling defensive and attacked).  Talk to her about your own feelings -- how your efforts never feel like enough, how you work so hard to provide a good life for her and the kids, and it hurts you that what you can provide isn't enough to provide her the lifestyle she wants.  That every time her parents have to buy her clothes, it makes you feel like you're not enough for her.  That you feel trapped on this never-ending treadmill, struggling as hard as you can just to keep your head above water, with no chance to ever get off because you can't save enough to allow you to retire in the foreseeable future.  Or whatever your true, actual feelings are. 

I think once you guys work through the feelings part and she actually feels heard and validated, you will be able to talk numbers with more progress.  But it can't be about what *she* can fix -- start with what you yourself are willing to give up.  You guys both have equal responsibility for getting you where you are now.  She wants daycare + SAHM; you wanted a bigger house.  How much more does that larger house cost you every month, in mortgage, taxes, upkeep, electric/gas, etc.?  Is it worth it, or is it time to reconsider?  Can you go down to a 1-car family and you bike to work every day?  Etc.  It's not a tit-for-tat thing, or who's more at fault than the other -- it's re-examining all of the choices that led you to where you are now and seeing which of them aren't making you as happy as you'd thought they would.  (As an aside, it sounds like *both* of you think that the kinds of changes you personally can make are just a drop in the bucket -- that's the first mindset that has to change, because when the budget feels too tight, every penny counts).  And for the love of Pete, start praising her for her efforts - catch her doing something right, and let her know you appreciate her sacrifices for the good of the team.

I know it sounds like I'm being hard on you -- I'm actually on your side here; being the sole breadwinner and working so hard for such little savings wouldn't be tolerable for me at all.  But it just jumps off the page at me that you are approaching her as if you are The Decider, and that therefore your job is just to persuade her to your way of thinking, and if she won't come around, that is her problem.  And that will get you nowhere fast -- you need to treat her as an equal partner with an equal voice in your *joint* goals.  Start by trying to see things her way, approaching her with empathy and understanding and sharing her frustrations.  If she grew up with maids and a SAHM and new clothes and all the trappings, you are asking her to live a life that she never expected and maybe doesn't find so compelling now that she's actually living it every day.  So come together and approach this as a team, showing her that you are personally willing to try new approaches and change things up until you find something that makes you both happy.  Because any life where one of you is not happy is not acceptable, period.

Jaguar Paw

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 147
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Texas!!
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #22 on: February 14, 2017, 06:51:15 AM »
We have an 8 month old st home now and though we know that 2 children are exponentially more difficult than 1, we are both amazed at the idea of a stay at home parent and a regular nanny. We both work, both make just about the same, and we have a sitter when we are working. When we get home from work, it is immediate child care/feeding/cleaning etc. if one parent decides to stay home, that parents job and contribution to the family is doing that stuff while the other person is making money for everyone to eat. If the person that stays at home pawns that responsibility off on someone else (that costs money), that person needs to just go back to work... Unless the worker is making a crap ton of money. Maybe your career and income would help guide our advice?

Aunt Petunia

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 944
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #23 on: February 14, 2017, 07:04:42 AM »
Wow, I am not going to judge here without hearing your wife's side of the story.

 If she likes to shop, maybe you can get her to extreme coupon, or at least use rebate apps. Your grocery budget will go down, she will still get to spend time in the store, and she will get a mood boost from finding deals and donating the surplus to charity.

Have you encouraged her to set up her own investment account, something like Acorns maybe, or Robin Hood?  It would give her an incentive to save some money out of her budget, and buying a few  shares might replace buying a new t-shirt or something.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2017, 07:12:47 AM by MrsWolfeRN »

ejh

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #24 on: February 14, 2017, 07:15:17 AM »
Laura33 - Thank you so much for your post, this is what I am looking for - ways for both of us to be happy while keeping our finances in shape.
You highlighted her feelings on how she tries but it's not good enough. I think this is also in her eyes, not mine. I do admit that we used to argue about her spending, but I really feel that for the past year (maybe half a year) I do not talk to her about overspending. I approach her with ideas on how we can cut spending in general. She offers I get new stuff and I say I don't need to spend now. I stop drinking the expensive coffee at home, but still continue to order more for her because she likes it. I try. I fail sometimes in how I word things or my attitude, but as husband and wife, I also feel like we must talk about things that we disagree on and I can't be held to blame every time I say something in the wrong way.
I say I don't agree with why she is feeling this way. I did not say that she's not entitled to those feelings. This is my conflict, I want her to be happy. I want her to feel like the other moms are missing out. That's my goal. But how can this be done if the constant message I'm hearing is that it's not enough?

You say listen to her goals. What do I say if her goal cannot be reached without a change without sounding patronizing? As if I have the idea which can 'save her'? This is not how I want to sound. The current budget scheme we use is her idea. She brought it forward and I agreed right away even though I don't think it's the best.

I also feel as if these long/serious talks are hard to make. I don't say this to put her down, rather because many time when I raise serious topics, I get blocked by her because she's stressed out from the day. I'm always the one who wants to talk.

