On Friday night, we had a movie night with our kids, which has become our weekly tradition. We had a lot of fun with them, but both Chris and I were ready when they went down for the night. We each had long work weeks full of stress and all the unpleasantness that makes work life annoying and frustrating, and we were looking forward to unwinding this week.
Which was why it was his most brilliant moment as my husband when Chris dug out his old Nintendo from the guest bedroom closet and set it up in our living room at 10:00pm. We spent the next few hours sitting there, playing Mario, laughing, and just generally acting like people who didn’t have a care in the world. It was everything we needed after a long week, and I was so thankful that I had a husband who was my happy place in the middle of life’s stresses.
And then Sunday rolled around and Chris and I got into a texting fighting about money.
Here’s what happened:
We have been doing pretty good with our money lately. We paid off the last of our credit cards about six months ago, and have been enjoying some flexibility in our paychecks for the first time in, like, ever. It’s been a good place.
And let me stop right here and say that Chris and I use a family budget, so please don’t leave me 1,000 annoying comments about how to handle our money. We are just fine. Our financial stress comes not necessarily from debt, but from communicating about our money.
This weekend was a perfect example.
Chris pays our bills and handles our day-to-day finances, and I am very grateful for that. It is such a huge household responsibility, though, that I try not to get on to him too often about daily money management things. How he does it works for our family, and I am comfortable about how we decide to spend our money.
What I am not comfortable with is how Chris communicates about money, but I have never been able to put my finger on what the problem is, really. We check in about our budget and spending several times a week and sit down to really budget about once a month (or so). So, you would think we would be communicating often and well about our money by now.
But you would be wrong.
Case and point: On Saturday afternoon while we were our running errands with the whole family, Chris and I talked about how we were doing financially since we have some larger ticket items coming up that we have been saving for. Chris said we were doing really good. I asked about Christmas shopping coming up, and he said that I could just keep doing like I have been doing (which is buying one or two gifts a week) or maybe even increase it a little, if I needed.
“We’re doing good,” he said. “I’m really proud of us.”
So, Sunday, I went Christmas shopping with my mom and the kids. I didn’t spend any more than I would NORMALLY spend during an afternoon of early Christmas shopping. I am not irresponsible. I know my limits. And Chris said we were doing good. Shop on!
Apparently, I was really wrong. Because Chris’s response on the phone with me as I drove home was, “ARE YOU A CHILD?!?! I can’t have one conversation without you going crazy like a kid in a candy store?!?!”
A. I am not a child. Thanks.
B. I made no candy store purchases.
C. YOU SAID WE WERE DOING GOOD!
As I fumed on my way home, I had a huge realization. Chris and I communicate differently about money. My “we’re doing good” and his “we’re doing good” mean two completely different things. We need to talk in dollar figures. I need to hear from him, “We have X amount of money to spend this week.”
So, maybe I am like a kid. Maybe I do need an allowance, or at least a NUMBER to work with. Because phrases like, “We’re good,” or “Go easy this week,” or “QUIT BUYING THINGS!” just don’t register the same in my head as they do in Chris’s. And it’s not that I maliciously go out and spend exorbitant amounts of money. I am a coupon-clipping, deal-hunting, thrifty working mom. I know what our limits are and I stay within them. But when we talk in general terms that don’t set hard limits, then I don’t know where the line is that I’m not supposed to cross.
And that’s when I get yelled at for buying only the most adorable hair bows that have ever been made to put in Gracie’s Christmas stocking.
We’ve been married for almost ten years. TEN YEARS. For ten years, I have been sharing money, bank accounts, and adult responsibilities with my husband. You’d think we speak the same language by now, but I guess not.
In any case, I’m taking the amount I got in trouble for spending today out of Chris’s Christmas list.
Take THAT, Scrooge!