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Financial Lessons From My Fiancé

Couple MoneyRounding out this series, I thought I’d add some financial lessons I’ve learned from my fiancé. For previous installments, see what I’ve learned from my mother and my father.

My fiancé had a very different upbringing than I did. My father was a salaried professional who recently retired from the job he’d held for my entire life. My mother was a stay-at-home mom for most of my childhood. They’ve been happily married (and living in the same house) for 35 years.

My fiancé’s parents on the other hand had separated a couple times throughout his childhood before finally getting a divorce not too long ago. His father moved his family around the country buying up businesses trying to turn a profit. As my fiancé puts it, it’s not that he was unsuccessful making a profitable business, it’s that he got greedy and would cut corners so he could pocket more money, over-expand the businesses, and turn down offers from buyers because he was holding out for more. He ended up selling most of his businesses for about what he bought them for in the first place, and had to take a loss on a few of them. At one point when his parents were separated, my fiancé lived with his mother on food stamps. This is all to say that my fiancé had a radically different childhood than I had.

With these vastly different backgrounds, it’s no surprise we have different views of money. To put it bluntly, I have no idea how to survive on next to nothing and he does. I’ve always taken quite a lot for granted, and he’s really schooled me on some things. While my parents taught me many wise things about managing money, there were some very simple aspects that I didn’t manage to learn from them. Not because they didn’t set a great example, but because they didn’t stress certain things as much as others, and many of the really basic things slipped under my radar.

cars can run for a long, long time

I don’t know anything about cars. All I know is that I don’t care much what my car looks like, as long as it gets me where I need to go. My parents never bother to fix cosmetic damage on their cars, so I too ignore cosmetic damage. The problem is, I seem to have developed this sense that you don’t need to take care of old cars at all. While it’s perfectly fine that I don’t care about scratches and dents, I do need to care that the car is functioning properly. I had this horribly misinformed attitude of, “oh yea, I know my car vibrates at high speeds, it’s just old.”

My fiancé on the other hand knows all about taking care of old cars. He used to work in management for a cab company, so he knows what it takes to keep a car running for decades. He was finally able to convince me that my car being 14 years old was not an excuse for me to ignore problems. The car could keep running for several more years if I just got a few things fixed. Unfortunately the car was rear ended and totaled a couple short months after getting it fixed. D’oh! But now I have a new car and thanks to my fiancé I will be taking excellent care of it for many, many years.

remember what things cost

Before I met my fiancé, a trip to the grocery store meant browsing through the aisles picking up whatever struck my fancy. I looked at how much it cost and didn’t buy things that were insanely expensive, but for the most part, I bought whatever I felt like eating. Then I went shopping with my fiancé and heard something I’d never heard before. He would look at a package of meat, for instance, and say, “wow, this is $2/pound more than it was two weeks ago!” This was not information I stored in my brain previously. A shopping trip was an isolated occurrence, and how much things cost two weeks ago had no bearing on what I would buy on a given day.

Thanks to my fiancé, I now have a good idea of how much my frequent purchases cost, so I can buy food when it’s at its cheapest. I no longer buy brussels sprouts just because I want brussels sprouts with dinner that night. I buy them if I want them and they’re priced reasonably. If they cost more than usual, I’ll pass them over and look for another vegetable that’s priced better.

look to friends first

When you have money and you need something done, you hire someone to do it. When you’re short on money and you need something done, you look to your friends for expertise. If you have a friend who’s a plumber, he may be happy to give you a hand with a leaky pipe at a reduced rate or in exchange for your help with something he needs. Most of my fiancé’s friends had a similar upbringing to him in terms of money, and they have an amazing loyalty to each other. It’s an understanding that when one of them needs help, they give it. And in return, they know that when they need help, their friend will return the favor.

When all else is equal, my fiancé will always choose to bring his business to a friend rather than a stranger. And when a friend isn’t an option, he builds a sort of friendship with the business owner or manager. The result is that for practically anything that we could possibly need, my fiancé has a go-to person who he has known for years, who likes my fiancé for his friendship and/or repeat business, and therefore gives us a great deal. In return, my fiancé recommends their business to others. Thanks to my fiancé’s “friends first” attitude, we catered our engagement party with enough delicious food to feed a small army at a huge discount, and hopefully sent the restaurant many new customers.

Did your family have a different relationship with money than your partner’s family? What have you learned from your partner thanks to his/her different upbringing?

22 Responses to Financial Lessons From My Fiancé

  1. I really have enjoyed this series. It is cool to see what you learned from each person and how you applied it. Who will you learn from next?