So let's say we talk, and I listen and she listens and the communication is flowing. At the end of the day this needs to become something we can act on, not just talk about. Acting on something means being committed to it. It means that when you can't buy something, you may feel a pinch, but you then remember why you can't and get over it. You don't dwell on it an keep coming back to how much you are lacking.

ejh

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #25 on: February 14, 2017, 07:17:29 AM »
MrsWolfeRN - thanks I agree both sides to be heard and would love to talk to someone about these issues together with her.
Setting up her own account sounds great!!! I never thought of that and I wonder if I can do that where I live.

Freedomin5

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2131
  • Location: China
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #26 on: February 14, 2017, 07:31:59 AM »
Yes, posting a case study may help. Right now, it sounds like she feels she has no room to move, and you feel you have no room to move. Without details, it sounds like many of us are just lobbing random guesses as to where the problem lies and what might be helpful. With a case study, we can give more concrete ideas of where/how to cut spending/increase income.

Giro

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 604
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #27 on: February 14, 2017, 07:42:23 AM »
+1 for case study

What kind of income are we talking about?  It seems that you have a very low household income and therefore need to stretch it pretty far.  You have no car payment, no expensive lunches, no expensive hobbies...is your home paid off?  Does she have an auto loan? 

The expenses that you are addressing seem pretty small but if the budget is small, then my perspective is off. 

former player

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4684
  • Location: Avalon
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #28 on: February 14, 2017, 07:47:40 AM »
If you are looking for opportunities to talk, could you and your wife go out walking at weekends?  There is something about the rhythmic action of walking, plus being out in nature, plus not looking at each other, which can make communication easier.  You can take the kids: at their age tone matters more than content.

The other thing I would say is that with two very young children and a house bought in the last few years the two of you are probably at the peak of "required" spending, and even at that you are managing to save something.  As long as you can keep income coming in which exceeds expenditure, things will get better over time even as they currently are, so financially you are not in the desperate position of many others.  It is with your emotions that both you and your wife are having your big issues: you are stressed out that you are not saving enough, your wife is stressed that she can't spend enough.  It is those emotional reactions to your situation that you need to understand in each other and come to terms with.

MandyM

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 544
  • Location: Lexington, KY
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #29 on: February 14, 2017, 07:48:04 AM »

3. Does she work out or do any exercise?  That can do wonders for depression, and it's plausible that she is actually depressed right now.


Have you considered depression as a possibility? Honestly, I would suggest a bit of couples counseling for you - a little facilitation with your communication could probably do wonders. You are asking pretty specific questions on framing your talks and an online forum with just one side of the story can only get you so far.

Also, when you are discussing budgets, do you consider timeframe on any of your expenses? Daycare will go away in a few years when your kids start school. Perhaps putting a short term spin on your financial situation will help. Things are tight now, but not forever.

prognastat

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 781
  • Location: Texas
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #30 on: February 14, 2017, 07:48:20 AM »
I'm sorry, but I am amazed at how his wife is a SAHM, has daily childcare and a maid and people here are defending her when she feels like she has nothing? If she wants to be a SAHM and have her husband be the sole provider that is fine, but then do it. There is absolute value in the work of a SAHM equal to that of a spouse working full time to provide financially for the family, but not if the SAHM is not doing the work that comes with being a SAHM. In my opinion it's either childcare and a maid and get back to work or be an actual SAHM. How does he need to more considerate of her feelings when she doesn't seem to give his feelings/stress all that much though given that she has to be a SAHM, but also has to have childcare and a maid?

There is no way I would be accepting this kind of arrangement myself and I would insist we be talking to someone about this.

These days with modern technology taking care of the house and children is far easier than it has ever been and your wife who doesn't work can't manage what women for ages have managed?

My mother managed raising 4 kids while working either part time or full time at any point.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2017, 07:55:56 AM by prognastat »

Dragonswan

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 362
  • Location: Between realms
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #31 on: February 14, 2017, 07:50:42 AM »
This is quite the complex situation and the solution is difficult to implement, but worth the effort.  Both of you need to adjust your expectations of your dream life. Your beloved wife is accustomed to a high maintenance lifestyle (how she was raised) where math was (probably or close to) irrelevant, and cannot now comprehend why the family cannot have the house, childcare, SAHM, maid and generous spending money while still growing the bank account.  You, dear husband, were raised differently and understand that choices have to be made because in your current situation math is relevant. 
Please have a conversation with your wife to lovingly ascertain what she wants to do with her life and get out of life.  Ask her what staying home to raise the children means to her. Does that mean staying home until they are in school?  If so, you both can adjust your expectations for a longer term view, that is you arenít going to save much right now and thatís OK, but in 3-4 years she can return to work and the savings account will grow with less sacrifices.
If she just doesnít want to work, she will give a definition of raising the children that turns this into a 16 year project where she canít possibly work any of those years (now theyíre babies, then I want to home school, then Iíll time the third child to ensure another 10-15 years as a housewife).  If this is the case, you need to be honest with each other and yourselves.  She may feel this way because a lot of women raised in wealthy households were groomed to be socialites whose function was to support their husbandís careers and handle the household.  The objective of a college education for such a woman wasnít to have a career, but to demonstrate she is an intelligent well-bred accomplished woman who would make a competent complement to her husband (I graduated from one such finishing school).   As a wife sheíll need to admit this is her vision for her life.  As a husband you need to decide if you like the idea of having such a wife and realize that the sacrifice you will make to have that/give her that will be working much longer than you might like.  If you donít like that idea, then you need to explore the types of community activities that the wealthy engage in to give back and see if your wife could compromise and try getting a paying job in those activities once the children are in public school.  The key here is to get a long term view and expectations you can both thrive with.

