*Disclaimer: There is NOTHING revolutionary in this article. Only simple advice on being a decent human being, and one of many aspects of maintaining a mutually fulfilling relationship.*
Being broke sucks.
As a 25 year old with a full-time staff position with a major university, I’ll be the first to admit that I have it pretty good. I get paid a living wage, I have excellent benefits, and I accrue sick and annual leave each month.
Although I’ve got it better than a lot of people, I still find myself scraping by each month financially, and left with a desire to be able to put more money toward things I need or want, or stash more into savings. But in the end, most of my monthly income goes toward paying rent, bills and paying off student loans and credit card debt.
With less than $1,000 in credit card debt, I’m not in too bad of shape, however I have over $40,000 in remaining student loan debt. Not only that, but being that Amber and I chose to move to Idaho this past summer we now have the “privilege” of paying Idaho State Income tax coming up this spring, so while the rent is cheaper and we save on other daily living expenses, the savings on everyday living in Idaho will be negligible once tax season rolls around.
We do not have kids, and don’t plan to anytime soon. We both make more than the $15 an hour living wage that has been proposed around the country (and implemented in Seattle), and we still feel like we are struggling to get ahead, so I couldn’t imagine the financial stress, and the amount of debt we would be accumulating, if we did have children. I have a great deal of respect for parents with children making a similar income to what we are making or less. With the struggle that we go through just trying to provide for ourselves and our pets, the need for a living wage for all families, especially families at the poverty level, becomes all the more apparent.
All this accumulates to a lot of stressing about money, as everyone does, and wishing I made more of it. But, for the time being, we have no choice but to make do, be appreciative for what we do have, and more than anything, try to be smart and equitable with our money.
What we’ve done is we’ve developed a simple plan for sharing the costs of living so we can both slowly work at paying off our debts, and hopefully start stashing some money into savings. Of course, when one of us is strapped for cash the other will step up and help the other out. However, as much as possible, we share the costs of living pretty equally.
What we do is we always both have our wallets, and when we go somewhere to eat or go shopping, we almost always use two cards. My card and her’s. Living in the 21st century where debit and credit cards exist has aided this effort dramatically, given that most places allow payment with two cards.
So, for example, when we go out to eat, the vast majority of the time we ask for one bill, and pay with two cards, splitting the bill right down the middle. It didn’t matter if one of us had $15 worth of food and drinks and the other had $20, we split the cost. We were sharing the experience of dining out, and enjoying each other’s company, and we split that final cost.
When we go grocery shopping we do the same thing, splitting the cost down the middle and paying with two separate cards.
Being able to make purchases using two separate cards is the best way we’ve discovered in successfully cost-sharing. That way there is no worry about one of us reimbursing the other, breaking down receipts, and potentially hurting feelings or causing arguments about money. It’s a simple way to split things up and keep both people happy and feeling like things are fair and equitable, while also turning a $50 dinner bill for one person into a much more manageable $25 bill for each.
I feel fortunate to be with someone who believes in both partners contributing equally, and not expecting the other person to always foot the bill (and it’s not always the woman expecting the man to foot the bill, it can go both ways). Amber and I both believe our relationship should be a partnership, and we both have a desire to provide for ourselves independently, as well as helping each other and providing for the household as a whole together.
Being that we are a young couple, this article is geared more toward couples like us. Career-oriented millennials that are not just trying to make ends meet, but trying to progress and move up the proverbial food chain in life, while doing something worthwhile. So if I’m to leave others with some closing advice, it’s this: help each other out, be understanding, and more than anything, share the load. Don’t always expect your partner to foot the bill, even if you know they will. Not only will it mitigate any feelings of resentment that may build, but you will feel better about yourself too, knowing you carried your share of the load.
Obviously, this advice can change slightly depending on the situation. There are stay-at-home mothers and fathers who may not be the bread winner in terms of income, but they carry more than their fair share at home with the kids. There are also those with disabilities, who may not physically have the ability to pay their share, but make up for that in other ways. So ultimately, it comes down to making a concerted effort, communicating with your partner, and everyone putting out the effort and doing their part.
Amber and I are FAR from financial stability, but as a young couple we have established a good foundation for the future, and if we stick with it and continue learning more and working hard in regards to our finances, we will make it there someday.
And in the end, it’s important to remember that although financial stability can be a huge stress relief, money is not the end all be all when it comes to living a fulfilling life.