You know you’ve come full circle when your spender partner doesn’t want to spend the money he’s been saving for a particular thing, on that particular thing.
I find it amusing, anyway.
How did we get here?
I’ve alluded before to how we have somewhat separate accounts (the mixed method really) and it’s working so much better compared to when I handled basically 100% of that stuff. Overall, money meetings/talks are now way less stressful and anchored in positivity more often than not.
That’s not to say it’s been effortless, especially at the beginning. But like with most things, getting into a groove starts with laying the groundwork.
Banish the cobwebs
Step one for us was getting back to ground zero. And that meant a little bit of individually reflecting and looking back before we could move forward.
Where are you now and why? What’s your role in the situation? Hopefully you’ve become aware of your own blind spots, tendencies, and yeah, mistakes. We’ve all made missteps at some point, some more serious than others. It takes two, rarely is one partner entirely faultless. Even if (ahem) you feel hugely slighted, if you’re committing to making this work, being the bigger person goes a long way initially. Have the grace to forgive yourself, forgive them and let the past go.
Forgetting may not be possible or desirable, but forgiving is necessary to make progress – if that’s what you want to do.
Pick the right time
Okay, so you want to actually talk money? Set up for success – timing is everything! It’s got to be a place and time where you’re both relaxed and have the headspace to give the topic your full attention. You wouldn’t want to hit your boss up for a big raise when they’ve just spent all day rushing from workshop to meeting to conference and are totally exhausted. Context matters.
So don’t force the money talks. They may (and probably will) initially kick up some complicated feelings and negative energy. Pushing and pushing for a conversation at that point is only going to lead to hurt feelings, taking things personally and wrongly perceiving things as an attack or criticism. Keep it short, know when to stop.
Back to basics
Don’t assume anything, especially if you’re the person who’s been doing it all. T literally did not know what we spent on most of our key expense categories, because it’s not something he’s all that interested in and thus I didn’t make an effort to involve him. But (duh) him not being across things at that basic level made it really hard to talk about money in any detail let alone our bigger goals for the future and what we might need to do to reach those.
Make it a conversation
Keep the dialogue going and try to avoid absolutes – you always, you never etc. Also bad: taking opposing stances on everything – you’re careless, you’re stingy, you’re too generous, you’re too obsessive.
Try and turn each point around and look for examples of contradictions – I bet you’ll find a few cases where you broke with the pattern. The time when you splurged randomly – why? The time when you saved for something and actually stuck to a plan – why? While we all have tendencies we naturally fall into and revert to, we’re also capable of acting out of character and understanding what drives that can be really insightful.
Speaking of ‘why’ … that’ll be the next step. Figuring out your goals and getting aligned behind them.
Take it slow
Don’t expect to see 100% eye-to-eye. This is totally natural. Resist the urge to nag and try to convince your partner that your way is the only way. Particularly if you’re paired up with a Rebel (Four Tendencies anyone?) that’s gonna land like a lead balloon.
Wishing for them to change (especially overnight…) does not work. Focus on what you CAN control, namely yourself: doing what you can and leading by example. Odds are that they’ll increasingly get onboard once the benefits start to become clearer under your steering. Or you may gradually come around more to your partner’s way of thinking and adjust your approach accordingly. For us, he’s moved a long way towards me on the spectrum, but I’ve also loosened up a little and shuffled his way a bit. And let’s be honest, it hasn’t hurt that our income’s gone up, meaning the purse strings are less tight – that’s a luxury that’s helped a lot in this regard.
Probably not helping was what I’m pretty sure was a light spell of flu or a terrible cold around the second month thrown in there.
However much was due to my growing a human vs legit illness, I spent literally weeks out of action beyond making it to work and home again (and not even that, some days). Evenings and weekends, the only place you’d find me was flat on my back in bed. And even now, my (never great) energy levels aren’t what they used to be, so I need even more rest and sleep than normal. On top of that, the occasional dizzy spell likes to come out of nowhere, relegating me to the nearest seat (or better, bed) to recover.
I had to get over my guilt about doing nothing pretty quick smart, and embrace marathoning Jane the Virgin.
A happiness hack
Separately, I’d already been working for a while on reframing how I think about the nonproductive hours in my week.
I guess you could even spin it as optimising my time, though maybe not in the traditional way.