ReadySetMillionaire

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1173
  • Location: The Buckeye State
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #32 on: February 14, 2017, 08:14:18 AM »
Sorry for all these separate posts, things just keep coming to me and I need to get them out.

I just feel so trapped. On the one hand she is trying hard. Even if to me or you it seems silly or completely wasteful, for her it is a struggle.
So I don't want to say 'let's get rid of the maid', or 'find a part time job' because I don't want to get her down. She feels like no matter how much she tries it's not good enough (for me perhaps?).
On the other hand, this is going nowhere. We either need to increase our income or reduce our spending. There's no other way. Any reduction in spending means another 'sacrifice' for her which leads to stress, sadness, whatever.

Well, it's not, is it?  Because you're not happy with what she has done so far.  First rule of communicating with a spouse:  own up to the obvious.  Every "helpful" suggestion of yours about how "she" can cut back you see as a logical solution, and she hears as a criticism of her efforts.  No wonder your conversations don't go anywhere.

It sounds to me like you guys started from very different places/expectations and are talking different languages.  You are assuming that your view of the world is correct, and that since she has a different view/expectation of what life is supposed to be, she is wrong, and therefore it's your job to convert her.  You said it right up front: "I don't agree with why she's feeling that way."  Dude, that is not your place -- you don't get to tell her how she feels.   She is a fully-fledged independent human who is entitled to her feelings, whether you agree with them or not.  The more you ignore that, the more you force her to double down to try to make you see. 

This is a communication issue.  If you want to move past this impasse, she needs to feel heard -- she needs to come away from your next conversation fully convinced that you respect her needs/wants/goals as much as your own.  And that means talking feelings instead of dollars and cents.  You say she feels like her efforts aren't enough; hear her out on that, and take a hard look at things from her perspective (e.g., are you patronizing, do you talk to her as if you're a parent/are the one with the authority, etc. -- I see you say you used to be on her back about this but have gotten better; women have long memories, so the subject probably still leaves her feeling defensive and attacked).  Talk to her about your own feelings -- how your efforts never feel like enough, how you work so hard to provide a good life for her and the kids, and it hurts you that what you can provide isn't enough to provide her the lifestyle she wants.  That every time her parents have to buy her clothes, it makes you feel like you're not enough for her.  That you feel trapped on this never-ending treadmill, struggling as hard as you can just to keep your head above water, with no chance to ever get off because you can't save enough to allow you to retire in the foreseeable future.  Or whatever your true, actual feelings are. 

I think once you guys work through the feelings part and she actually feels heard and validated, you will be able to talk numbers with more progress.  But it can't be about what *she* can fix -- start with what you yourself are willing to give up.  You guys both have equal responsibility for getting you where you are now.  She wants daycare + SAHM; you wanted a bigger house.  How much more does that larger house cost you every month, in mortgage, taxes, upkeep, electric/gas, etc.?  Is it worth it, or is it time to reconsider?  Can you go down to a 1-car family and you bike to work every day?  Etc.  It's not a tit-for-tat thing, or who's more at fault than the other -- it's re-examining all of the choices that led you to where you are now and seeing which of them aren't making you as happy as you'd thought they would.  (As an aside, it sounds like *both* of you think that the kinds of changes you personally can make are just a drop in the bucket -- that's the first mindset that has to change, because when the budget feels too tight, every penny counts).  And for the love of Pete, start praising her for her efforts - catch her doing something right, and let her know you appreciate her sacrifices for the good of the team.

I know it sounds like I'm being hard on you -- I'm actually on your side here; being the sole breadwinner and working so hard for such little savings wouldn't be tolerable for me at all.  But it just jumps off the page at me that you are approaching her as if you are The Decider, and that therefore your job is just to persuade her to your way of thinking, and if she won't come around, that is her problem.  And that will get you nowhere fast -- you need to treat her as an equal partner with an equal voice in your *joint* goals.  Start by trying to see things her way, approaching her with empathy and understanding and sharing her frustrations.  If she grew up with maids and a SAHM and new clothes and all the trappings, you are asking her to live a life that she never expected and maybe doesn't find so compelling now that she's actually living it every day.  So come together and approach this as a team, showing her that you are personally willing to try new approaches and change things up until you find something that makes you both happy.  Because any life where one of you is not happy is not acceptable, period.

Laura with her usual amazing insight. Great post.

I'll add my own anecdotal experience FWIW.

First and foremost, you need to approach this as a TEAM. All of your posts are littered with "I do this" and "she does that" and "I wanted this" and "she buys that" and "I sacrifice by doing this" and "she still wants this." You each seem to have your own visions of what is ideal and they seem to be totally independent of one another. Seriously, you guys are married--you're a team!

