The Hoopers are currently a one-income household; This might mean something a little different to everyone, but for us that means only one of us has a solid, reliable income. His income pays our bills, our debt, and is our extra padding. Any money that I make from Tastefully Simple really sort-of maintains and circulates within itself.
Living on one income as a married couple without children may seem like it is easy, and I’m sure that it is certainly more of a “walk in the park” than my single-income friends who do have children. However, there have been a lot of uncomfortable moments in our marriage that really boil down to our discomfort with our income. For example …
– When one of the two of us buys something frivolous, we feel a lot of guilt and shame.
– I constantly feel a cultural pressure to get a job, yet blame that pressure on Alex.
– We haven’t been able to celebrate and do fun things with family and friends like we used to, which causes a lot of tension.
Every two weeks, when Alex gets a paycheck, we are re-budgeting and re-prioritizing. I will say, with confidence, that Alex and I have a good eye on our income and expenses. He is logical and practical with our cash flow, and I have become a lot more critical when grocery shopping. This leads me into the best list I could come up with of ways to love your spouse in the midst of limited finances:
1. Communicate about your budget regularly.
So if you aren’t here–if you aren’t communicating constantly with your spouse about your budget–then you are already in deep water. It will take a lot of time and vulnerability to come together and discuss what your weaknesses are, versus what your goals are. Alex and I have had to point out to each other some of the serious mistakes we make with our non-flexible income (one of us loves fresh, new comic books, and the other loves that regular stop at Dunkin Donuts for an iced coffee). It doesn’t ever get easier to admit fault, or to rebuke one another in love; however, it becomes more normalized and more expected if you practice it often.
Here’s where I think you can start: Over dinner tonight, ask one another what your goals are with your income. When do you want your loans paid off? When do you want that car paid off? Should you be saving a certain amount every month? What would you be saving it for? A vacation? A baby? New furniture? Once you’ve established some goals that you are both on the same page about, then reach a point of boldness and vulnerability where you admit fault and seek forgiveness for any habits you may have that impede those goals for one another. If one of you really wants a baby, but the other one literally cannot resist Amazon lightning deals, then your marriage will suffer for far too long.
Alex and I use Mint.com to keep track of all of our in’s and out’s. I highly recommend it; you connect it to your bank accounts and it automatically categorizes your spending (restaurants, gas, home goods, etc.) Plus, you can set it up to remind you about bills and other scheduled expenditures. It has made not just budgeting, but talking about budgeting so much simpler. At the end of the month, we are able to look back and see where we overspent based on the categories.
2. Get creative about dating each other.
If you haven’t heard it already, I’d be surprised… but I’ll tell you anyway: you need to date your spouse. What blossomed your love in the first place was doing things together that were special to you as a couple. Alex and I went to a lot of concerts and hockey games as a dating couple, and those are two things we really don’t do anymore because of the cost. Usually, dates now will consist of dinner, and a movie if we are feeling crazy. So, long story short, this is something we are still working on.
Eating dinner at home together is not a date. You can do that multiple times a week if you tried, so eating dinner together really shouldn’t be special enough to consider a date-night. Determine whether once a week, or once a month is what your marriage needs to go out and experience something new together. We like to check Groupon and Living Social for discounted, fun ideas for date nights. For example, we recently bought tickets for a local drive-in theater where we can bring our own food and drinks, relax and watch two new movies back-to-back.
I also recently pinned a great resource from Six Sisters Stuff about stay-at-home date ideas. The difference between these and merely having dinner together at home is that these ideas will require you use a little bit of creativity. Some of them are real cheesy, but they could be fun! Another good frugal-date list comes from Popsugar, and this list is organized by season, so that you can let the weather determine your activity.
3. Get creative with gift-giving.
If you’ve been married for any amount of time, then you’ve probably asked each other “do we need to buy gifts for each other?” around Christmas, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, and anniversaries. It is so important to be critical about the gifts you buy one another; are you buying things you really want or need, or are you buying a gift merely out of obligation?
Let me give you an example: I have wanted an 80 oz. Keurig Coffee Brewer for a while now. We used to have a Keurig, but it was a single-serve Mr. Coffee (like, you had to refill the water chamber with every single cup you made). So, we replaced that with a cheap, classic coffee pot. But now, my only option is to make a whole pot or nothing at all to make the effort worth while. We cannot justify purchasing the Keurig (a ‘want,’ not a ‘need’) right now because we are still eating the cost of vacation. But, since we currently have a way to make coffee, this would make the Keurig a realistic birthday or anniversary gift.
But, in order for us to know how to narrow down these gift ideas, we have to communicate about our financial goals. Other than that, your gifts to one another should really be focused on experiences, not material things.
4. Your everyday expenditures should exist to support one another.
Okay, you might be thinking “how does my stop at Dunkin Donuts help my spouse at all?” Well, if an iced coffee is what you need to get you through a couple of hours of grocery shopping and laundry, then perhaps your spouse will support you in that decision. Alex and I are so financially limited right now that, even for those small purchases, I tell him whenever I am about to make those decisions. For some of you, that might not be necessary, but it sure is a humbling practice.
Okay, now think about your grocery store trips; are you buying groceries that are healthy, wholesome, and supportive of your bodies? Another expense that we are regularly intentional with keeping on our shopping list is gifts for loved ones, and groceries that will feed people we have over for dinner. We have a goal, as a married couple, to also love our neighbors well, and sometimes we have to plan for that in our budget.
What are your financial goals in your marriage? What changes have you been trying to make in order to meet those goals? What other ways can you love your spouse well on a budget?