DH = Dear Husband

Budget meetings and bickering

I was relieved to read Hannah’s post at Unplanned Finance this past week. “It gets worse first” gives a little peak into the not-so-pretty reality of her initial budget meetings with her husband. “Although Rob and I were ostensibly on a team, we were barely putting up with each other’s financial eccentricities,” writes Hannah, “and our monthly budget meetings were our first opportunities to voice our frustrations . . . I remember seething with anger when Rob told me he wanted to buy new socks and underwear (he has expensive tastes in socks and underwear). I remember when I told Rob that I just wanted to be able to buy a $.75 soda, and he had spent all our fun money on windshield wipers. Windshield wipers are not fun!”

Why relieved? It was a reassurance that DH and I are not the only ones whose budget meetings are less than romantic. This morning, before going to church, we looked at our numbers for October. Our finances have become a mess since the beginning of the summer. DH’s off-the-chart business in June, his home office renovations, my taking on summer school, our de-cluttering mission – it all led to chaos on more than one front. We knew this was going to be a “clean up the mess” budget meeting. And it ended up being – well – messy.

I won’t go into details, but at a particularly low point, I said, “Now you’re just being an a**hole.”  As soon as we had finished with the budget, I marched upstairs in stony silence to get ready for church (the irony does not escape me), and when DH came up to do the same, we just looked at each other and laughed. When will we get this budget meeting thing right?!

“So, it took a year for us to be a team,” Hannah says. “Our budget meetings are now something I look forward to, but it took a year.” I wish I could say the same! We’re over three years into our journey out of debt, and we have yet to enjoy a pleasant budget meeting. They’re not always as bad as today’s, but they have never been something to look forward to. I believe that our budget meetings have been the single most important agent of our debt-reduction to date. They’re just so fraught with tension and irritability.

Financial Peace University

Church was particularly great today, and after the service, I spoke with a man I’ll call Andy. Right after DH and I spoke at church last November about our journey out of debt, Andy told DH how much our testimony had moved him. He’d had years of financial struggle, and he wanted to take the road to debt-freedom too. We lent him our copy of Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, and he read it with intensity, sharing it with his wife.

In a conversation Andy had with his mother a few weeks later, he mentioned his intention to start getting out of debt by following Ramsey’s steps. As it turned out, his mother had purchased Ramsey’s Financial Peace University kit, and offered to give it to Andy so that he could lead a class at church. “I’m not ready to do that now,” he told his mom, “but I will some day.” Andy told us that he wanted our support in leading the course, and we told him he would have it.

Today, Andy said he felt ready. So in the next few weeks, there’s a good chance that we’ll be helping to lead a class at our church about getting to debt freedom. Andy made it clear to me that he is still struggling to change his ways. “It can be so hard,” I said to him in understanding. “We just had a budget meeting this morning, and we got into a big argument. It’s been three years, and we still argue when we make our budget!” Andy’s face showed some cheer. “That’s actually encouraging for me to hear,” he said.

I knew what he meant. Just as I felt relief in reading Hannah’s account of her (at least initially) unpleasant budget meetings, Andy felt relief in knowing that DH and I had argued about our budget this morning. He felt an assurance that he and his wife were not the only ones struggling with the ins and outs of finances.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Financial Peace University is all about. I’m ready to support Andy in presenting it to others who are looking for guidance to eliminate their debts. A few imperfect leaders is probably just what is required. I’ll keep you posted.

Do you feel relief when you realize you’re not the only one struggling with something? Have you taken part in a Financial Peace University class? Your comments are welcome.



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    1. Thank you, Melanie. Always good to have company in misery : ) “a work in progress” – I just hope we’re actually progressing!

  1. HA! I can relate. Poor hubby has been the recipient of some rather salty insults himself whilst discussing the state of our financial affairs (or anything else we argue about, really). I have to work on that, since no matter what a jerk I think he’s being, at least he’s never insulted me. I felt like a real heel just typing that. :

    Anyhoo! F.P.U. sounds really interesting, Ruth. I look forward to hearing more! 🙂

    1. OK, now I feel like a heel! I’m all for honest confrontation, but insults really don’t need to be a part of it. I’ll work on confronting with respect – even in the midst of a highly irritating budget meeting!

