Duncan and I never really discussed money prior to our wedding. It was agreed that Duncan would continue working full-time as a farmhand, I would look for part-time work, and we would enjoy being on the same level financially as many of our city friends. We assumed having a rent-free home would enable us to 'get ahead' and we could be generous without having to worry that having someone over for a meal could send us down the financial gurgler.
A rude shock loomed on the horizon.
While working as a full-time librarian in 2005-06, I enjoyed having the most money I had ever had in my whole life. Suddenly I could afford gym membership and a decent car....luxuries which had eluded me as a student. When I went part-time in 2007, things continued to be pretty cruisy until Emma got married and moved out and I was left without a housemate for a month. Full rent really hurt. Even when Aimee moved in, my bank account never quite recovered. While I was by no means being reckless with my money, suddenly I NEEDED pay day more than I'd ever needed it since joining the workforce. Having a wedding to pay for didn't help, and suddenly I was constantly needing money from Duncan.
The problem was that even after the wedding both of us struggled to see our money as OURS. We both saw mine as mine and Duncan's as Duncan's. We still had separate bank accounts and I couldn't find work at first. I would go into town and do the shopping, pay bills etc and my account would be in the red. Duncan transferred money from his account to mine but sometimes he would forget. I told him the whole thing was stupid and that we should just get a joint account. He didn't want to, saying that he had too many direct debits coming out of his account and that changing accounts would be a pain. After hearing him make a few too many jokes about women and shopping, I didn't believe his excuses. I assumed he didn't trust me. This whole saga went on until mid 2009 when we finally got a joint account.
While we've always had to watch our money, it was at the start of this year that we hit financial troubles again. There were a few weeks between the end of Duncan's last job until he started this one and during that time we lived off his overtime pay from last harvest. But the move was more costly than we had anticipated. We had to pay the hire fee for the moving truck, we needed a lot of furniture (our house in Buntine was mostly furnished), and I didn't have a job anymore. In early February, the lady who pays the wages for the farm forgot to pay everyone. Duncan's pay ended up being a week late and my stress levels rocketed skyward. I hadn't planned on rushing to look for a job, but now I was scouring the local paper for employment opportunities. We ended up selling my car (which we had planned to do for a while) and now just have the one car and used the money to buy a new bed (and put our old bed in the spare room).
We're still finding it hard going at times, but God has never left us hungry. I have two casual jobs working as an administration officer for two not-for-profit agricultural groups. However, the work is sporadic and I've been sick three times in two months so I haven't been able to work as much as I would like. We realise we will never have as much money as some friends of ours who are engineers or doctors. This does take its toll when we go to Perth and people don't understand how we can't afford to eat out all the time. It's like they assume we're all on the same financial level....but we're not. Recently, we heard from some friends of ours that they had decided to go on a spontaneous holiday interstate. Just because. If Duncan and I want to go interstate, we have to plan a long way ahead and save, save, save.
Sometimes it's hard not to be resentful, but I know I'm just being greedy. I don't want Duncan to think he is an inadequate provider for our family. And I want to be generous, but greed always seems to rear its ugly head. I don't want people to feel sorry for us or give us money....I just want them to realise that although we are all middle-class, we don't earn the $100-150,000/year they earn...nowhere near it. Part of me is afraid to have children because we won't be able to afford all the stuff to get set up - cots, prams etc. But I suppose that people will give us stuff, and there is always Freecycle.
Here are my tips for newlyweds who are facing disagreements about money:
- Have a budget. We are complete hyprocrites here because we don't have one although we've become pretty good at checking the account balance and saying no to each other when one of us wants something we can't afford. There are heaps of online budget-making applications. Just Google it.
- See a financial planner. Some Christians assume that if you see a financial planner, it means you aren't trusting God with your money. Bollocks! One of the ways we can honour God is to use our money wisely and we all need a bit of help sometimes.
- Get a joint bank account. Not only will you save on bank fees, it speaks volumes to your spouse that you trust them.
- Keep a little bit aside for spending (if possible). We have friends who are on tight budgets but keep a little bit aside each to spend on what they want (i.e. a new pair of jeans, a movie ticket). It may help with curbing big impulsive spending.
- Go through your stuff and sell anything you don't want or need. Don't hoard stuff - be ruthless. I still de-hoard and sell stuff on ebay even though I've got more room in this house. Use the money to pay off debt or give to charity.
- Trust God. It's easy to trust yourself when you're financially secure, but when things are tight you're forced to question who your faith is really in.