When I first stumbled upon early retirement, I was eager to slash so much from our budget.  To put it mildly, I completely overwhelmed my fiancee, and we made almost no progress in the first year. For instance, she loves her Toyota Rav4, and I mentioned selling it all the time (payment is $371). But that was her first big purchase as an adult, and she needs it for her job (she is a home health speech therapist). I approached this as "me me me" rather than see it from her point of view. She's kept it, and now she is about a year away from owning it free and clear.

I then approached things as a team exercise--how doing things would be of mutual benefit. Instead of "you don't need this," it's, "Hey, cutting cable will save $90 per month, which we can save for our wedding. What do you think?"  And we did this all the time by talking while taking walks in our local park.  No joke, we've probably walked 200-300 miles while talking about financial goals/things we want to try.

Here are things we've accomplished in the past two years:

-Downgraded from DirecTV ($117 per month) to Sling ($20 per month, $40 per month during football season).
-She increased her 401k from 10% of income to almost 20% (put away $11k last year, twice as much as she'd ever done before)! Honestly so freaking proud of her.
-I went from $10k in 401k contributions to being on pace for the full $18k this year
-She pays utilities out of her checking (we are getting married in May). When I write her a check for my half, she deposits it into our joint savings or HSA account.
-She called and lowered her car insurance by about $15/month.
-She is about 15 months from paying off her car, and she is going to keep that thing for as long as it runs (previously used to talk about upgrading, but now I wash it and take care of it for her and she loves her car even more)
-Paid off her biggest federal student loan
-Gone from about $625 in monthly groceries to about $375
-Cancelled our gym memberships ($85/month) and bought an elliptical with cash

In summary, in 2014 we were probably averaging $3,400 in monthly expenses. By 2018 (her car payment and student loans should be paid off), we should be at about $2,200 per month.

Honestly, THIS WAS HARD WORK. Nothing happened overnight. All of this--even the simple things like picking up the phone to call the insurance company--was the product of constant dialogue and me VALUING HER OPINION. And I can tell you that she is loving this because she has felt part of the process.

It sounds like you and your spouse are each imposing things on one another--including emotional baggage--without much productive dialogue and seeing it from each other's point of view.

So my recommendation is for you to entirely reframe how you are approaching this. You need to SHOW HER, not tell her, that doing things will be of mutual benefit because of X, Y, Z.

Laura33

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2384
  • Location: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #33 on: February 14, 2017, 08:14:55 AM »
Laura33 - Thank you so much for your post, this is what I am looking for - ways for both of us to be happy while keeping our finances in shape.
You highlighted her feelings on how she tries but it's not good enough. I think this is also in her eyes, not mine. I do admit that we used to argue about her spending, but I really feel that for the past year (maybe half a year) I do not talk to her about overspending. I approach her with ideas on how we can cut spending in general. She offers I get new stuff and I say I don't need to spend now. I stop drinking the expensive coffee at home, but still continue to order more for her because she likes it. I try. I fail sometimes in how I word things or my attitude, but as husband and wife, I also feel like we must talk about things that we disagree on and I can't be held to blame every time I say something in the wrong way.
I say I don't agree with why she is feeling this way. I did not say that she's not entitled to those feelings. This is my conflict, I want her to be happy. I want her to feel like the other moms are missing out. That's my goal. But how can this be done if the constant message I'm hearing is that it's not enough?

You say listen to her goals. What do I say if her goal cannot be reached without a change without sounding patronizing? As if I have the idea which can 'save her'? This is not how I want to sound. The current budget scheme we use is her idea. She brought it forward and I agreed right away even though I don't think it's the best.

I also feel as if these long/serious talks are hard to make. I don't say this to put her down, rather because many time when I raise serious topics, I get blocked by her because she's stressed out from the day. I'm always the one who wants to talk.

So let's say we talk, and I listen and she listens and the communication is flowing. At the end of the day this needs to become something we can act on, not just talk about. Acting on something means being committed to it. It means that when you can't buy something, you may feel a pinch, but you then remember why you can't and get over it. You don't dwell on it an keep coming back to how much you are lacking.

The short answer is that you are still thinking of this as being right, as winning an argument, as getting her to admit to a dream so that you can use that to prove why her current spending is preventing you from achieving your goals.  There is no way you can win in that world.  The best you can do is disengage -- just stop repeating that pattern.  My suggestions for starting a new pattern: 

1.  Assume she is venting unless told otherwise.  You vent about the challenges and frustrations of your day, right?  I bet most of her complaints are her doing the same thing.  She doesn't want to change anything, she isn't asking for solutions -- she just wants to hear, "wow, that's really frustrating, I appreciate how much you are sacrificing for the family." 

[BTDT -- when DH and I were just married, I was unhappy with some job stuff, and I'd come home and vent; DH, ever the engineer, wanted to fix it all for me and so would make all these helpful suggestions; and then I'd get more and more annoyed, because I just wanted to vent, and I heard his suggestions as him not trusting me to manage my own job.  We ultimately agreed that, when I was in that mood, I'd flag it by saying "I just need to vent," and he'd know to make sympathetic noises and then keep his mouth shut. :-)]

2.  Treat her like you know she's got this.  She has her budget that you guys agreed on.  Assume that if she wants to change something, she will have great ideas or will directly ask for input.  It is *not* your job to come up with suggestions or ideas, or to "fix" her unhappiness, so just stop that entirely right now (as you've seen, it just leads to arguments over who is spendier).  You married a competent, capable woman who has primary responsibility for your home and kids; your job is just to support her emotionally.  I.e., "wow, that sounds tough.  So what are you thinking you want to do about that?"  Then listen.  Literally bite your tongue if necessary.

