Very early on in our marriage, it became clear that Trevor and I had been raised very differently regarding the spending and saving of money. It wasn’t that we came from very different socioeconomic backgrounds: very similar, actually. Our parents just have very different philosophies, which is funny, because I’m sure none of our parents think of themselves as having any particular philosophy on money at all. Nevertheless, the difference was there, and strong. While Trevor had been raised to save as much as possible and spend only when and as much as necessary, I had been raised to enjoy life and spend fairly freely, within reason. Let me illustrate how this played out early in our marriage with an example.
A conversation, while walking home from somewhere, maybe a half hour’s walk tops, circa Summer 2000, a couple months married:
Me: I’m thirsty. I’m going to run into this store and grab a soda. Do you want anything?
Him: No, don’t. We’ll be home in like ten minutes. Why would you buy a drink now?
Me. Because I’m thirsty now. Plus we don’t even have soda at home.
Him: But there’s plenty of water. Come on, you can make it.
For the sake of sensitive readers, and friends and family who are under the illusion that I have always been the perfectly submissive wife I am now (*cough* *choke*), I’ll leave it at that. The drama that then ensued was one one of my very first, badly-failed lessons at the Trevor Young School of Frugality, but I have to say (and I think he’d agree) my grades have been steadily improving ever since. I don’t actually remember whether I got the soda or not, in the end (do you, Sweetie?)
Despite Trevor’s solid foundations as a careful penny-saver (his years under the employ of McDonald’s while in high school and college funded his 7 trans-Atlantic flights during our courtship), we were still pretty free with our money before we had kids, at least compared to now. We didn’t really eat out often, but we didn’t think much of getting fish and chips on a Friday night or stopping for fast food after church on a Sunday either. We got a great deal on our flat, but a not-so-great deal on our car, so we were pretty hit or miss with our financial wisdom.
Then after Pippa was born and I stopped working, money started to feel a little tighter. Some months we would eek by, others we would have to dip into our savings a little, but our lifestyle as we knew it definitely wasn’t sustainable.
We muddled by until six months after Romilly was born when we moved to America. A nice little windfall from the sale of our flat helped us make a downpayment on our house here as well as buy our van and most of our furniture. In hindsight, we should have been a lot more protective of our buffer of savings. By the time Beatrix was born in July 2007, it became apparent that the streets of America were indeed *not* paved with gold. We were still going to have to figure out how to adjust our lifestyle if I was going to be able to stay home with our children, which was pretty much a non-negotiable.
The newly-frugal-minded Trevor that emerged during this time in our lives made the Trevor of our newlywed days seem positively extravagant. We hadn’t bought soda on any kind of regular basis ever, so I had long since learned I could live without that. But now he was asking questions like, “What could you do to earn some income from home?”, “Do we really need these phones?”, “This cable?”, “This particular part of our auto insurance coverage?”, “Couldn’t we make our own diaper wipes?”, “Isn’t there somewhere we could be getting our groceries for less?” and “Do we really need two cars?”
Gradually, I opened my eyes to where our money was going. I found that there were actually a lot of things I could part with very happily if it meant that I could stay home with my girls and watch them grow without fear of an unexpected expense cropping up and yanking the rug out from under us. I discovered that the answers to the above questions were: “Sell on eBay (a gift from God that came at just the right time)”, “Nope”, “Nope”, Nope again”, “Yup (but they really don’t work as well on the really gross-o diapers, it must be said)”, “ALDI!” and “Ask us in six months or so and we’ll let you know.” I found that the more of these probing questions Trevor asked and found answers to, the more I began to enjoy getting control of our money and to embrace the challenge of helping him cut back our spending even further.
What I once may have mistaken for stinginess or lack of compassion in my husband, I now realize has always been motivated by a desire to be able to provide for me, and later for our children. It has always come out of love, and now it is one of the things I love most about him. Speaking of him, go read what he thinks about it.
1 Timothy 6:7-10
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.