  2. It’s a constant fight, struggle, I mean give and take. 🙂 We continue to work hard to stay on track and make sure my wife and I are on the same page. I have never taken a FPU class, I have considered teaching it.

    1. I will let you know about my experience with FPU, Brian. I think you would make a natural teacher for this type of class.
      And I love your polite expression – “give and take” : ) Those word do not quite describe the budget meeting DH and I just had!

  3. I am so happy that our mess could encourage someone else. Just three days into October, Rob and I had to review our budget because we realized that we are in need of new rain gear. That was a bit more contentious because I had already done the automated savings, so it really replicated what a tight budget would look like for us.

    1. It all seems so mundane and annoying – and it really can be both – but somehow, all of the detailed back-and-forth regarding budgets and tracking ends up being the the building blocks of healthy finances and relationships. Your mess did encourage me. Thanks for the honesty, Hannah!

  4. You have no idea.

    Tim has gotten much better about not spending, but we still clash. He’s convinced he’ll go out more if he has a smartphone. I think it’s one more thing he swears he’ll use, but won’t. Or at least, not in a way that leads to the alleged goal.

    So even if we could spare the money — and we can’t — there’s no way I’d agree. Yesterday, he decided to start using his fun money (once he gets it back in December — I let him borrow for some big expenses and can I just say? Never. again.) for phone. I told him I’d help him find an affordable plan. It was just such a relief for him to stop thinking that the main budget would foot the bill for something so ridiculously unnecessary!

    Mind you, this is also after yet another argument about how we don’t really go on vacation together despite my “working from home.” And somehow he had decided it was my boss’s fault for not doing enough encryption. Instead of the fact that I need a secure WiFi connection. I know I’ve told him this because a) I’ve done it quite literally at least 15 times in the past 5 years (yay ADD) and b) he’s suggested multiple times during said conversations that I could get a data plan for the laptop. To which I have, on each occasion, told him that we’re not paying $40-60 a month so that we can travel once or twice a year.

    Sorry for the rant. I was trying to illustrate just how easily things can devolve, even when both parties want to be on the right track and have made such big strides toward it. It was an especially crappy time to have a fight because he had driven me to a store so I could indulge in my hobby. It was this big treat, and the drive started so well. Yet ended in an argument — well, politely strained discussion — in the parking garage.

    We got over it. He came up with that compromise, and now thankfully I don’t have to keep telling him no — and he can find out on his own that, no, he won’t leave the house more just because he will be able to navigate around when he’s out and about.

    1. It strikes me that your “politely strained conversation” was not all about money. There was the difference of opinion regarding whether or not Tim would go out more if he had the phone. Our arguments also feed off of our different ways of doing things – from processing information to prioritizing to long entrenched habits . . .The money talk just seems to draw in every possible point of contention into one time and place. I’m glad the two of you got over it and that you’ve found some resolution. I wonder if Tim really will “find out on his own” that you were right?

      1. If he actually does go out more, then I’ll be thrilled. So if I turn out to be wrong on that score, it’d be a good thing. As long as he doesn’t go crazy spending while he’s out — and I think he’s gotten a lot better at avoiding that particular issue.

  5. Yes, it definitely does! Especially as a freelancer. Sometimes I feel like I’m really on my own (well actually, I am) and have no one to guide me, so when I make mistakes I feel down. But then I read other blogs and see people struggle with the same things.

    1. While I like some blogs in which people seem to have everything figured out, I also feel a much stronger connection and encouragement from what other bloggers say about their struggles. I’m looking forward to finding out more about your YouTube channel, Tonya. I’ll get notifications when something comes up, right?

  6. I know that someone out there is experiencing the same kind of struggles, which gives me relief. More than that, there are many others who have more and difficult problems or challenges and still they can overcome it after all. And, this gives me hope and determination that I also can.

