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.