There are a variety of ways a partnership can have friction about money. I’m not going to talk about all of them, and especially not all of the solutions, though judgment free communication about individual and shared priorities will typically allow any couple to work through the problem. No, instead I’m going to talk about one particular type of partnership friction that, in all honesty, mystifies me. It’s the situation where one partner is the primary (or sole) earner, but the non-earning partner is the “spendy” one of the two.
I see this situation time and again. I see it on the forums I frequent. I saw it a ton among the stay-at-home parents when we still sent our goblins to private school. As a frugal person, I won’t defend a spendy spouse regardless of whether they are the earner or not, but something about wasting money when the other partner is the earner really runs core to my values. Clearly I’m a fan of having one partner focus on offense and one partner focus on defense, but that’s just it: you need defense!
The homemaker must be a steward of the family’s finances. A kingdom could have riches beyond measure but ruin itself with poor stewardship. Another kingdom could be poor but secure, given sufficient stewardship.
If you’re a homemaker like myself, you owe it to your partner to be a virtuous* steward. Every dollar you spend on a regular monthly basis requires $300 more to fund in perpetuity. Do you want the latte now or a lifetime of freedom years earlier? What do you love – your partner or your possessions?
The past year has taught me I love being a steward, and while I find accepting praise rather difficult, I’m told I’m rather good at it. I can’t claim success until we reach FI, but lifestyle design and rescripting is an incredibly engaging field of interest. Saving absolutely every penny isn’t the point. The complexity of the cheapskate’s life is just as bad – or perhaps worse – than the servitude of the wage slave. True freedom is elegant, beautiful in its minimalist lines and enduring appeal.
The earning partner shouldn’t have all the power in the relationship. A partnership is not a dictatorship. If you chafe at a section of your budget, try and come to an agreement about priorities. But realize your priorities always come at a price. Therefore, a certain deference should be called for.
I still earn ~25% of our combined income, so I know my perspective is slightly colored by the fact that I still have skin in the game. But even though our plan has me earning my freedom before the Alchemist, we’re both incredibly aware of the fact that every hour you work before reaching financial independence, you are at some measure a slave. White collar or blue collar, it’s still a collar.
*This is a powerful concept if you think of virtue in the original Latin sense of virtu – strength, especially strength of character. Or to borrow MMM’s term: badassity.
I’ve been slowly making my way through The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People at the pace of a few pages every week or so. It’s dense, potent stuff that I’m only in the mood to absorb occasionally. I’m only just starting Habit 3, but one concept I really, really like in the book is the idea of having “scripts”.
Script is a fancy term for a habit (in normal parlance, not the eponymous Habits). They’re how we act, how we talk; most importantly, how we respond to situations when on auto-pilot. The conventional wisdom about habits is that they’re hard to change. That’s true, and replacing ‘habit’ with ‘script’ doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. But, at least for me, I think it does. A script is something you can write. You’ve inherited a lot of programming via genetics, upbringing, environment, social influences, etc. But YOU can pull up the script and tweak it. Edit it. Reprogram yourself.
Being pretty sick on and off for the last two weeks has had me reflecting on how my scripts have changed. As little as 6 months ago, if I was as sick as I’ve been, I would have forgotten about baking bread and resorted to tasteless, spongy store bread. Now, even when I was on the cusp of vomiting, the idea of resorting to store bread horrified me. It was NOT an option. There was one day last week I was laid up in bed most of the day, except getting out of bed to handle the next step of the baking process.
Yesterday and today I haven’t been feeling nearly so awful, but not exactly great. I’ve enjoyed making a batch of granola, a pumpkin pie with puree that’s been thawed for quite some time and I would hate to spoil, more bread, and started a couple experimental batches of extracts. These have become activities I not only like to do, but they’re so programmed into me that I can functionally perform even when ill.
Frugal scripts like this can have various motivations. One popular motivation is saving money. We have, in MMM parlance, “hair on fire” debt – non-mortgage debt in excess of $30K, and our mortgage’s rate is pretty fiery as well. But as laudable as money-saving matters like this are in our situation, it’s sub-optimal in the grand scheme of things if an external factor is your true motivation. My mind has been clear enough to reflect that pinching pennies isn’t my primary motivation. My motivation flows from a core, internal principle of desired self-sufficiency.
For those (like me) who have peanut allergies* or who want a different taste, I’ve really come to like alternative nut butters. The most commonly available pre-made butter is almond butter, but I find the texture of commercial almond butter leaves a lot to be desired. Different brands have different tastes, many of them actually quite off-putting. Maybe you’ll find my recipe off-putting yourself, but after a few months of tweaking I’ve got something I’m quite happy to share.
Note: homemade nut butters are more prone to rancidity than commercial ones. I store this in half-pint jars, the active one in the fridge, the extra portions (depending on batch size) in the freezer. The olive oil added to the mixture helps keep this nice and spreadable even when refrigerated – another plus versus commercial butters, which are impossible to spread when cold.
- 1 cup whole almonds
- 1 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup flaxseed meal
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tsp sea salt, or to taste (I like it salty but even half this amount is enough to enhance flavor)
- Toast the almonds on a baking sheet at 350F for 15 minutes
- Add the toasted almonds (no need to let them cool) and remaining ingredients to a food processor or high-powered blender. (From what I’ve read, unless you have a super blender like a Vitamix, a food processor is your better bet. I have a $40 Hamilton Beach model that handles this task just fine.)
- Process on low speed until butter reaches desired consistency, scraping sides of the bowl as necessary. With my machine it takes 5-10 minutes.
- Enjoy it warm. Store in refrigerator for 1-2 weeks, or freezer for several months.
*Luckily mine isn’t severe, but when I was on an elimination diet years ago to understand my chronic health issues, peanuts are DEFINITELY a trigger for bad things in my system (mainly sinus congestion).