This is the first post in a series called Combining Finances.
In just over four months, I am getting married. One of the many challenges that will arise at that point will be the process of combining my bank account with my fiance's. It's one of many huge steps that we will be taking as we seek to intertwine our lives. This series of articles will be a look back over our relationship and how we dealt with our independent and collective finances.
There's no better place to start than at the beginning. When Ashley and I started developing our friendship, it was natural that we got to know how the other person was with their money. The first time that I met Ashley, she invited me over to her apartment, where she lived with a "revolving door" of roommates and guests. It was a very open and inviting apartment, one that included a regular offering of food. One time we went out to a local bar with a couple of other friends, and Ashley offered to pay for my food and my drink, simply saying, "you can get it next time". Ashley was generous with her money, even though she didn't have very much herself.
On the other hand, I came from a more frugal background. I knew how much money I had, and that I had to conserve it for the rest of the year. Therefore, if I was to go out for an evening, that was fine, I just couldn't buy very much - if anything at all. I had no shame in going to a restaurant and not getting anything, and I didn't feel bad if the tip I left was rather small.
Ashley lived in a two bedroom apartment with one other person. She understood that she could not live in a dorm type situation, because she was beyond sharing a room with another person. She wasn't comfortable with that, and therefore was willing to pay the extra money for the extra room.
I lived in a one bedroom apartment with two other guys. The inconvenience of a lack of space, privacy, and freedom came from a desire to save money - not necessarily enjoy where I was living.
So as Ashley and I developed a friendship, Ashley was often willing to pay for things that I would otherwise hesitate on. Should we grab some blizzards from Dairy Queen? I would love to have one, but didn't want to pay for one. Ashley would love one as well, but would want to buy one alone, so she would pay for my blizzard as well. If Ashley knew that I liked something, like a cheese bun from Superstore, then she would pick one up for me while she was there, simply because she knew that I would enjoy it - regardless of the cost.
This definitely developed a bit of a tension in our friendship, as she would often be willing to give, and I would be willing to take. She was expecting a balanced relationship, where I would also offer to take on the cost part of the time, but I rarely would. My priority was saving money, her priority was relationships.
At this time, even before we began a relationship, I asked myself if I would be willing to invest in a relationship with a person that had different financial priorities than me. Would I be willing to compromise, or change my priorities for the sake of the relationship?
One thing that I've learned over the past year and a half is that we aren't going to change the other person. Ashley probably thought that she would get me to loosen up a little bit, and I thought that I would teach her how to be cheap. Neither of these things has happened. We have definitely come to compromise on a lot of things, but we still have our backgrounds and our own ways of looking at money. Looking back, our friendship was a perfect time to get to know each other, a time where we could watch and learn without being emotionally invested. It allowed me to grow in understanding for Ashley's perspective. Even though we had different views on money, we both agreed that our relationship was worth more than our fiancial priorities, and that set the foundation for future discussion on the subject.
Coming up next time: The start of the dating relationship