    1. When it comes to relationships, there are couples who present as if they’re not experiencing the kinds of struggles we have – but then I’m always shocked when they break up. Whatever our struggles are, it’s so much better to be real about them. That’s the foundation for the hope and determination that can be inspired.

  7. I’m just going to tag on to what Tonya said — I’m relieved to see this stuff too because I have this image of long-term marriages as having smoothed all the rough spots out. But it turns out that everyone’s life is highly imperfect, not just mine 🙂 We can all try to do better, and we *are* doing better in a lot of ways, but we shouldn’t expect to always be on the same page as the other important people in our lives.

    1. I’m really hoping that we will smooth our the rough spots still! It’s just that before we started our journey out of debt, we rarely hashed financial things out – so an apparent lack of conflict, but really silent seething at times. Now, all of that seething is out in the open. It looks less pretty, but it’s really a step in the right direction. Here’s to honest imperfection!

  8. Fortunately, the wife and I – second marriage for both – got on the same financial page pretty quickly. We identified where we were, where we wanted to be and developed a plan to get there.

    1. DH and I are essentially on the same page philosophically (which didn’t use to be the case). We struggle with the practical application of that philosophy though. But I truly hope and believe that we’ll get better at this. Maybe a genuine “budget date” lies in our future : )

  9. Sad to say, but of course we feel better!! 🙂 Luckily, my wife has been amazing from the start. Maybe a big reason was that we started as soon as we got married? Maybe mixing in some misery during the honeymoon-phase can be a good idea!

    We were giving FPU but my parents for our wedding gift. My parents have been Dave supporters for as long as I can remember and I’m so grateful they shared their wisdom with us! It’s a great class. Entertaining and you will most definitely learn something new every week (it’s usually about yourself!)

    1. What a great wedding gift! I think the divorce rate would go down significantly if every newly wed couple got on the same page financially. So glad you and your wife did! And I’m glad you found FPU to be worthwhile. I’m looking forward to it. Thanks, Luke!

  10. Before you CAN change, you have to WANT to change. The level of “want” can fluctuate wildly from day to day…..luckily for us we didn’t really have a choice. Our hand was forced into the initial action – and once we came to grips with the reality of what our future had in store for us if we continued on the way we were, we WANTED really bad. Nothing fuels that fire like being punched in the face daily with the fact that we were literally weeks away from not being able to pay our bills…..

    1. We also wanted to change – no – WANTED to change after 6 years of financial stress from a combination of debt and my husband’s unemployment. We have been on the same page in WANTING to change . . . but we still struggle with the nuts and bolts of that change. The good news is that change is happening. Despite our unromantic “budget dates.” Thanks, Travis!

  11. At least your hub shows up for the meetings! Mine isn’t against the idea of getting out of debt, but he works long hours and just won’t participate in budget meetings. I stumble along as best I can, and just ask him once a week if he knows of any upcoming expenses…He has a weekly allowance, which he sticks to pretty closely, so that helps a little. Occasionally, I am handed receipts after the fact, with a promise to do better next time. We’re getting there, but our journey out of debt is definitely much slower than Dave Ramsey suggests.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Sassy Mamaw (I like the name!) With us, I used to be the one who “handed receipts (to my husband) after the fact, with a promise to do better next time.” Believe it or not, it’s a step in the right direction. He IS handing the receipts over to you and not hiding them. I understand where both of you are coming from. Your husband is tired after long hours of work, and a budget meeting just doesn’t offer the rest and relaxation he longs for. You are more in touch with the urgency of the need to budget, and that burden is intensified because you carry it alone. I don’t know if you practice prayer, but when I find myself having to function in a way that is way less than optimal and far less than ideal, I believe the best way to deal with it is to
      1. recognize it
      2. accept the lack of control I have over it
      3. lift it up in prayer
      4. keep doing the best I can
      You say that you are “getting there.” Hold on to that, and don’t worry about your rate of progress. Ramsey says it takes the average household 7 years to become completely debt free. There will be some wide variety around that average – and it’s perfectly fine for you to be taking longer. The point is, you’re headed in the right direction. I hope you’ll eventually be heading there with the full partnership of your husband, but in the mean time, know that you’re doing the right thing.

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