Wednesday, July 23, 2008


We are on our pre-vacation budget, which is going to look remarkably like our "getting out of debt now that you told me about it budget." We've both agreed that we have to make changes, including writing down everything we spend money on and talking about it. It is a very interesting experience.

Roland and I just grew up differently. I never had and never expected to have everything I wanted. I have always understood spending money as making a choice -- if you spend money on one thing then you can't spend money on something else. I hoped to have a secure job someday that would allow me to have any particular thing that I really wanted, knowing that I would never have everything I wanted. My idea of what is genuinely necessary is fairly minimal.

Of course my good parent who made me feel safe was incredibly frugal, and the parent with whom I was unsafe spent money carelessly.

From my perspective Roland is just screwed up. His parents during his lifetime went from comfortable to wealthy (at least by my standards). I have been frustrated by trying to buy them presents because anything they want, they buy. If they don't have it they either don't want it or don't know about it. Roland was never really denied anything. I saw it when we were dating. If he ran out of money, his father gave him more. They insisted he get a job in the summer, but he did not really save money.

Roland has equated being a successful adult with being able to buy pretty much everything he wants. Where I feel like a responsible adult when I tell myself that I can't have something, Roland feels like a child or a failure.

We are having different responses to our new commitments regarding our budget. I am actually happy and excited. I feel hopeful that being frugal on my part will make a difference in our budget. It hasn't for a long time. He of course is anxious about not being able to get everything he wants the minute he wants it. We are also learning that we have different ideas of what is simply necessary. I'm not giving up my high quality tea for nothing, but I don't see why it should be any hardship at all for him to switch from bottled body wash to a bar of soap.

We have been married for more than two decades, but in some ways this is like going back to the very beginning all over again.

And for those of you who aren't married, this sort of thing is central to what it means to be married. You imagine the joy of spending time together, even the struggles of making major decisions regarding jobs and family. The reality of marriage though so often boils down to standing in the aisle of a grocery store and saying, "Really? Body wash is a necessity of life? Like you would die if you used a bar of soap?"


  1. (snicker)

    For us it isn't body wash, it's name brand cereal, canned beans and pre-made pizza crusts! I think Brett's a hedonist and he's tired of opening the cupboards and only seeing stuff you have to MAKE before you can start fixing dinner!

  2. It find it funny your write about this now. I had this conversation with my partner last night. We are cutting back severally and we both have never had to do this before. It will be interesting.

  3. I think every couple continually goes through this in a relationship. It has led to some of our funniest moments.

    For us it is Heinz Ketchup conversation and for me well let's just say if I had a long dress you could call me princess. LOL Body wash is THAT important, in fact it has to be a certain local brand.

  4. The different lives people husband is much like your husband, except he had the opposite childhood. He grew up in a family that lived pretty much hand to mouth. They did foster care and had 3 kids (and only 3 total bedrooms...and one bath!). Most of the time, his Mom had a job outside the home as well. And his Dad had a 1-2 hour commute one way each day. Anyway, back to my point--as he got older and had his own and they our own money to spend, all he wants to do is spend it since his family *had* to live frugally and he didn't like feeling that way.

    Thankfully, I came from a frugal family (who didn't really have much money, but really did because we spend what we had carefully) and somehow managed to get him to live more that way. Not always--he loves his spending money--but he's generally really good with money now.

    If you need ongoing inspiration, there are tons of personal finance blogs out there from people just starting to people who got out of major debt to people who are just frugal and write about what they do.

  5. Body wash is to bar soap as really nice leaf tea is to generic tea bags! The thought of bar soap makes me cringe!

  6. It must be really good body wash!
    I get grumpy if I don't get to stay at the Ritz when we're in Paris. My husband doesn't care where he stays as long as the mattresses are comfortable and there are no bugs. He never heard of thread count until he met me. He thought all sheets were pretty much the same. He also had no idea what a duvet was.
    On the other hand, I'm not fussy about what I eat but my hubby demands the very finest cuisine. It's all a matter of perspective as to what constitutes a luxury and what constitutes a necessity.


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