The things is, I hate waiting. Seriously hate it.
But instead of resenting the commute, I’m starting to enjoy it (maybe even look forward to it sometimes) as it’s often the only time I can carve out to decompress and meditate.
And now that the days are getting shorter and it’s dark earlier, I’m switching it up. Normally I bus to the train station in the morning, and walk home from the train in the evening; these days I’m walking in the morning (bonus: it warms me up for the day, gets the blood flowing on wintry mornings!) and bus back from the station home.
The same with walking the dogs. It’s gotta be done. Sometimes it can be doubled up as a run for me, but not every walk can be a run – and these days I’m just not up for running at all, to be honest. Some walks need to be training walks, and some need to be relaxing sniffy walks where they can just be dogs – walks when I can let my mind roam free and work on visualisations and mantras.
Rather than impatiently waiting for these ‘unproductive’ times to end, I’m trying to use them in better ways. Repurposing them from hours to be endured with the help of Spotify and podcasts, to precious flow and meditation time.
Amazingly … it made a difference. I wouldn’t say it changed my core personality – I’m definitely still a realist, with the same sarcastic tongue and sense of humour – but it actually did wonders for my state of mind and made me a more pleasant person to be around.
Hell, I even changed my passwords like some say to do, so that your goal is front of mind each time you type it in.
Is it helping? Can’t hurt, I figure … there’s nothing to lose. At the very least, it reminds me of my goals multiple times a day.
Of course, not everything is within our control and shit happens. Positive thinking doesn’t mean burying your head in the sand and blinding yourself to reality.
But it can definitely shore up your ability to cope with setbacks and manage stress. I’ve found that opening up my mind like this has led to me to see more possibilities and think differently in order to succeed.
Balancing these viewpoints, I’ve come to realise that this is something I’ve basically always proclaimed to aspire to:
Aside from actually looking at your account balances, that is!
For me, it’s things like…
Passing a WOF
After years of expensive Warrant of Fitness checks (they always struck terror into my heart – our crappy car always failed and so it was never a question of whether we needed to sink money into it to pass the WOF, but how much). Since buying this car, that stress has totally gone away, and we only need to go once a year as opposed to every six months. It’s such a great feeling to pass the first time around. And it still feels like a luxury.
Going to the movies
We’re lucky that competition in our part of the city has driven prices down. Instead of paying $15 or more per ticket, we can buy tickets for under $9 at our local cinema! Even so, going to the movies still feels like a big extravagance to me.
As a kid we only ever rented movies from the video store. Even though new releases ($8 for overnight) cost more than a child movie ticket. (Sure, more than one person can watch it if you’re hiring movies to play at home … but it was only ever just me, as my parents aren’t into movies and my brother was so much younger.)
Getting food delivered
Recently UberEats launched here and I got a $10 voucher to use on it. There’s something so crazy indulgent about having a meal come to you without having to lift a finger (aside from tapping out your order in the app). I feel very strange about having a person rock up at my door with dinner from an outlet that’s literally located just a few minutes away. Not planning to make this a habit, but a good backup for when you’re bedridden with the winter flu potentially and can’t rustle up real food for yourself!
It’s different for everyone…
This all stemmed from a random conversation we had the other day when T talked about how as a kid, a bucket of chicken from KFC was kind of a signifier of money – it’s something he didn’t see or experience until adulthood. And how in general they never had name brand stuff growing up. These days it’s often important to him to get branded stuff if it’s going to last longer; the flipside is that having grown up with cheap stuff that they weren’t taught to care for or treat well, looking after the good stuff properly is not an instinctive thing either.
For me, if I go back to my childhood … I don’t think we ever paid full price for anything, so buying something that’s not on sale sometimes still feels like a splurge.
That was my reaction a few weeks ago when the first pay day of the year arrived … and I hadn’t been paid.
My mind immediately went into overdrive.
Where was the money? Was it just delayed due to the New Year public holidays? Had it not been processed by the finance team? What if I wasn’t going to get paid at all? What would this mean for cashflow for the next week, and the week after, and the week after, and the week after? I’d have to tap into savings, maybe take some from the house renovation fund …
And so on and so forth. Straight into the worst case scenario and all the disastrous consequences.
