I returned home, satisfied with the fact that I had “pretty much” stuck to the budget that we had set for our food shopping that week. Liam took one look at the bulging bags and asked me how I got on… At that point I blacked out! Okay maybe I’m being a tad dramatic, but I definitely knew where the conversation was headed.
You see out of the two of us, my husband is definitely the saver. He would stick to a budget even if it meant living on baked beans and toast until further notice! The fact is that being financially stable deeply matters to him. Not that it doesn’t matter to me, but I do find it easier to nudge those budget boundaries in the moment and spend an additional small amount here or there. I have to remind myself of the end goal, whereas it is constantly at the very front of his mind.
The thing about spending those small amounts here and there is that they all add up. I know how easy it is to reason in that moment that it is only an “extra few pounds” or however much you intend to spend, but before you know it that inner voice of reasoning becomes your downfall every. single. time.
Our conversation after I got back from the supermarket went something like this:
Me: “I only overspent by a little, and if I need to I can always reduce the budget for next week’s shop”.
Him: “But what if you need more than you anticipate next week? You’ll just end up in a cycle of spending more than we have”.
Me: “Well, if in doubt I can always use a little from my business fund”.
Him: “You need to hear yourself reasoning and instead decide that these other “options” are not valid”.
I won’t lie, even though the tone of this conversation was calm, I was frustrated at the fact that he was calling me out on this… again. So what if I wanted to take money from elsewhere? It was my money! It was then that I caught myself, and it hit me like a train. Before now I had reasoned my way into blind spending without even thinking in the moment. At times it would feel like I buried my head in the sand, and returned for air once my order confirmation email had been sent through.
I realised how disruptive my inner voice actually was, and also how good I was at creating reasons to spend outside of our agreed remit. When we had had conversations before, I had heard Liam’s concerns but hadn’t stopped to raise them with myself. Of course I wanted to improve our financial stability, but my spending habits told another story. I now understood that this issue was deeper than I realised, and it was and still is a point of weakness for me.
I’ll touch on our inner voice/narrative in another blog post, as it was through taking some time for self-care and learning how to do this more effectively that I discovered how significant the way we speak to ourselves is, and how it impacts our marriages as a result.
Following the conversation mentioned earlier, I was surprised to see what we had discussed show itself in such an eye-opening way within a matter of hours. Bearing in mind that I had recently been to the supermarket myself, my sister-in-law also mentioned that she was going and asked if I needed anything else. I asked her to grab something non-essential for my daughter – I’ll just take it from my business fund I thought. Just as that thought crossed my mind, I caught myself. This was unknown territory for me – to catch myself in the act!
Well you’ve told her now so just leave her to get it…
But your business fund isn’t an option…
She’s literally on her way out of the house so you don’t want to bother her again…
I’m thankful to say that my reasoning didn’t win on this occasion, and I told her that I didn’t need anything after all. This example may seem trivial, but for someone who is trying to break the habit of a lifetime, it was a memorable victory. I’d love to say that since then I have stuck to our budgets seamlessly, but that isn’t how breaking a cycle of habit works. If there’s one thing that I know, it’s that I have to find more ways to be intentional if I want lasting change to take place.
There are some people who take out a precise cash sum to ensure they stick to a budget. That’s just one example of both discipline and intentionality. If you want to improve on your habits of a lifetime along with me, that’s the kind of resolve that it takes.
Marriage and matters of finance will always be a challenge, especially if you both refuse to work together. You may even be in a position where you are hiding the reality of your debt issues from your spouse because you feel ashamed. Even if you see this as “your debt”, it will impact both of you whether you like it or not. Debt is a burden, and choosing not to tell your spouse will not make your load any lighter. You owe it to them to be honest, and to find ways to work through this together as so many people do. Even though it may be hard to hear, honesty always goes so much further and is less destructive than your partner finding out without you telling them.
Is it any wonder why finances are one of the top reasons for divorce when we realise how much the ability to manage and balance what we have, determines so much of the way we are able to live our lives on a daily basis.
Compromise is key, and over the years I’ve learned to be far more aware of the importance of budgeting from Liam’s wisdom, just as he has learned from me to let go and spend some money on the things we enjoy too. Pulling too far one way over the other would definitely lead to conflict, but we are navigating the unity that marriage creates and trying to build something that financially benefits our family in the long term.
We’re often quick to jump on the big spenders, but there are many of you out there like me who fall into the trap of blind spending – regardless of the amount. Next time you find yourself tempted to spend blindly, stop yourself and consider your reasons:
- Are your reasons valid?
- Will your spending create further debt?
- Is what you are considering buying a necessity?
- Could this money be better used elsewhere?
- Remind yourself of the reason for your budget and ultimately your end goal!