Marriage & Money - Part III
Let's Talk Nerdy
Before I get to the list of what has (and hasn’t) worked for us, I just want to take a minute to appreciate the Nerds and Free Spirits. We’re different and that’s a good thing! I think I add another level of joy to my Nerd’s life, but I also value his gifts because he helps keep this Free Spirit from going off the rails! My Nerd is also grateful that I am not a Nerd because my free spiritedness gives him opportunity to take charge of the finances, something we are both glad for him to do. So keep in mind that both you and your spouse bring valid viewpoints. I just want to help you relate to each other better when it comes to money.
These are the things that Jeremy has learned to do over the years that have been key in bringing us to financial harmony. (Don’t worry, Nerds, we'll get to the Free Spirits next time!) Here we go…
Tips for the Nerds:
1. Give Your Free Spirit Warning! If my Nerd wants to have any sort of financial discussion with me, he gives me advance notice. He will say something like, “In the next week I would like to have a brief discussion of x, y, and z. Just let me know when you’re ready.” I am a Free Spirit. I need time to prepare my brain and my focus for a boring cerebral conversation that I won’t enjoy will bring us to greater unity. Nerds, I promise you that your Free Spirit will appreciate the warning and you should notice a difference in your conversation when you do have it because of this very respectful approach.
2. Start with the Conclusion!
Notice in #1 that Jeremy says “a brief discussion.” He says it and he means it, because he knows my interest and attention are limited. Likewise, your Free Spirit is probably not interested in the intricate details that you are. I realize that what I’m about to tell you isn’t going to portray myself in a good light (as if things weren’t bad enough with the pillow story before), but I’m going to be honest. In years past, when Jeremy pulled out a spreadsheet, I immediately felt frustration rising up. I knew from our past experience that he was going to spend a minimum of 10 minutes explaining how he came up with all those numbers and then in the last 10 seconds, he’d give me the conclusion of what they meant. I tried being patient, listened to him explain, cognizant that he had probably spent hours on said spreadsheet and the countless tabs it contained. But as he droned on painstakingly tried to make sure I was well informed, my frustration only increased and I just wanted to snap, “Could you get to the point already!?” I may have actually said that a time or two. That didn’t turn out well. Ahem.
So, Nerds, try starting with the conclusion and then ask your beloved if they would like to see the numbers that show how you arrived at that conclusion. This will save you both time and frustration, and you may be surprised to find that we trust you a lot more than you think! When my Nerd gets right to the point, I can ask questions where I have interest or want clarification. But, usually, we’re both happy to just move on. Especially me. :)
3. No Spreadsheets Allowed!
I have a visceral reaction to spreadsheets, as described in #2. Our financial conversations go much better if spreadsheets are avoided entirely. Now in some financial dealings, particularly a budget discussion, some sort of worksheet or spreadsheet might be unavoidable. But!… They can really be minimized by focusing on negotiable categories like eating out and entertainment, not on fixed expenses like your mortgage payment and internet bill. Keep in mind, Nerds, if your Free Spirit knows that you are keeping spreadsheet sharing to an absolute minimum, we will be much more accommodating when you do need to pull one out. Finally, if you really MUST use a spreadsheet, at least use our favorite colors (maybe a favorite sports team’s colors, like the one below). In any case, never ever try to show us multiple tabs within one spreadsheet. That is just many spreadsheets masquerading as one.
4. Don't Be Too Precise!
Nerd, you are most likely a person of great detail, which serves you as a couple very well if you’re the main caretaker of the finances. But your Free Spirit probably just doesn’t share that quality with you, so try to be flexible and remember that there will be months that you as a couple will be under budget in some categories and other times when you might be over. When you’re over, take a deep breath and remain calm. You will probably be tempted to go through that category item by item to determine the culprit… both the purchase itself and the purchaser. But, I would encourage you to ask yourself: is that actually going to help? My guess is no. Now if there is an area where you are consistently going over, I think everyone would agree: either the budget needs to change or the behavior needs to change (but if it’s the latter, keep in mind that it might require a change in behavior from both you and your Free Spirit). We have found that in most cases, the only allowance that needs to be made is flexibility.
To all the Nerds out there I say thank you. Thank you for the efforts you make to put your family in a better financial position. Because of your time commitment to use your talents on behalf of your family, they are most likely better off. And come on… you’re the only one who has candy named after you!
But maybe you’re feeling unappreciated at home when it comes to the family finances. If that’s the case, maybe the way to start changing that is by relating to your spouse differently when it comes to money. Sometimes my Nerd’s best intentions don’t translate because of his approach. I’d encourage you to share this with your Free Spirit, get their feedback on the things that have worked for Jeremy and me, and see what else your Free Spirit might need from you.
Fellow Free Spirits, get ready… I’m coming for you next time! ;)
P.S. If you've missed part of this series, here are a few links to get you caught up: