Odd Couple

Nicholas Clements  |  December 5, 2017

THEY SAY OPPOSITES ATTRACT. In many ways, this is true of my husband and me. When we met, I was very frugal. My husband was on the other end of the spending spectrum. But we’re still together 21 years later—and we have managed to make this work in a way that’s been good for both of us.

We both well remember that first visit to the grocery store. Before we moved in together, I would go down the aisles with coupons in hand, looking for the best bargains to be had. My goal was to exit the store as quickly as possible with only the items on my list.

On my first visit with my future husband, however, shopping for sale items wasn’t necessarily on the agenda. The perusal of the shelves struck me as painstakingly slow. My husband enjoyed the journey down each aisle, plucking items off the shelves, regardless of cost. He especially enjoyed the hunt for new products. It became clear, after a few joint visits to the grocery store, that it was best for me to stay home.

Fast forward to two decades later, and you will see how we have both changed. There was never a time when we sat down together to discuss money management. It just evolved over time. Nor was there ever a confrontation. We were disappointed with one another, him toward me for not wanting to spend the money on something I really wanted, and me toward him for coming home with yet another piece of art pottery. Now that we are in the third decade of our relationship and we have moderated our spending habits, combining finances would be fine. But it was clear that doing this at the beginning, as we settled down to living together, would probably not have been a wise move.

My purse strings have loosened over time, especially in recent years. I have noted in earlier blogs that, while I remain reluctant to buy material goods, I increasingly find happiness in using my money for experiences enjoyed with family and friends, such as dinners out and travels through Mexico. In addition, I am more inclined to spend on myself. Cycling is a passion and I don’t have much hesitation in buying what I need to enjoy the sport. Meanwhile, my husband has reined in his spending. New pieces of art pottery no longer magically appear on the walls or shelves. He has now managed to build a retirement nest egg that, along with Social Security and his pension plan, should ensure he can sustain his current spending habits for the rest of his life.

I recall a moment a few years ago when I was visiting my in-laws. While I was resting one afternoon, my father-in-law came into the room. I could see that something was on his mind. He proceeded to thank me for helping his son better manage his money. It was true, I had encouraged him to control his spending and put away money for retirement. But for the most part, we both learned to manage our money better simply by watching the other.

Nicholas Clements is one of Jonathan’s older brothers. He is retired and lives just outside Washington, DC. His previous blogs include Hunting for Happiness and Help Wanted. Follow him on Twitter @MDScaper.

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