    • Gen Y Finance Journey

      Thanks, Grayson. I haven’t planned on another one for the series, but I’ll give it some thought. I don’t know about a full post per person, but I’m sure I could think of one thing I’ve learned each from several people I’ve encountered throughout life.

  2. This is a really neat idea. I learned different lesson from my parents, friends, and co-worker. Every one has a different relationship with money.

    • Gen Y Finance Journey

      You can learn valuable lessons from everyone! This was a great exercise for me because I got to really stop and think about where my beliefs came from and how I’ve grown and evolved over the years. (I also got to make a few people in my life tear up reading about the positive influence they had on me, so that was a nice bonus.)

  3. My husband and I learned a lot about money together. My husband didn’t have any because he was a poor student when we met. I didn’t really know a lot about money either. However, we both wanted to succeed financially so we read books and educated ourselves somewhat.

  4. It sounds like you guys compliment each other well. Holly and I are much the same way. Although we have similar views on money, our personalities are completely different. She helps me where I fall short and vice versa. We make a great team, and it sounds like you do too :)

    • Gen Y Finance Journey

      Well that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Where you’re strong you help your partner and where she’s strong she helps you. You can be different as can be so long as you work together well.

  5. I don’t know if it was specifically due to how much things cost but I always learned how to take good care of our family possessions, be it our house, car, and any items in the house. My father would buy a brand new car and then our family would drive it for 13 years. When it was time to trade it in it still looked new. That is how I take care of my things as well. A car and home can last a long time with care and proper maintenance both for important things as well as dents and scratches.

    • Gen Y Finance Journey

      My family has never really thought about trade in value when it comes to cars because we don’t usually end up trading them in. With the exception of one car they sold and two that they gave to their children, my parents have always driven cars until they die, and then given them to charity.

  6. We both have a fairly similar take on money and how we approach it, which has made it fairly easy to make decisions that are money related. We both have ambitious goals for what we want in life (i.e. enough in the bank where we don’t have to worry, a nice house for our family, a cabin later in life, etc.) so we are both understanding and both put in a full effort towards saving money and making money.

    • Gen Y Finance Journey

      It’s great to be on the same page. I couldn’t imagine marrying someone who spent money left and right with no regard for the future. Fortunately my fiance and I both already went through that phase before we met each other!

  7. Great post. My wife and I have been able to learn things from the other in terms of finances and I think that it’s helped us become more well rounded and stronger financially. Her parents are much wiser with their money than mine were and that has definitely impacted us to make better decisions.

  8. He’s right about the cars! Often it’s not as expensive to fix up an old car either, especially if you’re handy with a spanner and get stuff done early.
    Many times if you leave a worn part for too long, it affects the other parts it’s onnected too in a bad way and then you might have to replace those too.

    • Gen Y Finance Journey

      That’s exactly what happened to my old car. I ignored a worn part for so long that by the time my fiance finally convinced me to get the car fixed, the bill was $3000 thanks to all the other wear! The real killer was the tires. I had gotten new tires not too long before, but all the worn parts were causing my car to run in such a way that the tires wore out unevenly and very quickly, so they needed to be replaced. I will definitely be taking better care of my cars in the future!

  9. It’s amazing how our upbringings affect our financial views. I know of a few friends who’s parents grew up with nothing. When their parents made good money they felt as if they should give their children everything and anything that they wanted. The downside was that my friends now have a hard time saying no to themselves.

    • Gen Y Finance Journey

      Right, there are a lot of factors that can influence your views on money and it can take a long time to sort out all of the beliefs that have become a part of you and figure out where they came from. Two sets of parents can even behave similarly but have children that respond in different ways to the same behavior. In the end, we can all think for ourselves and should try to understand where our beliefs come from and find the best path for ourselves.

  10. I think both families are pretty much spot on when it comes to money oddly enough. They both owned businesses, real estate and are frugal preferring to live the minimalist lifestyle to help save. I’ve learned more hands on from my father in law that will help me to save money and from my dad I learned more about money in general. My mum is a saver as well and loves second hand shops. My parents taught me young about money and how I should save it and not spend more than I should. I think that’s why Mrs.CBB and I get on so well especially when it comes to finance. We have patience and are not in a rush to have the best of everything and certainly don’t care what others have compared to what we have. Great post. Mr.CBB

    • Gen Y Finance Journey

      That’s great that you both had such positive influences and grew up to be financially responsible adults! We need more of you in the world!

  11. I’ve learned so much about what to do (and not do) from watching other people in my family/friends circle. My bf grew up very different then me, so we talk a lot about money and what money means to each of us. With so many marriages ending because of financial problems, I think talking about money (and understanding the feelings behind why we spend and don’t spend) is sooo important.

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