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Story: Reconciling Budget Differences

Scott and Tiffany* married at age 23. Scott had just graduated with his Bachelor's degree and starting graduate school, while Tiffany worked full time at an insurance office. Just as it happens to many young couples, it took only a few weeks living under the same roof for them to realize their financial incompatibility.

Here is their story and how they eventually made ends meet.

The problem as newlyweds

Tiffany's perspective: One day Scott called me into the office of our apartment to talk about a budget. I thought a budget was something that involved congress or the president. I had no idea what a personal budget was.

Scott showed me a printout of all of our expenses‚ÄĒeverything from gas and groceries to hair cuts and what he called "fun money," which is cash that we could spend as we wished.

"This is how much income we make each month," Scott explained to me. "And each item in the budget shows how we spend it."

I told him that I needed more fun money. $4 a week was nothing.

"Where should it come from?" he asked.

"I don't know, just add it in," I said.

"Budgets don't work that way."

I got frustrated and left the room.

Scott's perspective: Now that two people are living on one income, I tried to explain to Tiffany that we would need to budget our money very carefully. She doesn't get it at all.

The other day she came home from work and said, "Let's go out to dinner."

"But we went out last week," I said. "We don't have enough money to keep going out to dinner like that."

Then she came home last weekend with some new towels for the bathroom. We didn't have that expense built into the budget, either. If she keeps on spending like this, we'll run out of money before the end of the month.

I like to cook, so when I served her two pieces of bacon in a sandwich, she said she wanted five. I told her we needed to ration our food better if we want to make it until the end of the week. She freaked out and said she wasn't hungry any more.

Tiffany's perspective: Sure, I understand that we don't make a lot of money, but food is a necessity. And why can't we go out to eat once in a while? Scott told me that his family only went out on special occasions. My family went out three times a week.

Scott's perspective: In my family, we went through some really tough times. I remember eating canned hash for a week straight. I never want to relive that time again. I guess I could buy more food at the grocery store, but eating out is so expensive.

Analysis

It's obvious that Scott and Tiffany came from homes with very different financial priorities. Tiffany never managed an allowance, let alone a family budget. Scott, on the other hand, worked since he was very young and paid for most of his own expenses. His difficult times during his childhood left scars that made it difficult to use money for entertainment, or even necessities; in contrast, the excessive spending in Tiffany's family caused her to have an unrealistic view of money and savings.

Solution

Over time Scott and Tiffany worked together to agree on a budget both could live with. They both found creative ways to socialize, such as inviting friends over for potlucks. Dinner out was budgeted so they could go for a special treat once a month; picnicking was another way to "go out."

Besides managing the food bill, they increased the fun money as a reward for Tiffany's labor after getting a raise. She continued to buy a few things for the home, but checked out books at the library on how to decorate for less money. She also shopped at thrift stores or made items herself.

Present Day

Twenty-one years later, Scott and Tiffany have since learned to enjoy each other's differences.

Tiffany's perspective: I'm so glad that I listened to Scott's money-saving ideas. We have never had credit card debt in our entire 21 years of marriage. We have two paid-off vehicles and a manageable house payment. We enjoy going out to dinner once in a while, but embrace the times we can enjoy ourselves without spending money, like when we go on a bike ride together or sit at the park and visit without the kids. We also have plenty of food in the pantry that Scott buys on sale.

Scott's perspective: Tiffany has kept me from making money too important. I have watched God provide all of the things we need. We use our money for living, ministry and for fun. I'm also thankful that Tiffany understands the importance of staying debt free. (And I'm happy to say I've yet to eat canned hash!)

She's also found creative ways to make money on the side as a stay at home mom. I love how savvy she's become shopping the sales and negotiating for lower prices for household and clothing items. We enjoy much needed vacations, and I've become less frugal when I bring home the bacon.

*Names Changed

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