Tag Archives: money

No one wants to talk about it…

…and “it” is money.

I was talking to a good friend of mine a couple of years ago, and she pointed out that there are two major topics that everyone is always in some sort of tizzy about, and they happen to be the two topics that we all have to deal with in some way, at some point: sex and money.  In general, our education around these things is briefly touched upon in school, but mostly left up to our parents, and often parents don’t know how to talk about it, either because it’s awkward or doesn’t come up.  So for both issues, we are left to figure things out ourselves.  Which, if I may say so myself, completely sucks.

You make a lot of mistakes and have to do a lot of experimenting to make things work for yourself and for your partnership.  No one rule works for everyone – and that is really frustrating.  Why can’t someone just give me all of the answers?

Another friend emailed me recently and said that a lot of her couple-friends are keeping their finances separate, even after they marry.  I think these were all straight couples she knew, and she was wondering how that worked for us.  So here you go: a peek into the great money issue of Bird and Turtle.

talking about money makes her want to bite me.

Here is our background: I make very little money.  I qualify for the state-sponsored health care because I am so poor (but I get better health insurance through work, so that’s what I do*).  Turtle was making about twice as much as I was when we first got together, and even after she left that job and was receiving unemployment, her income was quite a bit more than mine.  To even things out, we split our rent unevenly – she pays a little bit more and I pay a little bit less, and we are both saving about the same percentage of money now compared to what we were paying before we moved in together.  For everything else – utilities, groceries, Zipcar – we decided to split things evenly.

And therein lay the problem.  We ran into “I’ll get this one and you can pay me back,” and “Can you get Zipcar for my job? I’ll pay you back” and so on, but we only remembered to settle up every couple of months, and then we were a little freaked out because “You owe me a thousand dollars!” sounds like a really big deal.  Even if it evened out (which it usually did) and one of us only owed the other one ten dollars or something silly like that.  It was a huge stressor in our relationship.

a healthy reaction to a relationship stressor

So I got us a credit card.  An REI credit card, because we like to shop there, it’s a co-op, and we thought we would get some fun rewards from it.  If you already shop there a lot, it’s totally worth it.  And this made things so much easier.  Groceries? I’ll just put it on the card.  Gas?  That goes on the card too!  Out for dinner (back in the day)? REI card!  And once a month we sat down and paid the whole thing off.

Besides that, we have a joint checking account that we don’t really use (since we each just pay off half of the REI card) and a savings account that we’re using for wedding savings.  Other than that, we keep things separate.  I have my cards for certain things, and I have my systems for transferring money into savings (I set up an automatic transfer every month, then move it if I’m desperate for it) and she has hers (not entirely known to me, but that’s okay).

I suspect that once we’re married, things will merge a little bit more, since we’ll be saving for even more things together.  It seems to me that figuring out money is a huge part of having a non-stressful relationship, but also something that we’ll be constantly working on as job situations change (she should be getting a first real paycheck soon, and I will go back to school full time in a couple of years – big adjustments!) and life goals change (pay off the car, buy a house, move across the country, get five more puppies, adopt one well-behaved puppy).

One point in all this that has been a big struggle is something that my therapist finally hit on the head after a year or so of talking about it: for me, money is a way to safety, a means of security; for Turtle, it is a way to comfort, and a means of self-care.  These two approaches often cause us to butt heads – I say things are tight, and to feel better we need to save; she says things are hard, and to feel better we should go out for a nice dinner.  We’re working to find a balance, and now that we have named this, it is easier to understand, but again, I suspect it is something we’ll be working on for awhile.

hard at work, working on our relationship. can't you tell?

I have absolutely no idea how this compares to anyone else.  What have you done in relationships, financially?  How do you balance things and not feel taken advantage of, or like you’re not pulling your own weight?

*and Turtle got her health insurance card in the mail from my employer today! Mission accomplished!
**i’m pretty sure that as soon as Turtle sees this post, these pictures will have to disappear – so enjoy them while you can!
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We’re scrapping everything!