3.  Have non-financial "dream" talks.  What I meant by "dreams" was not outcome-oriented -- the point *is* to get the communication flowing, not to lock her in to a specific budgetary commitment.  It's not "let's chat about what you really want so you can see how your spending is keeping us from getting there."  It's cracking open a bottle of wine and talking about where you want to be in 30 years -- what's your dream life, do you want to travel, do you want a passel of kids, who do you admire, how would you spend your time if money were no object, etc.  The point is to have discussions that bring you closer together as a couple and get your head out of the day-to-day drudgery, to remind you why you started on this path together in the first place, and why the long slog is still worth it. 

4.  Add fun and frivolity.  You are right, a series of long, Important talks turns a marriage into drudgery.  The reality is that even when you're on a good path, the nitty-gritty of getting there can be a slog a lot of the time, and there are days you feel like you are churning as hard as you can and not making progress and what's the point?  The best remedy for that that I know (other than a glass of wine and a big hug) is to think of ways to change it up and put fun back into your life as a couple/family -- going for a walk at sunset, having a picnic dinner with the kids and a Frisbee, trying roller skating or painting or something specifically because you know you will be bad at it, etc. etc. etc.  Laughing and enjoying time together is the best remedy I know.

Laura33

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2384
  • Location: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #34 on: February 14, 2017, 08:26:39 AM »
Here are things we've accomplished in the past two years:

-Downgraded from DirecTV ($117 per month) to Sling ($20 per month, $40 per month during football season).
-She increased her 401k from 10% of income to almost 20% (put away $11k last year, twice as much as she'd ever done before)! Honestly so freaking proud of her.
-I went from $10k in 401k contributions to being on pace for the full $18k this year
-She pays utilities out of her checking (we are getting married in May). When I write her a check for my half, she deposits it into our joint savings or HSA account.
-She called and lowered her car insurance by about $15/month.
-She is about 15 months from paying off her car, and she is going to keep that thing for as long as it runs (previously used to talk about upgrading, but now I wash it and take care of it for her and she loves her car even more)
-Paid off her biggest federal student loan
-Gone from about $625 in monthly groceries to about $375
-Cancelled our gym memberships ($85/month) and bought an elliptical with cash

In summary, in 2014 we were probably averaging $3,400 in monthly expenses. By 2018 (her car payment and student loans should be paid off), we should be at about $2,200 per month.

Honestly, THIS WAS HARD WORK. Nothing happened overnight. All of this--even the simple things like picking up the phone to call the insurance company--was the product of constant dialogue and me VALUING HER OPINION. And I can tell you that she is loving this because she has felt part of the process.

I gotta say, RSM, that is freaking awesome.  This is also how DH and I did it and still do it -- he is laughing at my new Aldi's fixation, because he thinks it's unnecessary scrimping, but at heart he appreciates that I am sacrificing Wegman's for the good of the family; and as much as his spendy tendencies still bug me, I appreciate that they are also coming from a good place (wanting to make sure we enjoy ourselves along the way).

BabyShark

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 237
  • Location: Virginia
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #35 on: February 14, 2017, 08:32:53 AM »
Here are things we've accomplished in the past two years:

-Downgraded from DirecTV ($117 per month) to Sling ($20 per month, $40 per month during football season).
-She increased her 401k from 10% of income to almost 20% (put away $11k last year, twice as much as she'd ever done before)! Honestly so freaking proud of her.
-I went from $10k in 401k contributions to being on pace for the full $18k this year
-She pays utilities out of her checking (we are getting married in May). When I write her a check for my half, she deposits it into our joint savings or HSA account.
-She called and lowered her car insurance by about $15/month.
-She is about 15 months from paying off her car, and she is going to keep that thing for as long as it runs (previously used to talk about upgrading, but now I wash it and take care of it for her and she loves her car even more)
-Paid off her biggest federal student loan
-Gone from about $625 in monthly groceries to about $375
-Cancelled our gym memberships ($85/month) and bought an elliptical with cash

In summary, in 2014 we were probably averaging $3,400 in monthly expenses. By 2018 (her car payment and student loans should be paid off), we should be at about $2,200 per month.

Honestly, THIS WAS HARD WORK. Nothing happened overnight. All of this--even the simple things like picking up the phone to call the insurance company--was the product of constant dialogue and me VALUING HER OPINION. And I can tell you that she is loving this because she has felt part of the process.

I gotta say, RSM, that is freaking awesome.  This is also how DH and I did it and still do it -- he is laughing at my new Aldi's fixation, because he thinks it's unnecessary scrimping, but at heart he appreciates that I am sacrificing Wegman's for the good of the family; and as much as his spendy tendencies still bug me, I appreciate that they are also coming from a good place (wanting to make sure we enjoy ourselves along the way).

Laura, I'm super impressed that you're sacrificing Wegman's. We just got ours here (after I grew up shopping there) and it's still such an excitement to me. I know I need to switch to Aldi's at least for somethings, but the nostalgic comfort of Wegman's is addicting.

