I grew up in the 90’s, so the scene from Braveheart comes to mind when thinking of the first step my wife and I took to change our financial trajectory. Unity was the first thing we had to do in order to commit to this financial experiment. We embarked on this journey of financial control a couple of years ago. At the time, we were making a decent living, but it always seemed like we were living paycheck-to-paycheck or weren’t getting ahead. As far as wealth goes, I felt that we should be doing much better. I’ve always been opposed to debt and I hate owing anybody money, yet I felt we always had debt around. I also felt we should be focused on saving more. My wife on the other hand, was a bit more liberal about debt and spending, but she also felt that way about debt to an extent. My attitude toward saving and her attitude toward spending was a point of contention early in our marriage, and since we weren’t on the same financial page, this would lead to conflict, me agreeing to spend to avoid conflict, or simply avoiding the issue. A change had to be made, but how were we going to do it?
We soon figured out that one of the most important ingredients for financial control when you’re married is UNITY. This is actually true when confronting any problem in marriage, but it is very important for establishing and maintaining financial discipline. We had to confront the issue together and get on the same page about how to adapt and overcome. Here is a typical example of how we weren’t unified:
Wife: “Let’s take a trip to California.”
Me: “How are we going to pay for it? We have a lot of bills we need to pay, and we seriously need to payoff the student loan.”
Wife: “We make enough money, we can just put it on the credit card, it’ll be fun.”
Me: (Sweating) “Ugh…errr…sure I guess so…” (Secretly thinking … how the heck are we going to do this, we need to pay off our debts and save more, aaagggghhh?!?!)
Sound familiar? It’s the classic saver vs spender scenario. My wife didn’t mind using credit for a trip to California. She’s a free spirit and that’s what I love about here. She felt we made a decent living and we could just pay it back like everything else. Me, being more of an extreme saver and debt hater, felt we needed pay off debt first and save for a trip to California later. This made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough to to fulfill her needs and make her happy, which stressed me the “F” out. She felt that I was being cheap and restrictive. As you can see, this isn’t good formula for success in any relationship! In fact, if you Google “top reasons for divorce”, financial priorities and spending differences is often one of the top reasons couples split. Check out this Huffington Post article on the top 10 reasons for divorce.
For the sake of our marriage and our sanity, we needed to make a change and get on the same page!
We needed to “unite the clans!” ala Braveheart!
We finally decided to confront the issue together. I don’t remember how it happened, but we both felt we needed to do something to address our feelings about finances. She felt I was being too restrictive and I felt she was a bit too spendthrift. In the end, we both felt we were making enough money to be able to do what we wanted to do, but while we had similar goals, our goals weren’t aligned. After talking through our feelings and goals over the course of a month, we were at least on the same page that we need to gain more control over our finances so that we could BOTH do what we felt needed to be done financially.
We made the decision to get out of debt and to build wealth. We wanted to get to a point where we didn’t have to worry or fight about money so we resolved to change together.
So, like Queen Latifah, U-N-I-T-Y was the first step in this financial experiment. We had to unite to gain control over ourselves and our finances. Without changing our mindset, we would not be on objective 2 of our little financial experiment.
Once we were unified, the next step was to figure out how to reach our goals!