It’s so easy to spiral – but I managed to take a deep breath before spinning totally out of control and reassess.
I had enough in that account to pay the mortgage – priority numero uno.
Cash savings elsewhere would tide me over for all the other expenses.
And that was all I truly needed to think about right then and there.
No use immediately jumping to catastrophic conclusions and getting lost down the paths of endless what ifs.
Worrying isn’t always a bad thing, if you know when to stop
There’s the productive kind that leads to making contingency plans.
But then there’s needless stressing. It’s like picking a scab.
It serves no purpose whatsoever – aside, perhaps, from giving your mind something to do. And the only possible result is that you make yourself feel worse and worse as it drives you into a frenzy of fear and self pity (you know exactly what I’m talking about).
That’s unhelpful, unhealthy, and it’s something I’ve worked hard to cut out.
It doesn’t sound like much, but I was super proud of myself for catching myself in the act and nipping it in the bud.
Because as it turns out, my biggest downfall is my own hyperactive mind. Some might abuse substances, or food; my destructive behaviour manifests as compulsive, obsessive stressing.
Happy ending! The money came through sometime between then and the next time I checked back – which I refrained from doing until the next day. All that fretting would have been for nothing.
The urge to scratch that itch was strong, but every time I stamp it down it gets a little easier.
Rewiring your mind
Another example: several months ago I got a letter from the owner/landlord of the neighbouring property. They wanted to put up a new fence … and their estimate was over $6,000, or $3,000 for my half.
Now, a new fence is on the roadmap for us, and it’s something we wanted to get done as soon as possible. But not just yet (the kitchen comes first) and certainly not at that price. $3k for a fence was not in the budget any time soon.
I stressed out majorly about this. Raged, worried, spent ages researching the law and our obligations. Wrote back outlining my viewpoint and countering their proposal (which boiled down to, we do not currently have the funds or desire to do this right now).
Then it was just a matter of waiting. Time enough for me to review the situation with a clearer mind and reassure myself that even if this were to go ahead, I could absorb the expense. Sure, it would make a massive dent in my savings and postpone our kitchen project for who knows how long … but it wouldn’t ruin me.
Time passed and no response came, so: crisis averted. We can tackle the fence later when we’re in a position to do so.
And that was a huge exercise in resetting my emotional reactions, and a big leap forward for me. In fact, I think it was my biggest breakthrough in terms of stopping the spiral before it went too far.
Breaking the cycle
Since then, I’ve taught myself to allow less and less time to freak the fuck out, and more quickly move on to considering the options, and accepting the possible outcomes. Stop panicking. Stop spiralling. Stop freaking out about money.
Overwriting that thought pattern takes time, just like building any muscle or habit. Developing the self awareness and self control so that you can catch yourself before the worrying stops being productive and crosses over into self flagellation.
You’ve got to be able to recognise when you’re heading down that path, and make the choice to break the cycle right there.
It’ll do wonders for your happiness. Seriously, learning to not let my scarcity mindset drag me down is probably my favourite life hack ever.
For all the work I’ve been doing on money and mindset recently, I still struggle sometimes with it all.
The last few years have been awesome for my income growth and financial security.
And yet the thought keeps rearing its head: I don’t deserve this. How long can this last?
What I’m doing to counter these doubts:
Reminding myself there is room to grow
I know it’s possible to do so. Salary surveys and job listings out there prove it. As do people I’ve worked with who earn more. (Of course, this leads to another dangerous path that lies in the complete opposite direction – why don’t I already make that much?)
Remembering that me having less doesn’t make the world a better place somehow
The starving artist, nobility is poverty mindset dies hard, I guess. And it’s ridiculous. Me struggling would do nobody any good. I try to remember to give back by donating every month, as well as trying to somewhat regularly give blood, meet up with my mentee, and I’ve also recently joined a local nonprofit board. (Another trigger for imposter syndrome right there!)
Reviewing how far I’ve come
I’m horrible at tracking my accomplishments. But I recently updated my CV and LinkedIn (you don’t even want to know how long that took me) and when I’m feeling down on myself professionally, I look back at some of the stuff I’ve done for reassurance.
How do you cope when you feel like you don’t deserve what you’ve got?
But I do regret not asking for a raise earlier. The job that I held the longest? Prime opportunity! And sadly, a missed one.
