The joy of compromise

AJ: We recently received a question from a reader that sparked an interesting conversation for us. We both willingly make sacrifices for the greater good, but what happens when sacrifices begin to outweigh each other or spending seems imbalanced? Chaos, obviously 🙂

Talk it out
AJ: As always, you HAVE to be in communication with your partner with regards to what you’re spending and sometimes even more importantly what you’re not spending! Kirby often has to remind me that I am not solely responsible for building our future nest egg and that killing myself today won’t ultimately make a huge difference in the long run. I’m like a budgeting martyr, I suppose, but sometimes I start to feel like I’m suffocating by limiting what I want so drastically. Oftentimes I don’t even realize the pressure I’m putting on myself until Kirby calls me on it.

KJ: Disagreements about money can often build up very significantly over time, and money is one of the leading causes of divorce, so why let something so toxic build up without speaking about it? Being open about your spending with your spouse is critical to developing a good, long-term relationship. Some couples have a dollar threshold that they consult their significant other with ($50, $100, etc.). We don’t exactly clear every purchase with one another, but we don’t have to. We set budgets for the month and our anticipated expenses, so if groceries, shoes, household items, gifts, etc. fit within the overall budget, then no arguments. For anything significant, we plan for the purchase, so there are no surprises. And, with our focus on saving, the unexpected items that come up don’t immediately push us over the edge and create tension.

I don't do compromise. I'm too cute.

Pick your battles
AJ: Kirby rarely splurges, but if he suddenly needs a $400 ladder, I’m not splurging on lavish meals and more expensive bottles of wine that month. If he decides he’s going out for guy’s night and spends $600, that might be a different issue!

The reader who wrote to us seeking guidance was struggling with this very issue. It can be hard to know when to hold and when to fold. Sometimes spending on something that’s generally good (a gym membership, a crop share, monthly charitable giving) still puts a strain on your overall financial situation, and you have to decide as a family what makes the most sense for you all collectively. If there isn’t an alternate option that would meet your needs at a lower cost threshold, can you sacrifice one thing here or there to make it work?

KJ: Knowing when to pick your battles is key to long-term success. Just because you feel the spending on an item for your spouse is “wasteful” doesn’t mean that they don’t have the same feelings about one of your favored expenses. Take a moment to step back and think about what it is that upsets or frustrates you about their spending. If the money wasn’t spent in that way, how would it be spent – saved for a joint goal, saved for gifting, allocated to another expense? That can help frame the discussion to help you approach your significant other.

Keep the balance
AJ: It’s not all about you. And it’s also not NOT all about you. Don’t be the one who refuses to spend or the one that always spends. Since we make everything work within our budget and refuse to put anything on credit month to month (that we can’t pay off), we have to make sacrifices. Some months we both have needs, and one of us has to bow out until the following month in order to maintain what we agree is right for our family.

Share the wealth
AJ: Just because you budget doesn’t mean you can’t be thoughtful. Find ways to alleviate pressure within the areas that you control. I often do this with our food and shopping budgets. Just because I ultimately maintain those categories for us doesn’t mean that it’s mine, it’s still ours and it’s crucial to not lose perspective of that. I control the outflow, but I’m not entirely responsible for the inflow, which can be a hard thing to keep in check.

KJ: If you’re in charge of a certain area of your finances (maybe you do most or all of the financial dealings in your house – though I would highly recommend splitting duties), then periodically let the other know what you’re doing and share with your partner – both your problems and your successes – but don’t always just focus on the negative aspect!

    Do you have any expenses that are only on you and not your spouse or significant other?
    Have you ever hid an expense from your spouse? Why or why not?
    Tell us about a time you disagreed about a purchase and what you did to resolve it.

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