Me: Do you want to scrap everything and get married next week?
Turtle: No. Do
you want to scrap everything and get married next week?
Me: No. Just checking.

~

Okay, so the title of this post was totally an April Fool’s joke.  April Fools!

Now that it’s officially April, it’s officially the month of our two  year anniversary, and that is really cool.  It’s been two years – two years! – and we totally still like each other.  This whole getting married thing, when it’s not stressful (which is only a very little bit of the time), is really fun!  We like it.

(click on image for source)

But sometimes it just seems like too much.  Yesterday, Meg from A Practical Wedding wrote this totally awesome post about money.  And I knew a lot of this stuff already, this is how I was already thinking – or that’s what I had thought until I was struck by this:

Don’t be afraid to say no. If you don’t care? Don’t buy it. If someone is making you sign a contract that doesn’t feel right? Don’t sign it. If it doesn’t feel right? Put away your wallet. If you do this, things will somehow fall into place.

I read this and I realized that I don’t want to spend three thousand dollars on food.  I just don’t.  I have eaten food at weddings, and it has been good, but I have not walked away thinking that it was the best food that I had eaten in awhile (with the exception of one wedding, and at that wedding they made the food themselves!).  And if I am going to spend that much money on food, it should be damn good food.

So I came up with a plan.  We will have pies, provided by friends and family, and we will have mimosas.  We will have coffee and tea from Tealuxe or somewhere delicious, and that will be it.  And some people will say “Just pie?” and other people will say, “JUST PIE!” and that will be fine.  Sara from 2000 Dollar Budget Wedding posted something that I love, and this part is sticking in my head:

It did not matter whether every last detail conformed to the signature colors. Instead of saying, “What a beautiful bouquet,” the guests said, “What a beautiful love.”

So there. Pie it is.

The minor complication (ha!) comes in when we consider that this is not about me planning my wedding – this is about us planning our wedding.  And it turns out that Turtle, as an event planner in her former life, wants to feel taken care of on our wedding day instead of worrying about what might not be going right.  And it turns out that I don’t feel safe renting an urn for our tea water and not being assured that our water won’t taste like coffee.  And who’s going to set up? Clean up? Where to we get utensils? (I know there are answers to these questions… they just feel overwhelming.)

And I think this comes back to the rule of: Forget DIY.  It doesn’t all have to be DIY.  And I feel really confident that we are considering taking things into our own hands, and we are considering different ways of doing things, and we are really trying to work out the options.  And it’s going to be hard, I think, for me to say we’re spending $3,000 on food.  But it’s easier when I remind myself that we are getting a planner in there, and people who will help us set up and clean up and decorate, and they are people we like.

So more points for the process.  And we’re still planning to have pies.  It’ll just be post-brunch pies.  Because that’s how we’re doing it. So there.

photo by BenJerrysBride, click on image for source

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I have abandoned you

Dear Blogland,

I have abandoned you for two days because I have been panicking.

It’s not your fault, I just want to fill you with goodness and good moods and “Yay my nose isn’t broken!” and “haha I let big hard issues roll off my back, no problem.”

And, okay, for real my nose is not broken, and that is definitely good.  And for real there is a lot of stuff that I can let slide, like the mean people at work and the crazy people at work and the not making much money but it’s okay because I love my job.  But sometimes after a yelling client and a demanding client and a just plain crazy client, someone comes in with an accent and I can’t understand what they’re saying, and it’s not their fault, but they’re the fourth really difficult person to deal with and I just can’t do it anymore.

And that is sort of how these past couple of days have been going.  The rain and the wind don’t help, and having to walk a dog in the rain and wind don’t help.

