Marrying Frugality and Your New (Non-Frugal) Partner
Growing up middle class with parents who were extremely tight with their wallets, I became the kind of adult who pores over every single purchase religiously, even if it’s just paper towels or coffee filters. Being such a frugal person, I soon realized the kind of challenges starting a life with my very non-frugal partner would be.
To be fair, being the son of a surgeon has a lot of perks, and I would never fault him for his fortunate upbringing. However, where the problems seem to arise is how differently my partner and I are with our shopping habits, budgets, and financial philosophies. Before tackling this financial rift between us, we often took an extra 15 or 20 minutes at the store each time we went because we would always end up arguing about the purchases being made. Spoiler alert: I always tried to go the cheap or “do we really need that?” route.
Luckily, there have been some tips and tricks I’ve been able to implement as the frugal partner in an effort to keep our budget intact and our bickering to a minimum.
Finding Our Financial Legs
My partner and I were lucky enough to graduate at the exact same time from our university. This meant that when we decided to move in together, we were typical bright-eyed and bushy-tailed post-graduates. This also meant we had all the stability of a newborn giraffe trying to walk for the first time.
This lack of stability (and priorities) created those budgeting arguments. Especially when we ended up pinching pennies until our next payday. The first few months together, we ended up paying late on the majority of our bills — which is one of the many factors that can negatively affect your credit score. Yay.
Considering I get really stressed out when finances get too tight, I made the effort to find a realistic approach to our money issues. To be fair, trying to budget as recent college grads isn’t always the easiest, no matter your financial background. However, I wasn’t going to let our credit, bills, and general mental health keep taking hits.
Luckily, through my digging, I came across the 50/20/30 rule. Originally created by Senator Elizabeth Warren, this budget focuses on breaking down spending into three sections.
Experts at Lendkey clarify exactly what this looks like. They explain:
- 20 percent of your budget “should go to meeting financial goals, such as paying off loans, credit cards, or making investments.”
- 30 percent of your budget “should go to flexible spending or saving money for yourself: whether that’s with travel expenses, house necessities, or other treats for yourself.”
- 50 percent of your budget “should go towards your living expenses and essentials. This includes your monthly rent, bills, food expenses, and transportation costs.”
Putting our budget into this kind of structure made our expenses easier to understand and in turn, easier to follow. While we aren’t perfect, having our priorities clearly distinguished allows us to keep our budget and credit intact. It also allows for some (fun) wiggle room. This was important for my partner and definitely makes it easier for him to stick to it.
Saying “I Do” on a Budget
Another important milestone my partner and I approached this year was our wedding. We got engaged the winter after graduation, and planning our wedding was certainly interesting. Naturally, when we sat down to draw up a rough outline of our budget, heads butted. His budget was nearly twice the amount I pictured, and he wasn’t sold on the idea of having me DIY most of the wedding decorations.
The only way we were able to actually come up with a proper budget was after a mindset change. As wedding mavens at Tungsten Rings & Co. aptly put it,
“Try to think of [your budget] as what you can afford as opposed to what it will cost. Put together what you have, what you want to spend and how much family will contribute. Take that total and subtract twenty percent for unexpected costs.”
With all of that in mind, we were able to settle on a number we were both happy with.
Moreover, I think the idea of creating your budget — not just your wedding one — to focus on what you can afford opposed to costs is an effective way to approach those bigger purchases like your cell phone plan, new appliances, and more. While getting married obviously isn’t a requirement for getting your partner to be more money savvy, borrowing ideas from wedding planning might actually have some surprising results.
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Finding a Balance
I also realized through living with my non-frugal partner that sometimes it’s okay to splurge. In the same way that overspending stressed me out, constantly worrying about every single purchase I made took too much of my time and energy. It also meant I constantly felt guilty whenever I did spoil myself with an extra purchase from a store I liked. In turn, despite already spending the money on that particular item, I felt too guilty to even appreciate it.
Instead of regularly feeling guilty and disappointed with myself, learning to enjoy and cherish those splurges is one way I’ve learned to value my money even more. At the end of the day, being smart with your money is important, and it takes a lot of hard work! However, it’s just as valuable to treat yourself when you can. It’s all about balance, right?
While my partner’s frugality still has some ways to go, conquering those money-sucking obstacles has taught us both about the value of our money. Maintaining a frugal, minimal life takes a lot of work. But if you work together, there’s no budget you can’t manage. Good luck!