If there’s one thing that J and I have fought about throughout our relationship, it’s money. Money–the lack and/ or abundance of it–is one of the most common relationship stressors. When J and I met, I had a decent salary for a young man. I made 50K/ year training and managing other trainers through Goodlife. When mom got sick, I stepped away from a structured environment for the flexibility (and subsequently lower income) of freelance training. Eventually, I left the fitness field altogether to focus on my writing. You could say that my income line has been a gradually descending slope, though at last I’m starting to climb back up that hill.
Conversely, Justin was just beginning his rise when we met. He worked a variety of horrible jobs: online sales line manager (Lavalife–is that still around?), data security (Shred It), Canada Post sorting manager. I was his biggest cheerleader since I could see how he threw 110% of himself into his work even on a bad day, even if he knew he wasn’t going to be rewarded. I always felt that he should be rewarded since I believe in the concept of fairness even if the world generally laughs at the notion. So while I was sliding down the financial hill, Justin jogged past me on the way to the top. Now, eleven years later, he’s a provincial director in an organization that values culture, philanthropy and kindness–and I couldn’t be happier for him.
Still, we’ve always had arguments about money. From when we were changing jobs, or straining to pay rent in our shitty basement apartment, then mortgages, then bills, then more mortgages and bills. It’s never ending really: the pursuit of financial stability. Money can become this ever-present anxiety, insidious and difficult to treat as a disease, since there’s no quick ‘cure’ short of winning the lottery (which would probably bring with it other issues). We dealt with money discussions when we had to, and never when we should have, which would’ve been before cash flow became an issue.
Well, I’m almost 40 now (J beat me on that race, too!), and we’re about to take on a new mortgage after having paid off our last and already we’re feeling a bit of a pinch. Rather than wait until the mortgage day is looming, I decided to use my newly developed proactivism to make our first budget. It took about 2 months of arguing just to get ourselves on board with the idea, as neither one of us likes to surrender control very easily. But there are a million apps and assistances for this kind of planning. So I picked the best (highest rated) app, fiddled with it, and spent an afternoon entering our projected income and expenses. Then, on our next pay period, we just did it. That’s the secret to anything in life: no hemming or hawing, just doing. Especially in this case, where the quicker you make a decision about managing your finances the happier you’ll be. And while the first week was trying and full of doubt, we have four days to go and we’ve managed to save $1200. I don’t see us spending that money unless there’s a disaster, so that’s money in the bank.
What’s strange is that all of our fears about feeling tight or trapped have instead become feelings of liberation and control, now that we’ve wrangled the beast that is money to our will. I’m a late bloomer for most things in life, and I wish we had mastered the art of budgeting sooner. It’s astonishing to think how $1200 every two weeks for the last year could’ve been over twenty thousand dollars applied to something else. But no crying over spilled milk–and spilled milk costs money! I think it’s another part of my protracted adolescence and Peter Pan syndrome that I never wanted to deal with monetary matters beyond what was required at the time.
I still don’t like the concept of money, or the conflicts it causes. However, I do recognize the worth of it. And while money can’t buy happiness, it can certainly open up opportunities for you to find happiness.
All my love,
P.S. Abba will be performing a worldwide live holographic concert in 2019. I’ll be saving some money for that!