The big issue that we’re facing, and that a lot of people are facing, is finances.  This is not something I know how to talk about well somewhere like a blog.  Turtle and I are struggling to learn how to talk about it well just between the two of us, and I think that this is also something a lot of people deal with.  When Turtle left her job, we knew that it would put us in a very tight place financially, and we were awesome at budgeting for the first month.  Well, today we got some bills in the mail and it turns out that while we stressed about it more this past month than we did the first month, we did not budget nearly as well.  And after that realization we went and met with a caterer and had to talk about money some more. I’m sure you’ve heard that weddings are not cheap.

This is another one of the times where I stop and say, “Is this what we want?”  Do we want to be married somewhere other than the church we go to, or my parents’ backyard?  Do we need all these people there, or could we do with just our immediate families and very close friends?  Do people really need to eat food?

And the answer I keep coming back to is that, yes, these things are important.  We love the location of our ceremony and reception, and it is so affordable that cutting it out wouldn’t save us much at all.  We do need all of the people we want there to be there.  They are our community, our family, the people we want to affirm our relationship and promise to support our marriage as a community.  We need them there.  And rumor has it that people like to eat.  I like to eat, and Turtle likes to eat.  And if we’re going to have food, we should just go ahead and have good food, right?

It’s a struggle to do what we want with our wedding and to keep our head above the “OMG it’s a wedding you have to have everything you are a princess for one day it’s your only chance everything must have diamonds on it omg!” chaos.  It’s a struggle to accept that feeding our guests might mean that we can’t hire movers for our move next month.

Blech, sorry for the “woe is me” post; hopefully it’s out of my system and we’ll return to regular happy blogging tomorrow…. that said, I know I can’t be the only person going through this.  How are other people dealing with making the decisions about some big life things versus others, whether it’s a wedding or something else?  This morning I took the Beast and we went for a 2 mile run in the cold wind and rain.  This made me feel better, if a little wet.  Please, share your vices/solutions/tell me I’m not crazy.  Thanks, blogland.

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In Praise of the Process

Today Turtle and I spent two hours looking at wedding ring options.  It was a beautiful day and we had an entire afternoon to play, so we went to several stores to look at what they had.  In the very first store, a very stuffy – ahem, traditional – jewelry shop, one ring caught the eye of both of us.

“Psst, what about that top one on the left?”

“I was just looking at that!”

Just as the stuffy, I mean, kindly gentleman came over to assist us, we both realized that the amazing ring with the simple band and the interesting texture was not, in fact, a ring, but a nickel stuffed into the tray to fill the space of a previously purchased ring. Okay, so at least we have similar taste, right?  We both like the idea of using a nickel for our wedding bands?

On what may seem like a side note but is in fact completely related, I was talking to a friend of mine tonight who said, “If I were getting married, I would take my fiance and both of our sets of parents and we would go to the courthouse and that would be that.”

I admit that this has crossed my mind.  There are lots of very sweet courthouse weddings!  There are aspects of it that appeal to me: the simplicity, the intimacy, the importance of the marriage rather than the flowers (or tablecloths or food or whatever).

But the celebration feels important to me, and to us.  The ritual of it is important.  And what I keep understanding as we continue the planning process is that it’s not just the celebration and the support of our community of family and friends that is important, but it is also important for us to get through this planning process *together*, and to have a wedding that is *ours* and no one elses.

Back to the rings: We found this lovely little shop in a nearby town and found two styles of rings that we loved.  We spent a long time trying them on and looking at similar rings in different materials and styles and widths, and then we left and came back and spent even more time talking to the jeweler about what we could and couldn’t change about each one and how much they would cost in different materials, etc.

Having this conversation with a complete stranger meant that first we had to have this conversation with each other.  We had to say, “Here’s what I’m thinking about spending, and here’s why that seems reasonable.  Here’s what the ring means to me.  What do you think?”  And it turns out that we both had different budgets, we had different aspects of the wedding bands that are important to us, and the rings have different meaning for both of us.  Something as simple as buying a piece of jewelry (or as complicated as buying a wedding band, depending on how you look at it) turned into a few really intense, interesting conversations about money and marriage and celebration.  And this is just one step in the process of putting together our wedding.