3 (bad) reasons I didn’t push for more
I justified not asking for a raise or higher salary to myself for years. But you don’t get what you don’t ask for, and who doesn’t want more money?
I didn’t feel underpaid
I feel fortunate to have earned market rates. I never felt lowballed. I’ve never been through the wringer of learning that a co-worker made tons more money than me for doing the same job. And so I’ve never felt that particular burning motivation.
Sure, I felt I was getting fairly paid … but would more money have hurt? Definitely not.
And I think, in hindsight, there’s a fair chance I could’ve gotten more if I’d only asked.
Not having HR, not having reviews or any sort of structure around performance … none of that is a good excuse. But also…
I was scared to ask
Asserting myself doesn’t come naturally, and unlike my parents who have no shame in bargaining for a deal, I can’t even bring myself to haggle at markets where it’s expected.
And my anchor points, deep down, I think skew low (baselining off things like the hourly rates at my first part-time jobs, the low-paying field I then went into, what my parents earned when I was growing up etc).
I just wanted to fly under the radar and do a good job, in a dying industry. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Ugh.
I thought it just seemed like a bad idea
Being employed in a industry struggling to make a profit, I felt lucky to have a job at all. I felt competent, but not outstanding.
I didn’t think that I had any concrete reasons to point to that proved why I deserved more; no ammo with which to back up a request for a raise.
The former may have been true, but what’s the worst that could have happened?
As for the latter, I’m pretty sure that was just imposter syndrome talking.
I can’t even tell you how searingly awkward it was to negotiate that first salary offer (err, and the next one…) and ask for that first raise. I wince when I recall them! But I was crazy proud of myself afterwards, not to mention a little bit richer.
Literally a couple of (painful, awkward) minutes could net you thousands more a year, and that compounds over time.
Their budgets are bigger than yours
A few grand might make a big difference in your life, but probably won’t affect their bottom line to the same degree. There’s usually some wiggle room, and you know what? Employers won’t be surprised if you negotiate – they expect you to advocate for yourself.
It sets a precedent for the future
Raises build on what’s come before. The more you earn now, the bigger those 2%, 3%, 5%, 10% bumps will be later on.
Raises aren’t a sure thing
You can’t count 100% on regular raises once you’re in. You’ve got the most leverage at the offer stage, so that’s the time to make the most of it.
What happens when Hillbilly Elegy meets Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?
(Oddly enough, JD Vance, author of the former, credits Amy Chua, author of the latter, as a key influence in his life and success – she was one of his professors at Yale).
There’s lots of talk about interracial relationships, but I’m just as interested – scratch that, I’m WAY more interested – in cross-class relationships. Ones in which partners hail from very different upbringings and class backgrounds. Class barriers are not as immediately visible as racial differences, but that doesn’t mean we should gloss over their power. We just have to work harder to identify and address them.
We’ve always had contrasting views on and approaches to money and career stuff. I’d always thought these stemmed from our wildly different personality types – and that is an important factor for sure – but I’ve come to believe that the biggest influence that shapes our approaches is our polar opposite upbringings.
Growing up white collar vs growing up blue collar
While Jessi Streib’s book The Power of the Past: Understanding Cross-Class Marriagesis hardly a definitive work on this topic (it’s based on interviews with a small group of white middle-class American couples, where one partner grew up blue-collar and the other white-collar), I personally found it hugely validating of my own experiences, and it even shed some light on things I hadn’t previously considered.
The main gist is that white-collar upbringings are associated with a more structured, managerial, proactive approach to not just money, but life in general. These partners tended to spend only after research and budgeting; save for the future; actively manage their careers; and plan and organise their time. Their blue-collar partners generally spent for today; bought without thinking; let weekends unfold at home and went with the flow.
In short, white-collar = planner, blue-collar = laissez faire. This was true of most, though not all cases in the book.
She makes the case that the class we’re born into leaves an imprint. Yet even after years together, the couples overlooked the ways class shaped their ideas and choices (rather perceiving these as stemming only from personality differences). Almost every couple interviewed were drawn to each other because of those differences, however many later felt that these became things they lived with but did not love. “The things that you’re drawn to sometimes become the things that drive you crazy,” one observed.
