19 comments

Having “The Talk” with a Current or Potential Mate

My wife actually invented this post and I think it’s a great concept to write about.

You see, Mrs. Money Mustache* is an indispensable part of our shared empire of frugality. Believe it or not, she was generally just as excited as I was about making an extra payment on the mortgage. Or buying and selling stuff on Craigslist whenever possible instead of resorting to retail. And she’ll tend to cough just as loudly as I will when she hears about someone borrowing money to buy a new car, or driving somewhere that could easily biked comes up.

“Where can I find such a dream mate, for myself” you ask? You may already have one – read on!

When we were just a young couple, we carried along the financial habits from our earlier lives. I was pretty much the way I am now, but young Miss M. was more of a normal person. When we moved to Colorado and she landed a good job, she celebrated the new lifestyle by acquiring a taste for stylish outdoor active clothing. And a latte and snack each workday at the coffee shop near work. And the odd book from Amazon.com when interesting titles came along. Even I got into the spirit of things, celebrating a job upgrade of my own with a gleaming new motorcycle in 2001. We felt separate financially – each of us felt we were doing well, but we didn’t really have any joint goals.

The problem was, those packages from Athleta and Amazon kept coming, even when she already had every season covered with sharp gear options. So did the books. The lattes and snacks weren’t going anywhere since you need one each day. And the $10,000 motorcycle soon depreciated to $5000 even though it only had a few thousand miles on it.

So one day we had the Talk. It was a talk about our future, how we both seemed so busy with work, yet we hoped to have children in a few years. I was already into the idea of living off of investments someday, so I threw out the idea of retiring early.. as in BEFORE starting a family. Was it possible? Some simple math showed that it definitely was (see the later post called “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement” for some of the numbers).

Then we dug out the last year worth of credit card statements. This woman has a thing for spreadsheets, so every category of expenses was totaled in various ways. What we learned is something that probably applies to most people: we were spending way more than expected on seemingly very small things. Like $700 per year on fancy coffee, and over a grand on clothing despite the fact that our closets were already full when we started. Books were several hundred per year too.

But it’s hard to give up fun and reading is great – the key was that we noticed ways to get the same enjoyment with drastically less spending. We could get the same books from the LIBRARY. We probably didn’t actually need more clothing, especially if we would be quitting the jobs soon. We still liked restaurants, but maybe they could be a special occasion rather than a daily habit.

Now here’s the golden nugget of this post: At that moment, a switch flipped in my future wife’s mind and she was suddenly very excited about becoming a Mrs. Money Mustache herself. “Who wouldn’t give up a few books and clothes and lattes if it meant getting to work less while you have kids!?“, she asked.

The second neat cash catalyst was showing her how to set up her own investment accounts on Vanguard.com. I had already been stashing money away in my account there for a year or two, but once she had her own and was able to start transferring in paychecks, everything took off. I started getting nightly reports of the deposits and stock performance, and we’d compare our “net worth” summaries on the website.

Ever since the magic switch, our agreement on family finances has been golden. There are no arguments over money if you both share the same philosophy and goals. And now as parents of a young child, things are much less stressful when there are no worries over budget or lack of available time to spend with him.

It’s also nice to have such a complicated common interest. We can talk for hours about future plans, how to be able to afford them by being even more frugal or shuffling money this way or that, and about how incredibly bright things are looking in general. It would probably sound pretty mundane and self-congratulatory to an outsider, but it beats arguing about who didn’t do the dishes.

So if you want to move quickly with your own wealth plans, you’ll need buy-in from your own little Mister or Missus.

If you’re single, you also have lots going for you too – low expenses, free time to put in overtime for extra earnings if you enjoy your job, and the potential to go to Hardcore Black Belt frugality modes that married people could only dream of, like keeping the furnace off until December or having back-to-back Buy-Nothing months.

But unless you remain single forever, you too might want to prepare for The Talk eventually, and think about how any potential mates would respond if you do whip out the big Money Mustache on them at some point in the relationship.
*(it is a sign of ultimate respect that she earns this title).

  • Pachipress September 19, 2011, 2:38 pm

    I enjoyed reading this article. My problem(being the Mrs. and the Chief Financial Officer of this family) is consistency. I will be very frugal for awhile and then lose my momentum. My dh and I have finally decided to hold a weekly couples’ night at a certain time to discuss finances so we can both be on the same page.

    I am curious about your statement “children”. You only have one after retirement. Did you chose to only have one child? We have five so there is a higher expense now but I tell my children that I am a five time millionaire because children have made our lives richer on many levels.