Mountainbug

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 65
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #36 on: February 14, 2017, 08:33:24 AM »
What does your wife do while kids are in daycare?

As a sahm myself I know that social circles are very important to sanity, but if they are influencing her to keep up with the joneses maybe she could try to find some new mom friends. Only, of course, if she's interested. It could have a huge effect on her perception of needs if she found some frugal/non wealthy background friends.

I also came here to say I would love to have all the things she has and couldn't imagine what I would do with all my free time if I had a maid and daycare! She's a lucky lady.

Laura33

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2384
  • Location: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #37 on: February 14, 2017, 08:49:13 AM »
Laura, I'm super impressed that you're sacrificing Wegman's. We just got ours here (after I grew up shopping there) and it's still such an excitement to me. I know I need to switch to Aldi's at least for somethings, but the nostalgic comfort of Wegman's is addicting.

I gotta say, I'm at a month now, and this last weekend was basically white-knuckling it through the withdrawal symptoms. :-)  I am going to need to go back soon for some staples that my Aldi's just doesn't carry, and I am sort of dreading the willpower it will require. . . .

ejh

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #38 on: February 14, 2017, 08:58:06 AM »
Mountainbug - she cooks, cleans, laundry, gets stuff from the store, goes out every once in a while, meets her family, various other stuff. She's very close to her mom and sister-in-law (both big spenders I must say). This may sound frivolous, but when I get home at the end of the day she's exhausted. I can't force her to let go of some of her errands, or to stop fretting about the next we need.
BTW, the maid comes in once a week to clean the apartment, she's not a nanny who takes care of the kids, cooks, does laundry, etc.

Laura33 - Again, I'm very thankful for your detailed reply.
It seems like your taking this to a pragmatic place where finding a solution is more important than being right.
I assume - maybe I'm wrong - that if she was posting her thoughts instead of me, you would take the same approach.
I get it and am for it, and I agree this is an underlying communication issue which has multiple manifestations. Our financials are one of them.
But as I said, we need to reach something that works, not only makes us feel good. It sounds from your suggestions that we simply need to talk about feelings and goals and that should be enough to set us in the right direction. It will bring us closer. However, that direction must include spending less/earning more. I'm worried that 'waiting' for these changes will put us in a place which is financially unfit, but maybe I'm exaggerating (although I don't think so).

BeanCounter

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1441
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #39 on: February 14, 2017, 08:59:35 AM »
I would have a talk about if she is sure she really wants to be at home. And reassure her that it is ok, more than ok, to change your mind about these things. Childcare is not evil, and sometimes it's better than staying home with a mom that is not happy at home all day.
I had always thought I wanted to stay home with my children after I had them. But once that time came I changed my mind. I have a fulfilling job that gives me the intellectual stimulation I crave, plus a paycheck that covers all the expenses so I don't have to penny pinch. We found a wonderful nanny to take care of them as babies and then a great (but expensive) preschool that stimulates them after they turned 3. When I'm home I feel like I can give the kids 110% because I've gotten what I need during the day. And we have money to save and also still pay for the extras and do fun family outings.
Maybe she just needs to rethink her choice and see if it is what she really wants.

ejh

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #40 on: February 14, 2017, 09:07:02 AM »
BeanCounter - I would support her if this is the case (although I think it's important for the kids to come home to one of their parents, namely, their mom). I'm sure that with some (minor) lifestyle changes, she can work part time and still have time to pick up the kids and have a hot meal ready and whatever else she thinks is important. But this has to come from her otherwise it'll be another thing she feels forced into.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2017, 09:09:09 AM by ejh »

BeanCounter

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1441
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #41 on: February 14, 2017, 09:16:55 AM »
BeanCounter - I would support her if this is the case (although I think it's important for the kids to come home to one of their parents, namely, their mom). I'm sure that with some (minor) lifestyle changes, she can work part time and still have time to pick up the kids and have a hot meal ready and whatever else she thinks is important. But this has to come from her otherwise it'll be another thing she feels forced into.
hmmm, this doesn't sound very supportive to me. You're basically saying "you can work, but I think this is really important so do it in a way that allows this to happen". That actually ISN'T giving her a lot of choice.
The stay at home parent vs working parents debate is a no win situation. Both have positives and negatives and you have to really look closely at the list each year to see where you fall (and it will change as the kids change and as your care options change and as your job options change etc.)

BeanCounter

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1441
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #42 on: February 14, 2017, 09:20:29 AM »
Laura33 - Thank you so much for your post, this is what I am looking for - ways for both of us to be happy while keeping our finances in shape.
You highlighted her feelings on how she tries but it's not good enough. I think this is also in her eyes, not mine. I do admit that we used to argue about her spending, but I really feel that for the past year (maybe half a year) I do not talk to her about overspending. I approach her with ideas on how we can cut spending in general. She offers I get new stuff and I say I don't need to spend now. I stop drinking the expensive coffee at home, but still continue to order more for her because she likes it. I try. I fail sometimes in how I word things or my attitude, but as husband and wife, I also feel like we must talk about things that we disagree on and I can't be held to blame every time I say something in the wrong way.
I say I don't agree with why she is feeling this way. I did not say that she's not entitled to those feelings. This is my conflict, I want her to be happy. I want her to feel like the other moms are missing out. That's my goal. But how can this be done if the constant message I'm hearing is that it's not enough?