Planning a wedding together means checking in with each other a lot.  It means trying to find something that represents *both* of us, and that means sometimes letting go of something that represents just one of us if the other one doesn’t feel that it fits.  It means trying to be ourselves in the most honest way possible while making space for the other person, and I think that this is one of the parts of getting married that is often overlooked, and it is something that I am currently so, so grateful for.

I feel like planning this wedding is not just about one day, but about the life we are creating together.  We are learning how to talk about money more and more, and we are practicing doing it.  We are talking about our beliefs and the writing that we like and the decorations we think are pretty.  We are shopping for shoes.  We are discussing food and drink and music.  It’s really quite wonderful.

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A ring to wed them all… er, them two!

The engagement ring adventure was a big one, and a mostly fun one. At times it was stressful, as we emailed each other pictures back and forth and debated how much money to spend and whether to buy online or in person.  At one point we just said, “Okay, no more talking about rings until we are holding them in our hands,” and that was the point at which we decided to only go shopping in person, which ended up being a really good decision for us.

The search for wedding rings feels similarly stressful, but somehow more difficult.

What is difficult, I think, is trying to figure out what is important in the wedding rings.  I know that, because I plan to be working with a lot of different animals in my life, I want something that can withstand getting banged around and won’t get pieces of poop wedged in little corners of it.  Sorry if that’s gross, but these are the hazards of the industry, people.  I suspect that I will not wear my engagement ring all the time once we’re married, or at least not on the same hand as my wedding ring, so it’s not important to me that the band match my engagement ring.

But beyond these little things, which rule out a lot of rings, I don’t know what I do want.  With our engagement rings, it seemed most important that I like mine and Turtle liked hers, and it didn’t matter whether they looked good together or to the other one of us.  With our wedding rings, it feels important that they match, in some way.  They are a symbol of our union, of our unity, and this is why it feels important that they resemble each other, or are made from the same metal, or at the very least have the same thing engraved within them.  I want, when people see us together, for people to see our rings and know that we are married to each other.

Today we went to an antique store that I happened across a couple of weeks ago to look at some options.  I was surprised to find myself drawn to yellow and rose gold, and I was not surprised to see Turtle drawn to the white gold and platinum.  For me: simple bands with a little bit of detail or character, like little ridges you don’t notice at first or milgrain on the edges.  For her: diamonds all the way around.  Very different.

And THEN she found a ring for me that is just gorgeous.  Again, it made my heart flutter a little.  I didn’t have a camera and can’t find a picture of it anywhere, but it is a delicate vine with leaves wrapped around and around, and made out of teeny tiny diamonds and white gold. This is so not a good explanation of the ring.  It is beautiful, and simple while intricate, and delicate while sturdy, and costs a little more than 5 times as much as I originally wanted to spend.  And it will definitely not match Turtle’s ring, whatever she finds.

If you are married, what is your ring situation?  Do you have an engagement ring AND a wedding band, and how did you agree on/pick your band(s)? Do they match?  And whether or not you’re married, what are your thoughts/understandings of what a wedding ring “should be”?  I don’t know that I care what one “should do,” but I am curious about the thoughts around these rings, as opposed to engagement rings, and where my attitudes are coming from. Give me your insight, dear readers, and tell me whether I should spend way more than I really want to on a ring that makes me flutter.

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Date night… or date day?

This last month things have been a little tight for the last month or so, since Turtle left her job and we realized that my income is not a reasonable amount to expect two people to live on.  (Some people have suggested that it’s not a reasonable amount for one person to live on, but that’s a story for another post.) So in the last month, we have been really careful about the groceries we’ve bought, we haven’t purchased any new things, like clothes or house stuff, and we have not gone out for dinner even once.

