Friday, May 28, 2010

Net Worth Obession Question Part 2

I found you on the NYTimes article. Ready for more fame? So I am doing what you do, but I have trouble getting my husband on board. He has student debt, but he earns more and has a stressful job, so he feels like he can treat himself to lunches out, cabs home, etc. To some degree if you work 120 hours a week you really cannot bring lunch, but some of it is just disregarding my goals. Did you go through anything similar? I read all the financial books and motivational materials, and just don't know how to get him on board.

This is a great question. I find this topic fascinating.

In my marriage, I am the spender and Mr. Sam is the frugal one (although he was not much of a saver and most of the debt that we had was "his" debt). I also earn more than Mr. Sam, so my situation is a little different than the situation presented by the above question.

After we got married, I decided that we should live a debt free life and I talked to Mr. Sam about my ideas here and there. I didn't force it on him all at once. I tried to get him to read the Total Money Makeover, but he is not much of a reader and only read a couple of chapters. He was all for paying off all our non-mortgage debt, but he thought I was crazy and he couldn't see how it was possible. Mr. Sam wasn't really on board until I presented him with a written plan that demonstrated that it was possible to pay off our debt in a year (a very focused, somewhat painful year). Thereafter, I went about setting up systems that enabled us to reach our goal (which I will write about soon, Steps 3 and 4).

So, you know your husband, how does he learn and process information, can you present a fully fleshed out plan to him in a form that will get him excited.

Regarding the eating out and cabs, we went with an allowance system (Steps 3 and 4) which each gave us a set amount of money to spend on discretionary items. Perhaps you could consider such a system and he would still have a certain amount to spend on these convenience items.

I don't think the fact that he earns more means that he gets to spend more. If you are married the money that comes into the household, in most States, is a marital asset. I'm sure there are folks that will disagree with me on this point but that is my opinion.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for commenting! I posted this original question, and I should add this in case anyone else has this very common problem. My husband and I have been doing "annual financial summits" where we see where I money went, and how much we saved, etc for years. Last year, however, was the first time we tried a workable budget after noticing we were slipping into debt using our home equity line.

We needed to keep the budget simple--we''re big picture people not suited to quicken. After we calculated all our expenses and looked at what was left for discretionary spending (including groceries) we had 400/week to spend for our family of 4 plus he had a budget for himself of $100 and I was hoping he would try to track his spending and get into the whole savings plan and pack his lunch. None of this happened on his side.

But I did follow the budget and when we had a surplus for the week, we put it towards a "fun budget" and big items. While he was not following his budget, he was stuck with the family budget and we learned how to get by on so much less and to still have fun. It was a lot of learning to reset expectations and questioning a lot of assumptions like "I deserve such and such."

Anyway, we saved $44,000 last year so it really worked. When I did our annual financial summit recently I could tell my husband was really impressed. It was only because we watched small expenses as well as big ones that we could do it.

Now I am planning on increasing my husband's budget to whatever it takes to get him to keep track of it. I hope to just get him into the habit of seeing that cab rides and lunches out do really add up fast. I'll let you know if this works. Maybe I just need to be far more patient? I sure don't have an easy convert like you did.

Thanks for your website, and you should consider a book. I think college grads would get a great deal out of this. I love your baby fund idea. What a great strategy. Once you have kids saving and increasing income can get really challenging, so having a savings account is so smart!

Darkseas said...


You saves $44K in a year! That's great! I understand that your husband's lunches and cab rides bother you, but put things in perspective. You saved $44K in a year!

You don't say how much he's spending on those two items, so let's assume it's a lot, not a $10 lunch and the same for a cab ride.

Lunch out can be because it's a way of being social with his colleagues. Breaking bread with people has long been known to facilitate relationships; work relationships can be much harder for the person huddled at his desk with the sandwich from home.

Or maybe it's the only time he gets adult food in an adult atmosphere. You did say two kids, right?

As for the cab rides, how long would it take him to walk to the subway, wait for the train, and walk home? That 20-30 minutes that he saves might be time he's spending with you and the kids. I'm sure he finds that much more fulfilling than spending it waiting for a train at the end of a long day.

He doesn't seem to have any really expensive habits (at least that bother you), so this stuff is chump change compared to what he might be spending. You saved $44K last year. Would you really be that much more fulfilled if it was $48K?

I really think you need to let this one go.

Finally, let me suggest that if you keep saving at that rate, you will, in some number of years, come to the point that you won't be able to save nearly as much as you earn (or should earn) on your investments. You need to start shifting your focus to how to invest successfully. Otherwise you'll come to resent those small sacrifices you've made when big expenses eat up a large chunk of what you've managed to save.