Plan for a day, or plan for a life?

Why do we spend so many months and years planning for a day, when really we should be planning for our life? I have written a few blog posts that discuss marriages and weddings. I was shocked after reading this Fast Company article, specifically this quote:

“As the wedding industrial complex has ballooned to unprecedented sizes–wedding costs exceeds the median income in the U.S.”

Are people crazy? Who is spending over the median income to pay for a wedding, and how many years is it taking them to pay off their wedding bills? Are we trying to turn a wedding into this perfect day for ourselves, or all the guests that experience the day with us? Is it more about competing with the Jones’ that make this industry continue to balloon? Whatever happened to going to a church, or a park, or the beach, with some friends and family, saying your vows, and eating some food? Does spending as much as a good portion of a house make the marriage start off in a better way?

A wedding can be beautiful, it can be done in an elegant, classy, and inexpensive way. There are infinite ways to bring two lives and two families together without having to spend so much money. I get concerned that many of these weddings are either sending the parents who might be paying into an extreme amount of debt, effecting their future retirement, or that the couples themselves are going into major debt. Why start a marriage on an unstable financial foundation? Yes, maybe I am completely wrong and most weddings have been saved and paid for, but if wedding payment is anything like how our society lives on a regular basis, than most go on credit cards, only to incur a hefty APR and payments for many, many years to come.

Instead, how about starting a marriage on stable ground? Have the wedding you can afford, pay for it immediately, and continue to live your life accordingly. So I will say again: Why do we spend so many months and years planning for a day, when really we should be planning for our life?

How do you make your money decisions?

Do you talk with your spouse about money? I do, but I know it is not necessarily the norm. I am what you might call a money freak. Even so, I have relaxed over the past year. I am maybe now more of just a fiend rather than a freak. Growing up without many things has made me keenly aware of where I spend my money, and yet, that only matters if Chris and I are on the same page about money.

We were not always on the same page. It is something that has evolved over time. The evolution has happened because we talk. We talk about most purchases. Some of you might say that is a bit over the top, and yes it might be. Regardless of whether it is extreme, it works for us. There is no ill will about what either of us has purchased because we both agreed on it before dropping the credit card. You might ask, “Do you talk about every single purchase?” The answer is no. For the most part we do not talk about the normal everyday purchase, like grocery items, but we do talk about most purchases over $100. It means there is no resentment, and it is easy. It is as simple as sending each other a text if we want to make a larger purchase. If the other is not sure, we wait until we can have a regular conversation.

Why does it work? It works because we have a few rules, and it is grounded on a sense of respect for the other individual and their opinion. We have shared finances, so we believe that we have a shared stake in the decisions on how we spend that shared money. One of the first rules we have is that we do not spend outside our means. If we cannot afford it, we do not make the purchase. It would have to be an emergency for us to spend outside our means. I strongly believe that if you buy only what you can afford, you will have a lot less stress in your life, and if you take that stand you will feel more like you, then living outside of who you are. The result of living within what we can afford, means not living off of our credit cards. Whatever we charge must be paid in full when the bill arrives. It feels more honest and true to who we are, when you can actually pay for your purchase.

This is what works for us. It is in no way a judgement for how others make their money decisions. I found this older LearnVest post about how a couple handles their money decisions. I liked this line:

“Because of our open running dialogue about our finances, we never argue about money, unlike most couples.”

It is true. Honesty with open communication means little to no arguments about money. It does not mean that the conversations are always easy, but it does mean you are connected about how you want to live your life, spend your money, and engage in the world together.

What works for you?

*UPDATE* Wow. I am in a bit of shock. In full transparency, everything I just wrote about apparently happens only 99% of the time. In the time it took me to write this post, my husband strayed from our agreed-upon protocol for the first time in over 10 years and made a large purchase without discussing the final details together first. Although the purchase was made with the best of intentions, he knew better and got an earful from me. No, not because I’m a hard-ass and felt the urge to raise my voice, but because he should have had a simple, open dialogue about it first, come to an agreement, and then dropped the cash. #stilllearningtogether #patienceplease