I honestly never thought Andy and I would make it to his 41st birthday. We’ve been together for 3 years and I remember when we first moved in together I thought, “We’ll play house for a year and then I’ll move on.”
Now I don’t want to play house with anyone else.
So this is financially related because the one thing he and I have that I know makes us a stronger couple than most is our ability to communicate about finances.
We started out like most couples and split the rent, groceries and utilities pretty evenly. I kept a series of numbers in my planner and at the end of the month we would settle up who owed what. I was living off my savings and my parents’ generous donations and waiting for my career to gain some traction. He made more money than I ever thought I would make being both the Master Electrician at the Rep and Pres of the union and I was impressed that his weekly pay was about as much as I would make in a month.
He would foot the bill for vacations and eating out and dates and we lived a lovely existence where I was blissfully kept and he was happy to treat me.
When I got my first “real job” the dynamic stayed the same, but shortly thereafter my parents dropped the financial support save for the bills that still came in their name like car insurance and my cell phone. My mom still threw a few hundred dollars at me every month and I squirreled it away trying to save as much as I could for when I would be unemployed again.
I got an even more real job when I took a brief hiatus from stage management and that was when my dad dropped a huge bill in my lap of making me pay my car insurance. I was and am well covered and it amounted to $100 a month. And while I went from making less than minimum wage to getting roughly 20 hours of overtime a month, it was still a difficult bill to pick up. Especially since my new found salary was going to comfort items like shopping, coffee, and eating out while I navigated a toxic work environment. But the circumstances for my parents had also changed drastically. My mom was the primary breadwinner and lost her job so they could no longer afford to foot that generous bill.
Andy and I decided with the new job to open a joint credit card and we started putting our meals out on it. Suddenly I went from “kept” to “equal partner” even though I was still making a third of what he was. But I wanted to prove my value through the money I brought in even though it meant having no money for discretionary purposes. Between my car insurance and the equal splitting of expenses, we were an adult couple, right?
Then I left the more real job and my income plummeted. I made in 5 months what I normally make in a year and was still saddled with even more bills like new dental insurance, the car insurance, and a new taste for well-tailored clothing.
We had a series of discussions about what we wanted in our future together and decided to start writing down all our expenses every month. Suddenly it came into stark light exactly how much we were spending every month and I had no idea someone could spend that much on comics. I knew how much he made, but the reality of his ability to spend was like a financial bucket of cold water.
So then we had the hardest conversation I have ever had to have about money. We’ve talked about opening the joint credit card, keeping a budget, saving for a house, and how to go about affording children when they show up. But the most difficult conversation we have had was when I asked for our expenses to be split not 50-50, like the equal partner I wanted to be, but based on a percentage of our income.
He recently lost the presidency income but gained his sanity, so instead of him making 3x as much, it was down to 2x as much. He was hesitant at first because it would take a bite out of his discretionary income, but we settled on a plan that works for us and now I panic slightly less when the bills come due because I know he will be contributing more than he was before.
All of that is to say that the key to a healthy relationship with your spouse and your money is communication. It is hands down the biggest reason why couples fight over money and why, as unsexy as it sounds, a financial date night is vital.
Andy and I do not have financial date nights, more like financial conversations while driving in the car. Something about the additional focus of driving and scenery takes the edge off. Not that we haven’t discussed finances over candlelit dinners. It’s a job hazard.
And I know that because of Artistic Financial Planning it is infinitely easier for me to talk about personal finances with my spouse. It is a part of how my day is routined and how I put food on the table (or salt, it pays for salt at this point). But everyone can have that luxury if they make it constant and a priority.
Happy Birthday, Andy. I hope we can communicate about finances together for your next 41 years.