How class shapes attitudes and approaches to money
Money, unsurprisingly, was a key battleground. People like Aaron, who spent their childhoods imagining what they would spend once they had money. bought everything he wanted once he started earning. No longer bound by constraints, he used money to distance himself from his past. Despite leaving their original class behind, they retained the strategies they learned at home.
The strategies that worked for their parents, who typically had limited means, were spending when money was available and having faith it would work out. Worrying was pointless, since they would always have financial difficulties and no amount of planning or fretting would change that. Low savings weren’t a cause for concern, as they had always gotten by on a shoestring. And that was at complete odds with the views of their white-collar partners.
Of course, that’s not to say that this is a blanket, universal rule. Obviously, there are blue-collar families that are financially comfortable, and white-collar families that aren’t. And for some people, growing up without much can be a great incentive to build their own security.
I put a call out for thoughts from people in similar boats – cross-class partnerships – and was pleasantly surprised by how willing you guys were to engage on this subject. One thing is clear to me: the PF blogging world is its own microcosm – who have mostly experienced quite the opposite of the dynamic Streib writes about!
Because he grew up with nothing, he’s arguably got more hustle than better-off peers.
If I dated a fellow silver spooner, I may not see as much drive and ambition in him and instead just complacency and entitlement.
We’ve also got quite a few hustlers who grew up with not much and paired off with more laissez faire, well-off partners.
lots of fighting early into our marriage tho. I’ve learned to loosen up a bit b/c I’ve climbed up the socioeconomic ladder.
(That said, there may well be a lot of overlap with typical immigrant values/mentality – because that’s another common thread among many of the people who replied.)
When class and cultural differences collide
Savvy Financial Latina and her husband grew up at different ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. Her family immigrated to the USA when she was 7 years old.
“On top of all the cultural differences (completely different discussion), my parents had money problems. They never spent more money than they ever had. Actually, they were always the ones with savings despite their low income. Family members and friends knew they could reach out to my parents for money. I learned quickly my parents were too nice and they have been burned (again another note). I would love to say even though my parents were poor, life was happy at home. In general, the lack of money combined with other life events, always, always caused a lot of stress in my family.
“I grew up knowing I didn’t want to be poor because when you are poor you have no options. I wished many times Superman would come rescue me and suddenly transport me to a new life. I had to work really hard to get to where I am today.
“On the other hand, my husband grew up in a fairly middle income class family. I say they were upper middle income class, but his family assures us they were lower middle income class. To this day, they don’t realize how blessed they are. As part of a “Jones” family, he always got what he wanted in life. Enough toys, vacations, etc.”
While coming from different backgrounds has definitely influenced their individual perceptions of money, she says they’ve slowly moved towards more of a happy medium after many years together.
“I’m definitely the more frugal person, always saving for tomorrow. I watch every penny, and although have loosened up to some extent, I still keep up with every penny. My main fear is not having enough money.
“I earn more money. I view work as a means to an end, but work hard to get the most out of it! My husband views life in a more relaxed way and thinks there should be more leisure. He doesn’t see the need to climb the ladder. I view more work, ultimately, as a blessing. He views more work hours as bad. I’m always thinking 5, 10, 15, 20 years ahead. My husband doesn’t think he’ll live past 45 LOL.
“I’m starting to loosen up a lot more. Especially when you compare me to 5-6 years ago. Now, I think the next couple of years will be finding a middle ground where we are saving enough for FI and enjoying life.”
A story of opposites
Here’s another story shared anonymously with me, where she and her husband are both savers and both make good incomes but essentially hail from different rungs of the ladder. While both of their families have always had blue collar jobs, her parents own a blue collar business that has enabled them to build wealth and given them many more glimpses of white collar life. His parents don’t talk about money period while hers do – all the time.
“My mom never grew out of her poverty mindset despite the wealth mine have built, which in turn left me with some poverty mindset for a while. It’s really bizarre to my husband to listen to my mom talk about how broke my parents are all the time when they aren’t really.
“My husband is only now starting to believe me that financial independence is a real thing…basically as we hit its early milestones. No one in his family has really ever retired, so it seems crazy to him as a possibility. If we wanted to spend MMM levels of money, we could quit working right now, both of us. But we don’t want to spend that little and my husband doesn’t want to retire before his parents. They already think it’s bizarre enough that just his income can support us – they have no concept of our household income and we mostly just avoid talking about money with them.”
