In many ways, my husband and I are opposites. Not in ways you can immediately discern by looking at us, but in the most fundamental ways. For example, he doesn't like peanut butter and thinks mayonnaise and Miracle Whip are interchangeable. To me, that's stark, raving madness. In the interest of equal time, I count walking as exercise, and he thinks that's why we're on the verge of societal collapse. Yardwork and walking are not exercise in his immutable categorization of stuff that's hard. Period.
We've been married a long time and have been a couple even longer. For perspective, first-run movies at the theater when we first started dating cost a penny. Kidding. They were like three dollars and fifty cents. I can't be sure, though. My boyfriend—now husband—always paid. I had bigger concerns, like how to fit driver's ed classes in between cheerleading practices, or how to fulfill my sacred duty of sticking tissue paper into chicken wire for the homecoming float.
While we agreed on movies, music, books, religion, and even parenting, we discovered we were opposites when it came to finances and budgets. I didn't like budgets. I know, hard to predict that one.
We have both always been employed. My income is less than his, but my health insurance benefits are great. Ah, appreciating health benefits. That is the true measure of adulthood.
We never thought "that is your money, and this is my money." It was always our money. Figuring out the best way to handle our money is when the opposites-attract cliché turned out to be wrong. Flat Earth, Al Capone's vault, Steve Harvey announcing a beauty pageant winner…wrong. Neither of us found the other's method of money management attractive.
We tried several methods of budgeting. First was a "no method" joint checking arrangement. Let's call this "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" budgeting. It went how you'd expect.
For a time, we tried a method of couples budgeting, whereby I handed my paycheck over to him. He used it responsibly to pay our bills. I was allotted an allowance. While bills got paid and savings were had, I turned bitter. This is the Rage Monster Wife budgeting method that we realized did not bode well for our future. I was resentful and perpetually asking for a "tuppence, guv'na," and he had to do "everything."
Over time, we've figured it out. My checks come to me, his to him. He pays the mortgage, and I pay college tuition. He pays for a new roof while I pay for health insurance. We have a clear picture of what needs to be done, saved for, and managed.
The key to all of this was being honest. He didn't like being cast as miserly while making sure we had things like a roof and food. I didn't like playing the role of a Dickensian street urchin. (He will tell you that Charles Dickens' orphans didn't have $100 a month to spend on beach-blonde highlights. Whatever…there's a whole chapter about it in "Tale of Two Cities.")
My husband is a planner. He's disciplined, intelligent, and logical. I'm fun at parties. But I also like health insurance. By communicating and using our past budgetary missteps, we've combined these opposing traits into something that works.
We recently completed the renovation of our 22-year-old kitchen. This tests a marriage much like a harrowing trip to Ikea. Knowing he appreciates a plan, I priced out everything I wanted and presented a reasonable budget in an actual spreadsheet. We made smart decisions on necessities, versus things I saw once on HGTV.
We had zero arguments about it, and I love the result.
So, how did we get here?
It was years of trial and error. Fights. Compromise. And me learning how spreadsheets work.
As it turns out, our budget success depends on a mutual commitment to communicating our expectations with each other. Or it could be that both of us can't hear anymore. Either way…my kitchen looks so cute!
Good luck, lovers.