Steward of the House

wage-slave-small-equal-money-faqThere 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.


5 Comments on “Steward of the House”

  1. I’m a homemaker and a saver, he’s the earner and a spender. So, we’re not the couple you’re talking about. But I’m not sure it matters.

    We have shared finances and we do treat everything as our money. It doesn’t matter which one of us makes the money, we each stick to the budget and we’re each the steward. I think this is where the communication you talked about comes into play.

    Likewise, I think it would be a problem if either of us spent recklessly without considering our financial plan.

  2. I’ve never been a big spender per se, but I did used to be guilty of buying slightly stupid things for the kids. (Boogie Wipes would be a prime example. Yes, they are miraculous, but still stupid to buy.) It was kind of turning point when Mr. FP sold his car, his beloved 07 CRV, and started driving around in my 99 Accord. I think subconsciously, I was more willing to make a bigger effort when I saw him making one, too

    Even now that I’m working part-time, I’m still more our “Steward of the House” (love that wording!). I do know people who find a way to run their home with no steward–that is, with both parents working full-time–but it’s not for me right now! I get too much satisfaction from things like finding a granola bar recipe that everyone likes!

  3. […] written about being the steward of my house. I take that role very seriously. I want the Alchemist, myself, our three goblins, and even the […]

  4. […] have no problem spending a little time touching base with money. I am, after all, the steward of the house. In looking to reduce time and simplify my tasks, I could have gone all the way to a […]

  5. […] believe that being a chatelaine [Editor note: chatelaine is interchangeable with my concept of a steward] is, for real, a 20hrs/week job all by […]

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