You say listen to her goals. What do I say if her goal cannot be reached without a change without sounding patronizing? As if I have the idea which can 'save her'? This is not how I want to sound. The current budget scheme we use is her idea. She brought it forward and I agreed right away even though I don't think it's the best.

I also feel as if these long/serious talks are hard to make. I don't say this to put her down, rather because many time when I raise serious topics, I get blocked by her because she's stressed out from the day. I'm always the one who wants to talk.

So let's say we talk, and I listen and she listens and the communication is flowing. At the end of the day this needs to become something we can act on, not just talk about. Acting on something means being committed to it. It means that when you can't buy something, you may feel a pinch, but you then remember why you can't and get over it. You don't dwell on it an keep coming back to how much you are lacking.

The short answer is that you are still thinking of this as being right, as winning an argument, as getting her to admit to a dream so that you can use that to prove why her current spending is preventing you from achieving your goals.  There is no way you can win in that world.  The best you can do is disengage -- just stop repeating that pattern.  My suggestions for starting a new pattern: 

1.  Assume she is venting unless told otherwise.  You vent about the challenges and frustrations of your day, right?  I bet most of her complaints are her doing the same thing.  She doesn't want to change anything, she isn't asking for solutions -- she just wants to hear, "wow, that's really frustrating, I appreciate how much you are sacrificing for the family." 

[BTDT -- when DH and I were just married, I was unhappy with some job stuff, and I'd come home and vent; DH, ever the engineer, wanted to fix it all for me and so would make all these helpful suggestions; and then I'd get more and more annoyed, because I just wanted to vent, and I heard his suggestions as him not trusting me to manage my own job.  We ultimately agreed that, when I was in that mood, I'd flag it by saying "I just need to vent," and he'd know to make sympathetic noises and then keep his mouth shut. :-)]

2.  Treat her like you know she's got this.  She has her budget that you guys agreed on.  Assume that if she wants to change something, she will have great ideas or will directly ask for input.  It is *not* your job to come up with suggestions or ideas, or to "fix" her unhappiness, so just stop that entirely right now (as you've seen, it just leads to arguments over who is spendier).  You married a competent, capable woman who has primary responsibility for your home and kids; your job is just to support her emotionally.  I.e., "wow, that sounds tough.  So what are you thinking you want to do about that?"  Then listen.  Literally bite your tongue if necessary.

3.  Have non-financial "dream" talks.  What I meant by "dreams" was not outcome-oriented -- the point *is* to get the communication flowing, not to lock her in to a specific budgetary commitment.  It's not "let's chat about what you really want so you can see how your spending is keeping us from getting there."  It's cracking open a bottle of wine and talking about where you want to be in 30 years -- what's your dream life, do you want to travel, do you want a passel of kids, who do you admire, how would you spend your time if money were no object, etc.  The point is to have discussions that bring you closer together as a couple and get your head out of the day-to-day drudgery, to remind you why you started on this path together in the first place, and why the long slog is still worth it. 

4.  Add fun and frivolity.  You are right, a series of long, Important talks turns a marriage into drudgery.  The reality is that even when you're on a good path, the nitty-gritty of getting there can be a slog a lot of the time, and there are days you feel like you are churning as hard as you can and not making progress and what's the point?  The best remedy for that that I know (other than a glass of wine and a big hug) is to think of ways to change it up and put fun back into your life as a couple/family -- going for a walk at sunset, having a picnic dinner with the kids and a Frisbee, trying roller skating or painting or something specifically because you know you will be bad at it, etc. etc. etc.  Laughing and enjoying time together is the best remedy I know.
And assuming she is really, really sure she wants to continue staying home right now, I think the above is REALLY good advice. +1

ejh

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #43 on: February 14, 2017, 09:26:47 AM »
I'm saying she can work if she wants, and I will support her choice. I know what she wants to do for the kids so I support that as well if it means part time and I'm sure she is capable. It's not staying 'do it my way' it's saying 'i believe you can do it'.
I'm curious why having an opinion of staying at home is considered not supportive if she chose not to? In reality if she chose to work she would not be forced to quit by me.

former player

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4684
  • Location: Avalon
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #44 on: February 14, 2017, 09:31:35 AM »
I'm saying she can work if she wants, and I will support her choice. I know what she wants to do for the kids so I support that as well if it means part time and I'm sure she is capable. It's not staying 'do it my way' it's saying 'i believe you can do it'.
I'm curious why having an opinion of staying at home is considered not supportive if she chose not to? In reality if she chose to work she would not be forced to quit by me.
I think the issue is you saying that you think it is important for the kids to come home to one of their parents, namely their mum.  As long as a responsible adult that they know is at home, does it matter who it is?  And why should it be their mum rather than their dad?  You are putting quite an expectation on your wife with your view of what is "important".

Is it possible that you are expressing other ideas that put pressure on your wife, without realising that you are doing it?  You may be sending out messages that you do not intend, or that are taken by her in ways that you might not have considered.