His parents have no retirement savings – something she says she spends a lot of time worrying about, while her husband tries to avoid thinking about it.
Wedding planning has also highlighted the differences between their families.
“My husband’s extended family mostly don’t have passports so they likely won’t come, with that additional cost on top of flights. His parents and siblings are coming but they’ve definitely been telling us how expensive it is, while my parents are trying to save the $20/night hotel parking cost by parking at our place (that’s a firm no, parents!) during the event. My parents think we don’t have enough things on the registry, his parents should be paying for more things, etc. Weddings bring out so many class differences. My parents think we picked too expensive of a venue while his think the food sounds delicious. Honestly I have much less patience now for my parents trying to say they’re broke with his parents actually being broke.
“Vacation and travel planning is another difference. His parents and siblings all work blue collar jobs where they don’t know very far in advance if they can get the time off. So they pick dates before they book flights! This confuses the heck out of me because my parents would always adjust the dates to more reasonable prices so the dates were never final until they booked flights! My parents wanted to buy us a two week Christmas trip to somewhere warm this past year and it freaked the hell out of my husband. Their wedding gift being 10x his parents’ didn’t weird him out since that was a one off thing but he did not understand parents buying a trip for their grown children.
“I could probably go on about this stuff forever. I didn’t think our class differences were that severe but it turns out they’re more subtle than I realized.”
One thing is clear: it’s a journey but it does get easier – the beginning is the hardest.
As one blogger put it:
Lots of trying to teach him long-term vision with money.
When it comes to money, there are a few intense emotions most of us experience at some point that paralyse us financially.
I’ve struggled with every single one of these feelings, and if there’s one thing those battles have taught me, it’s this: we are our own worst enemies.
The mind is a powerful, powerful thing and that cuts both ways. It’s up to us to harness that power and use it to our advantage.
Regret that you didn’t negotiate that salary. Regret for all the money you spent on things you didn’t care about. Regret for the money you wasted on deadbeat exes.
As hard as these regrets are to stomach, there’s only one way forward: Accepting the past, learning from those mistakes, and moving on. We all move through this process at our pace, but sooner is better, and healthier.
Fear of losing an income source, of some financial disaster striking, of the unknown in general.
Living in a state of constant tension and low-level panic SUCKS and it takes its toll.
That’s where a solid savings buffer and good insurance cover come in – knowing you’ve got those safety nets to fall back on. And so too does making contingency plans.
Some people don’t like to imagine the worst-case scenario, but I’m the kind who needs to confront my worst fears rather than hide from them – to ask myself questions like “Has it happened before? What are the odds of it happening? What would I do then?”
In lots of cases, the catastrophes we’ve conjured up in our lizard brains are over-exaggerated. They have never happened and are not likely to.
Guilt for all that you have now, all the privileges you’ve been blessed with … and the fact that yet you want more.
But you know what I’ve realised? It does nobody else any good for me to struggle, to not have what I want, to play the martyr.
By taking care of myself first and flourishing, I can then turn around and help others. Giving back is fantastic, once you can comfortably and safely do so from a solid position.
Each of these are ultimately useless emotions, and I’m personally done with wasting my time and headspace on them! We’ll be covering all of them – and much more – in my new course, Money Groove. Sign up below to get the lowdown.
Looking back, Big Life Things have happened for me when I least expected them. Often, when I’d given up entirely on them.
Not when I was pushing, pushing, pushing.
Not when I was fixated on them.
Not when I was desperate.
Much like with writing, which for me flows best not when I try to force it; but when I relax, when I’m in the right frame of mind, when the environment and circumstances are right.
And likewise, life is funny that way. It’s always worked itself out, just not necessarily in the ways I imagined or within the timeframe I anticipated.
It sounds woo-woo – but I’m getting more and more into the realm of woo, and liking it, with age. I’m appreciating the power of mindset, and the importance of getting into flow and alignment wherever possible.
So this is a public commitment to myself.
I have established my goal; now I must stop obsessing, and let it come to me when the time and circumstances are right. I’ve done my part, laid the foundations, and will continue to do my thing to make sure I’m worthy of it, and ready to identify and receive it when it appears.
Patience, humility, and a whole lot more patience.