Neither of us are people who go out for dinner all the time – maybe once a week, and it always feels like a treat.  One of our favorite places is Not Your Average Joe’s, and another is a sushi restaurant in the center of our town.  Even if we’re not up for going out and socializing, we’ll order in and have a picnic in the living room, and it is wonderful.

But for the last month, we banned ourselves from going out.  It’s because other luxuries are more important to us, like internet service and, you know, heat. Not to mention electricity.  And we’ve done a really good job; we spent almost two thirds less than usual this month.  But we’ve also been a little irritable with each other.

And this has made me realize that date night is not just fun and not just delicious, but it’s really important. This weekend we are house/petsitting for my parents, and it is so nice to be away from home, away from our clutter and our obligations.  When you’re at someone else’s house, it doesn’t occur to you that you should vacuum all the floors instead of watching TV or reading a book.  At home, I find myself feeling like there’s something else I should be doing.  And this is where date night – er, day – comes in. It’s so different to look at each other across the table of some nice, or even not-so-nice, restaurant and appreciate each other’s company than it is to look across the kitchen table, with its little piles in the corners, and wonder why the other person didn’t do some chore they should have earlier.

On Sunday we got up and lazed around my parents’ house.  We had breakfast and sat on the front porch and let the dogs wander around the front yard on long leashes.  And then in the afternoon, we packed up the Beast and headed to a dog beach.  It was about 45 minutes away and we had such a nice time enjoying each others’ company in the car.  When we got to the beach there were dogs everywhere!  Daphne had a fabulous time running around and we had a fabulous time watching her be curious and then afraid of the waves coming in.

After the beach we wandered around this cute little town and decided to go out for dinner.  We agreed that this would be our dinner for the month – and we enjoyed dinner. You have to when you only get one a month. I think that when we’re out in the world together, we appreciate the sanctuary of our relationship – in the chaos of being out in public and running around and getting things done, the other person is there. When you get home from the chaos of the world, you can relax into that other person’s company.  If you never go out, I think you miss a portion of that.

Have you experienced anything like this?  Do you have any regular date nights, and what do you do for them?

Turtle is going away for a week on Tuesday, but when she gets back, we are going to try to re-institute our weekly dates, even if they’re picnics we take somewhere or going for a walk somewhere new.  I think that as long as we know we have this sanctuary in each other, we can get through anything together; it’s just that sometimes we need some reminding.

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The Important Things

The Affianced is leaving her job, and in the midst of this we got our joint credit card bill and realized that neither of us has been tracking our spending on the card, and it’s just after the holidays (hello, overspending) and I just bought a car.  We are suddenly overwhelmed with payments that need to be made, and the awareness that the Affianced is about to lose her health insurance, and the realization that our original plan to put a certain amount of money a month into our wedding account is just not realistic anymore.

The best part of this is that it has made us really consider what is important. Here are some of the things that are important:

  • Tea and milk. These are things that we must always have on hand for our sanity and our bellies’ happiness.
  • Sweaters, because sometimes the heat needs to stay low.
  • Food and medication for our menagerie, because they are our family.
  • Boardgames/card games, because this is good, healthy entertainment.

These are all things that we can manage to continue to have without being overwhelmed.

The Affianced giving a thumbs up to sweaters and blankets

The situation also made us briefly reconsider our wedding.  Should we give up our deposit and instead of getting married at the Lodge, get married in my parents’ backyard with an ipod instead of live music, and 15 people instead of 50? Should we get married just the two of us and our one witness each at town hall?

No.  We realized that the wedding itself is really important to us.  The process of creating it is important; the people we want to be there are important, all 50 or so of them.  And flowers are important, even if we grow them on our deck instead of using a fancy florist.  And good food is important, even if we haven’t figured out what kind of food or where it’s coming from.

Most importantly, though, is that I will be there, and she will be there, and our community will be there to support us, and even if we’re living in a box on the street with our neurotic dog and defective cats, we’ll have each other and the people who care about us.

Thumbs up for wedding activities (isn't that a pretty ring on her finger??)

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