He laughed when I bought my clothes with loose change.
But when I was able to save up enough to comfortably be a full-time musican in my early 20s? My husband started to understand why I was “weird” with money.
Small changes can add up to big savings over several years. The result of this new realization? We were both going to learn how to design our dream life using frugality.
Was it possible for us? If so, in what amount of time? Most importantly – why?
The Early Days
I met my husband at 20 years old while driving a 1993 Ford Escort, living in a 330 square foot studio apartment, and using a lid as a plate. Not surprisingly, he inaccurately judged me as a broke artist.
I only bought clothing at used stores with loose change collected from my tip jar. This was one of many eccentric habits I used to control my finances.
I certainly didn’t tell him about my healthy bank account for at least another year. He knew I didn’t seem to struggle with money or complain about it. On the other hand, I slowly figured out he was living paycheck to paycheck even though he had worked with some “big names” in the music industry.
Like a lot of couples early in their relationship, we didn’t talk about money or dive into each other’s money history or money philosophies. We talked about other philosophies (like Nietzsche), our childhoods, and our love of certain musicians (like Neil Young). We had a lot of lovely late-night talks and long drives figuring ourselves out (everything except the money part). Sigh….
After moving in together, we slowly discovered I was a saver – and while he wasn’t a big flashy spender – he certainly wasn’t into managing money. He knew it too but didn’t assess his worth that way (or have many other thoughts about money). He simply met his needs, hovered above debt, loved the idea of leading a simple life, and – to me – seemed to lack efficiency and growth towards any money goals.
Prizing self-sufficiency, I never planned to get married anyway and certainly never expected a man to take care of me financially. Meeting a gentle, wise, talented, and thoughtful man with a heart of gold (who also knew the song) was enough for me at the time.
How Long Can That Last?
Luckily for our future relationship, an odd thing started to happen – he started to simplify his life and gravitate towards minimalism philosophies. He found out what happiness meant to him (with or without money). This naturally led to spending less. His slow accumulation of financial knowledge was independent. I was simply glad he left me alone regarding my utter lack of house-keeping and baking skills.
In this world of androgyny, we both eventually wondered what we could offer the relationship – morphing it from young love into somewhat of a business affair oriented around music, creative living, and a solid future together. Being equals mattered to him, so we both assessed our skills. In order to not have resentment build up along the lines of unequal contribution, we worked hard to find out what we could both offer our loving living arrangement.
Houses are for Schmucks!
It is interesting to note we had no desire for a house in our early twenties. We had made this decision according to recent financial research about investment returns and how buying a house is not always wise. We also swore off buying a house in order to keep our lives simple. I was the most against purchasing one because I wanted to keep our expenses low as I pursued music full-time.
He had grown up remodeling homes, however, and had even remodeled a couple more spaces with a music friend in Minneapolis as a young adult.
We sensed untapped potential.
Remodeling houses was a skill set of his.
I remember having a discussion about his skillset, wondering where to go next as a couple, and then taking a walk a few days later with our dog in a different location than usual. Randomly walking up a street near a friend’s place, we came across a foreclosed home. This is rare in our town and incredibly rare for the nice neighborhood it was in (except the rental next door was quite scary). I had no time to think hard about the decision, and this became key to making it happen.
Two days later? We bought it.
Our jobs at the time? Full-time musician and gardener (yep).
Our age? Mid-twenties.
Over the next two years, we put money and time into fixing it up. We waited for the scary rental next door to be fixed up as well. Two and half years after buying it, we sold the formerly foreclosed home for far more than we bought it for in order to take on another big project (our current home). We left that house and neighborhood looking better and we are incredibly proud.
Main Lesson? Be Flexible
Through a twist of fate and flexible mindsets, we now feel like equals on the financial front (and otherwise). We also both surprisingly love being homeowners. We find it humorous how we went from never wanting a home to building a life together through a mutual passion for real estate. Don’t get us wrong though, it hasn’t always been easy street. And there are plenty of reasons to be cautious about real estate.
How we became parents went down in an eerily similar manner to how we bought houses (extreme views bouncing from one end to the other in our echo chamber permeated occasionally by articles from the internet).
This post started with a lesson he learned about how small habits add up over time to make an enormous impact. I may have been the most annoying person in line buying my clothes with loose change, but clothing was a weakness of mine, and I found a system to keep me in check.
Hopefully, by now, I’ve learned my lesson about how we each find our path to money management in a unique way, we can’t badger other people about our views (even when we are excited), and we have to be open-minded – especially regarding what our partners can contribute to the family equation.