    Reply
    • MMM September 19, 2011, 10:42 pm

      Yup, just one kid here at MMM Headquarters.. and all of Mom, Dad, and Boy wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m glad you are enjoying your bigger family as well!
      If we had wanted more kids, we would have planned out the money side of it in advance, since they do cost a certain amount to raise. For me, it would have meant working an extra year.. for some people, having more kids will add decades to their working years. It’s all good if people are happy with their choices. But sometimes, when people end up working two overtime careers just to afford a huge number of children, I am amazed at how different our choices can be. But, hooray for freedom nonetheless.

      Reply
  • Jane October 18, 2011, 8:18 am

    You mention Vanguard quite a bit. Excuse me if I’ve missed this somewhere else on your blog, but can you explain why you use that particular service vs. others, why that type of investment, etc? Do you work for them? :)

    Regarding this particular post, my husband and I are generally very much on the same page. I am by turns excited and proud of our frugality and frustrated that so much sacrifice and responsibility don’t leave us with more spending money. So many expenses *seem* unavoidable.

    Perhaps you have a post for the people who have already canceled cable, share a car, buy used, and want to stretch their dollar further without giving up ALL of the little luxuries in life like the occasional night out?

    Thanks! Love the blog!

    Reply
    • Ian Turner May 25, 2013, 10:07 pm

      Looks like MMM missed this question, so I’ll step in and answer it (if a few years late).

      Basically, Vanguard are the Good Guys in the financial industry. That’s because the fees they collect are far, far lower than elsewhere. Vanguard mutual funds can have fees as low as 0.03%, while other management companies go around charging you 3% or more.

      Other companies offer index funds, but generally not as cheaply as Vanguard.

      Other companies also offer higher-fee managed funds, and may try to sell them to you on the idea that you’ll earn higher returns, but 3/4th of managed funds do *worse* than Vanguard’s low-fee index funds.

      Also, because Vanguard doesn’t make commissions on trades, they encourage long-term investing, not short-term trading.

      Reply
    • Jake November 23, 2014, 9:05 am

      Hey, I was wondering if there’s a Canadian equivalent to Vanguard. It looks like it’s american investments only, which would make tax time a little more complicated for me.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache November 23, 2014, 12:19 pm

        Hey Jake, there sure is – Vanguard Canada. And a few good competitors. Do a search for “Canadian investing with Mr. Frugal Toque” and read both of his articles for some great words on Canadian Investing.

        Reply
  • jlcollinsnh January 11, 2012, 9:55 pm

    by the time our daughter was born my wife and I had been married 10 years. We both worked and enjoyed our jobs.

    When we decided Jane’d be a stay at home mom it was tough on her. She felt that not working she wasn’t “pulling her weight.’ we talked about this a long time. finally it was this that helped her get fully comfortable with the idea:

    What could we possibly buy with the money she’d ear working that had more value than her being a full time mom to Jessica?

    Nothing.

    Reply
  • Market Timer March 22, 2012, 9:46 pm

    Underrated post.

    Reply
  • Silver Forge September 10, 2012, 7:36 am

    To the MMM fam- the posting is over a year old as I write this- so I guess I am late reading it now… but better late than never! My wife and I are on the path you present in this posting- she is farther along than my crotchity mindset and holding on to old habits… but they are slowly coming ’round… Thanks for the frankness and the open forum! I may be “LATE” to the party that is the MMM life- being older (40) and a bit more blue-collared than your stereotypical poster or yourself (hourly wage-slave and service industry fellow) but I am working on the independance- thanks for the community!

    Reply
  • Zeb March 6, 2013, 4:47 pm

    How do you beat the fancy coffee habit? I wouldn’t even call good coffee my weakness because I love it so freaking much. I’d love to cut the cost though. I almost never buy coffee out (besides being ridiculously expensive it’s almost never as good as at home), but I still probably spend a couple or three hundred a year on beans.

    Reply
    • Johnny March 20, 2013, 10:56 pm

      You’re optimizing the value you get by making the good stuff at home-there’s a world of difference between an $8 bag of good beans, and a $4 latte. As a fellow coffee lover, I say don’t worry about it :) Enjoy the indulgence and look for another expense to squash.

      Reply
  • Nick October 3, 2013, 11:36 am

    Hi MMM, I have been reading for the past few weeks and I am loving your blog so far. I am 25 and have been relatively frugal since getting out of college. I am an Engineer and my wife (recently married) is studying to become a doctor. I take care of all of the finances because she doesn’t like to worry about money. She is all for saving money by eating out less and purchasing items on craigslist. Whenever I bring up early retirement, she doesn’t seem to buy in. She says that she wants to travel and see the world and I try to tell her that we can still do that if we cut back. Do you have any suggestions on how to convince her? Thanks!

