Money and Marriage

It’s no secret that Mr. Rathroy and I are opposites in a lot of ways. He’s an introvert, I’m an extrovert. He’s good at math, I’m good at words. He likes to read fiction, I like to read non-fiction. It’s a mystery how we make this relationship work at all.

Of course, we have our common ground as well – our love of adventure and travel, our desire to constantly improve our 68 year old house, our hopes of retiring on lakefront property in one of these bad boys. But, like in many marriages, one of our largest philosophical gaps is in money matters. Mr. Rathroy and I treated money very differently during our single years. As an example, part of the down payment on our house was birthday money that I had been saving since I was 13. While I have no hard evidence on what happened to Mr. Rathroy’s 13th birthday money, I would bet that it disappeared well before we bought our house.

It was easier to deal with money in Malawi. We were the richest people in the entire country.

It was easier to deal with money in Malawi. We were the richest people in the entire country.

I’m a saver to say the least. And while those anti-spending habits set me on a safe financial course as a single gal, merging money in a marriage has a few more complications. I can’t in good conscience make Mr. Rathroy eat ramen noodles every night, especially when his pay check is contributing to our grocery bill. And he can’t buy a motorcycle on a whim because my paycheck contributes to our existing debt like student loans and car payments.

Leading up to our wedding, we had lots of money talks – should we keep it separate, should we combine, should we work out some sort of proportional bill pay, etc. We compared notes on what our parents do with their finances. We asked our friends how they deal with paychecks and bills. We approached every single angle of the issue and finally made a decision: we would play to our individual strengths to best benefit our marriage (and bank account).

I accepted the position of Chief Money Saver while Mr. Rathroy advocated for monthly allowances that we could spend at our own discretion (so that we could still have some fun). We merged all of our income and big bills so that we could better understand the monthly cost of our married lifestyle. And we signed up for a Mint account so that we could set budgets and track our spending. It took months to design a system that worked for us as individuals and as an eternally united couple, and it still undergoes adjustments when necessary. And while spending that much time and energy talking about money can be a drag at first, it has created a sense of comfort and trust between us that otherwise wouldn’t exist. It was a crash course in compromise and allows us to talk about our money without the emotionally charged contention that a lot of people face.

We both understand our financial big picture and are both aware of every day transactions which helps us each learn to balance on the save-spend scale. Mr. Rathroy now looks forward to meeting a big savings goal and I’ve started enjoying occasional indulgences like a $10 cocktail. The topic of our money comes up multiple times a week and it’s never started an argument. Plus, now we have some rainy day insurance for days like today when we learned that the gas lines have under our house been leaking for over a year. And even though a $300 plumber bill isn’t great, at least we don’t have to chose between food and our house not exploding.

Our method of over-communicating about money is obviously not for everyone. To be honest, it wasn’t really for Mr. Rathroy at first. But once we had all the cards on the table, we started making long term goals and planning things like vacations, new kitchens, and retirement. We’re not always on the same page about everything, but we’re learning to write new pages together instead of tightly gripping our single life philosophies. And while I’m certainly not an expert on marriage, I’ve learned that letting go of some of my pre-wedding mindset helps me better grasp the new philosophies that we create together.

I don’t ever want to feel like I have to bite my tongue, especially not with Mr. Rathroy or on a subject that has been proven to make or break lifelong commitments. We’re in this together, and money is never going to disappear, so we chose to be friends with it instead. And, really, who doesn’t want to be friends with money?