When my husband and I were getting out of debt, we ate out zero times. No coffees out, no ordering in pizza, no stopping on the way home to grab take-out, special occasions were celebrated at home cooking for ourselves.
Our cash flow plan slowly evolved to include a modest amount of money for the occasional dining experience. Enjoying this little luxury started out as an extremely enjoyable experience. We looked forward to the opportunity to have someone else cook for us and usually involved eating something we don’t typically cook for ourselves.
What started as a lovely experience, eventually created some animosity between us… to be fair, it was more of a silent conflict we were having which only I was participating in.
When we would arrive at the restaurant, I would order water and choose a low-to-mid-priced meal in order to stretch our dollars a little bit further. I figured if we were mindful about our choices, we could probably eat out a second time! On the other hand, my husband would immediately order a drink and an appetizer. Simply by coincidence, he typically ordered one of the two most expensive meals on the menu. He would most likely order a second drink before our entrees arrived and then a glass of wine with the main course. When the bill arrived, it would be very clear he spent at least two, if not three, times what I spent on my dining experience. We have shared money so this would mean that he consumed 3/4 of our restaurant budget and I consumed ¼. This bothered me to no end. While I enjoyed my meal, I felt it was unfair that I never had the opportunity to enjoy as many of our restaurant dollars as they were quickly used up.
At no point did I feel it needed to be dollar-for-dollar in order to be fair. But resentment was building and I knew I needed to do something.
I’m not sure why it took me so long to have the conversation. COMMUNICATION is where the magic happens. Two minutes into the discussion and I already felt lighter (and stupid for not bringing it up sooner!).
First, I was in the conflict alone. He didn’t know anything was wrong, he was just thrilled to have an eating out budget again in our monthly spending plan.
Second, while I was trying to stretch the dollars, he was allowing himself to order what he wanted because he felt like we had already made some pretty big sacrifices getting out of debt. He wanted the opportunity to indulge on having a nice meal out. He had no idea I wanted to eat out a second time.
Third, understanding WHY he was making the decisions he was making and sharing WHY I was making different choices allowed us to open up a conversation on how we wanted to proceed. Neither of us were right (or wrong), we just had different expectations on how we wanted to use the restaurant money.
I strongly encourage open communication with your partner about money. Everything is so much easier (and FUN!) as a team. Identify your money conflicts and open up a dialogue. Welcome the opportunity to learn more about your partners hopes and desires. Grow and learn together. Move forward with a plan that supports and respects the needs of both partners.
Either that or you can do what I did and be pissed off in a fight all by yourself because that sounds like so much fun. (*insert sarcastic face here!*)