Sunday, December 6, 2009

A frugal single can be a distressed married couple

Originally posted on within-my-means, restored article

It is reasonably easy as a single person to restrict your own self to a tight budget so that you can achieve some goal like pay down a mortgage, go on that dream vacation, reach a golden number to identify yourself as rich, or simply reaching a comfortable financial safety cushion. If as a single person you find yourself unable to contain yourself from spending, get a book, get some help, use software and always ask yourself what it is you are giving up on in the near future for the momentary gratification of immediate spending. It can and is done by many.

Once you get married your financial future is intertwined. Regardless of having a joint or separate checking accounts, what you spend and what you keep matters to both of you. You can no longer keep your own personal goals selfishly, you must share those goals. If as a single person you spent some months eating very little and very cheaply, your spouse might never agree to such restrictions. If you used to shop for clothes once a year (or less), you should not be surprised to find out how such behavior might be completely unacceptable on your partner’s behalf.

People have different views of what fun is, as the former frugal single that is in a relationship you must acknowledge that your wife or husband enjoys an occasional Sunday shopping. Just walking around in shopping centers and picking up things. As a single person you might never have done that, especially not in distressed months. Now you bite your tongue and smile and say how lovely the new shirt is and how the kids definitely need all these new shoes for next year.

Trying to raise the issue of being in a financial hole can often lead to vocal arguments regarding the purpose of recent shopping. Who is the selfish one when one buys for the family based on needs and on sales and discounts, and the other wants to put money aside for vacations and other things? It gets even worse if the frugal mind fails to write down what those mysterious future needs are and then gets into a corner in the argument – accused of being cheap for the sake of being cheap.

You might think you are having a great relationship, you communicate and the love between the two of you is still blooming – you are probably right. There’s still something you should do. To become frugal as a couple, to succeed financially as a family, you must dream together. You must know what it is you want and your spouse wants to achieve financially in the near and distant future.

Dreaming of a better future is the first step. The next is getting back to reality. Those dreams should be translated into attainable goals. You should not be surprised to find out you could probably reach an annual or semiannual well funded family vacation. You should probably know that you could live rent or mortgage free if you do certain things.

Now that you share some dreams and goals look into your current joint financial situation. List out your income sources and expenses and agree to live by a budget. You may consider the budgeting system I propose here, but there are many worthy others and you must agree to adhere to that budget together.

Now that you have shared goals and agree to adhere to a budget together, begin allocating small sums into future goals. Now is the time to exercise your spreadsheet abilities (or seek some help) to see what will happen if you save so and so, and how much could you spend on your goals each year.

Speaking out of personal experience, doing exactly what I described above enhanced our mutual frugal sentiment and brought some excitement to it. We began planning annual vacations, writing destinations and budgeting costs. Every few years we plan on big ones like going to Disney world, abroad, visiting back in Israel (someday…). I bring the vacation thing again and again because that’s the easiest and most common goal. There are many other such goals and to each couple their own.

Be fiscally concerned, not cheap and remember that you need to always keep a balance between staying happy as a couple in the present and building up your even happier future.


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