    Reply
    • bwall January 30, 2014, 12:20 pm

      Do the math. Then show her the math. It’s hard to argue with cold, hard facts.

      If she still doesn’t want to, then there is a reason. It’s your job to find out the reason!

      Reply
  • Teresa December 12, 2013, 11:54 am

    My husband and I have been dedicated readers for one year, but this is my first comment. He stumbled upon MMM when he googled the concept of “hedonic adaptation.” We weren’t big consumers to begin with and also already very happy – but thanks to your blog this last year has been an amazing one of change and ever-increasing happiness. We feel so blessed to be on the same page about finances.

    This quote below made me laugh so hard, because we relate so much:
    “It’s also nice to have such a complicated common interest. We can talk for hours about future plans, how to be able to afford them by being even more frugal or shuffling money this way or that, and about how incredibly bright things are looking in general. It would probably sound pretty mundane and self-congratulatory to an outsider, but it beats arguing about who didn’t do the dishes.”

    Thank you MMM!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  • vr August 27, 2014, 5:22 am

    I have been reading your blog and other saving-oriented blogs for a few weeks now and am completely sold to the idea of early retirement, don’t know what hit me but something has just snapped in my head :) I’m 29 now and my quick calculations are showing that I could switch from a 5-day work week to a 4-day week in less than two years and still save over 10k/year. Maybe start a small business and use that 1 day per week earning on my own passions (glass fibre parts for cars, carpentry, collecting berries and mushrooms from the forest, etc).

    Now we come to the difficult subject. My gf isn’t bying this idea at all. She just seems so very reluctant to the idea of cutting the cable-internet, letting go of gym membership and trading the ’07 Volkswagen to an older car, or even biking instead of driving (her mentality is that you must be able to drive everywhere right to the front doors with a car). I think we will be having a very long discussion one day in the near future where it will be me&my saving habits&her or me&my saving habits without her. We are still fairly “fresh” so this is the time when we need to figure out if we have enough common interests or not and this seems to be a big deal for me…

    Reply
    • Lisa November 21, 2014, 11:08 pm

      My boyfriend of two years is similar. I love him very much but he has recently announced his intention to build a Warhammer 40k army over several years that should cost… fifteen thousand dollars. I visibly baulked. As someone who has been toying with the concept of early retirement for over six months now, to have a goal of that kind of sum and not use it to generate more profits seems insane.

      That said, he likes to spend money but he is very *very* good at making it stretch, and likes to say that with my saving ability and his spending ability, we’ll make a good team. I’d prefer a little less spending, but I’m glad he thinks of our partnership as a team.

      What concerns me is that you don’t really seem to think of you and your gf as a team. You can’t force the way you want to live on your partner (though sometimes I wish!). Try and find some compromises–for example you could find out what routines she does at the gym. Since most machines are extremely inefficient, odds are that with a little research you guys could figure out a way to do a new, more efficient routine, at a nearby park. You could turn it into couple time (if she doesn’t see her gym time as ‘me’ time).

      The other thing you could do is start up some conversations about the inefficiency of the way society is run these days, etc, and help these ideas to germinate in her mind on their own.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache November 22, 2014, 2:14 pm

        Wow, I had to look up what “Warhammer 40k” is, but the result was pretty scary to me. Supremely expensive collectible adult toys? That don’t function as tools to create things of your own, generate income, or do much of anything? The collection of physical objects for their own sake is materialism at its purest and something worth questioning yourself over. Preferably with a mirror and a pair of boxing gloves ;-)

        Ask my friend J.D. Roth about his $30,000 comic book collection, how much it cost him over the years and how relieved he felt when he finally let it go.

        Games are great, social things. But there is no excuse for them to be expensive.

        Reply
  • E_Ransom October 27, 2014, 9:50 am

    You only give it a brief mention in this post (since it isn’t a focal point), but you could write a whole post (heck, a whole blog) on how the library can be used as a money saver.

    Oh sure, simple things are obvious. Free books, movies, music, cheap printing (usually), online resources. But try free research assistance. Try free wifi. Try public phones (no need for a quarter here). Try free COMPUTERS.

    You want to go intensely frugal? Drop that internet and cell phone bill, don’t worry about saving for the latest Mac, and replace it with a library card. Which, if you live in the city limits, is going to cost you… nothing. Sure, not everyone can lose their cell phone or their high performance, solid gold, super machine. But for those of us who can, a library card is basically a blank check. We just choose what numbers to fill in.

    Reply

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