Your problems are not financial ones, they are communication ones.

mm1970

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6972
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #45 on: February 14, 2017, 09:36:33 AM »
immattdamon  - She actually strongly believes in staying at home and raising the kids. I think it's great too, but it comes from her first.
I once mentioned she find a part time job, but that didn't come off well for a couple of reasons.

Villanelle - Thanks for posting an alternate view. I strongly appreciate it.
However I must say that I can counter 99% of what you mention.
Going meatless is something I can do 6 out of 7 days a week. She cooks meat many times a week as it's necessary nutrition in her opinion.
I do not buy lunch at work (we have free meals). My car is a 21 year old Honda I my parents gave me when they got a new car and I've been biking to work for the past months.
I don't go out much at all, definitely not to poker games and I don't drink. I rarely turn on the heater or cooler, regardless of the season.
Regarding the maid - it is her request to have one. I am willing to take care of 100% the cleaning, but she is not willing to allow it. I currently clean and wash up many nights a week. If not, I am washing the kids and putting them to bed. I used to do the laundry, but she didn't like it and constantly nudged about it until I let it go. When I get home I immediately chip in with the chores - cleaning, washing, whatever. I usually don't eat dinner until taking care of these things.
See my comment above about her going back to work.
Sorry, I don't mean to brag at all, I do all this with love and with no problem. But these are the facts.

Yes, she was overwhelmed for the past 2.5-3 years. Having 2 kids a year apart is overwhelming, exhausting and tiring. That's why both are in daycare until noon. In order for her to have a few hours on her own.

I am thinking a lot about a side hustle and so is she. But I don't really have any ideas of what to do.
There are definitely a lot of good details here.  Not sure the age of your kids, but having an infant/ toddler is exhausting, nevermind two.  I found that I didn't wake up from my "fog" until they were 3.5-4 years old.

I don't know how tight the budget is, but little things really DO add up.  The only way I was able to get over that, or around that, back when I really started living on a budget was this:  I didn't shop.

Literally, I went without.  I had "no spend days" or "no spend weeks".  Because *most* things that I'd get at a drug store were really optional.  I don't wear makeup, for example.  And also - unless we are out of toilet paper or feminine products, it can wait.

Funny that waiting a week to buy something makes you realize that you don't need it.  And all those little things take up space.  It adds stress to have that much stuff in the house.

I'm not sure what you can do about her attitude.  She really needs to learn that you can't tell anything about people from the outside.  You don't know their bank account, their mortgage payment, their income, their inheritances, or how much they spent on their last vacation.  Or how much their health care premiums costs, for that matter.

BeanCounter

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1441
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #46 on: February 14, 2017, 09:40:46 AM »
I'm saying she can work if she wants, and I will support her choice. I know what she wants to do for the kids so I support that as well if it means part time and I'm sure she is capable. It's not staying 'do it my way' it's saying 'i believe you can do it'.
I'm curious why having an opinion of staying at home is considered not supportive if she chose not to? In reality if she chose to work she would not be forced to quit by me.
Because you are basically saying "I won't make her quit, but I'll only support her if it is within these parameters".
Also remember that for women, even in 2017, it's still really hard to admit that we are not happy at home. It does feel like some kind of failure as a mother. And if she is happier in the workplace you will have to help her fight that feeling. Because otherwise she'll feel like a failure no matter what.
I hope that makes sense.

ejh

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 69
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #47 on: February 14, 2017, 09:41:25 AM »
Ah I see, no that was not what I meant to write.
While we both think a parent should be at home, she thinks it should be the mom.

Kapiira

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 153
  • Location: Albuquerque, NM
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #48 on: February 14, 2017, 09:46:36 AM »
I found it very stressful when my kids were that age.  In truth, I entirely stopped focusing on saving money during that time because the rest of it was stressful enough on it's own.  When the kids were a little older we began focusing on saving again.  I would recommend letting it go for a year or two.  Reducing your savings rate to <10% isn't an okay long-term strategy, but for a year or two, I say it's worth focusing more on sanity and less on saving.

LadyMuMu

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 214
Re: Need Advice Please: Spouse is unhappy with our finances
« Reply #49 on: February 14, 2017, 09:50:59 AM »
1- I know Laura already said this but it bears repeating because it's not clear that you absorbed it: Your spouses feelings about a situation aren't something you agree or disagree with. They are her feelings. Who are you to judge her feelings? You may not SHARE her feelings but it is completely inappropriate to disagree with them. If my husband told me he disagreed with my feelings, it would set off an argument for sure.

2- If you bought a bigger than necessary house, you may have inadvertently contributed to this problem. For a SAHP bigger houses mean: -more space to clean, more rooms to furnish, more places to accidentally lose the kid, wealthier neighbors, etc. When we moved, we bought a significantly larger house than we had before, not because it was bigger, but because it met some of our other needs at the time. My job as a SAHP became exponentially more difficult with just the 900 extra square feet. I've seen friends who "upgrade" their houses and then figure, if I have this  nice house with granite countertops, why the heck can't I get a manicure/new blouse/Starbucks? I'm wealthier now, right?

3- If sitting down and discussing the budget together causes you to argue, the solution IS NOT to stop sitting down to discuss the budget. You need to figure a way to do this together. I wholeheartedly recommend some couples counseling for you two.