Budget, Money Management

How Free Spirits And Money Nerds Can Help Each Other Out

Chances are, if you are reading this article, you are the money nerd in your family.  You spend hours thinking about how to fund your retirement.  You balance your checkbook – to the penny.  You create a detailed, down-to-the-last-dollar budget.  You work hard to save money and you are focused on the future.

In my family, I’m the money nerd.  My wife?  She’s the free spirit.  She works very hard at her job and she does a great job as a mommy.  But, she’s not all that interested in the day-to-day management of our finances.  She leaves most of the bill paying and investing to me.

So, how do we coexist and keep things running smoothly?

As the money nerd –

I (try) to remember that it’s our money and not my money.  This can be very hard for the money nerd, because the money nerd really likes to be in control.

I don’t make decisions.  We make decisions.  Sure, I like to run the numbers and create the spreadsheets, but I don’t pull the trigger on any major financial move until we are both comfortable with what we are going to do.

I am not the budget-master.  Here’s how we create our monthly budget.  I enter the data into my favorite budget software – You Need A Budget – and I print out a copy of our preliminary budget.  I hand the budget to my wife and I walk away.  She makes whatever changes she wants to make – and that is our budget.  (When we first started using a budget, it took some time to get on the same page, because we were both used to just spending money, without any guidelines.  But, over time, it gets easier and easier.  Now, we pretty much use the same budget, from month to month, with just a few minor changes.)  The only reason we don’t sit down together and do our budget is that my wife, quite frankly, just isn’t interested in watching me goof around with the numbers!

As the free spirit –

She realizes how much this means to me (and, ultimately, to us). My wife is the greatest.  She knows that I’m doing my best to ensure that we have an awesome future together.  So, she puts up with all of my nerdiness and my need for crossed t’s and dotted i’s.  Sure, she’s pretty much convinced that I’m insane, but she still puts up with me!

She actually participates in the process.  Instead of leaving all of the work – and all of the worry and headache – to me, she contributes to the planning process.

She sticks to the budget.  I’ve know many married couples where one spouse hides spending from another spouse.  By working, together, to create the budget, we avoid the money squabbles that ruin many marriages.  But, the budget doesn’t work unless you actually stick to it.

The money nerd in the family might be the husband or it might be the wife.  And, some families might have two money nerds.  Or, both husband and wife might be free spirits.  But, usually, there’s one money nerd and one free spirit.  If the nerd and the free spirit will work together, a family can make great progress.  The money nerd needs to learn to involve the free spirit in decision making – and the money nerd most avoid, at all cost, becoming the money-dictator.  And, the free spirit can help the money nerd loosen up a bit, and learn to enjoy the present (instead of always worrying about the future!).

Side note:  For the purpose of this article, I’m using the terms money nerd and free spirit in the most positive of lights.  I was trying to find terms that were easy-to-understand, which would also convey a little humor.  And, for those who might be tempted to think that money nerd = boss of the family, then you need to talk to my wife!  My wife is MORE than capable of managing our household finances, but, she knows that I enjoy working with this stuff.  So, she lets me.


7 thoughts on “How Free Spirits And Money Nerds Can Help Each Other Out

  1. I think that in every relationship one person is more nerd-y than the other. So even if to the outside world the husband is a money nerd, if his wife outdoes him on that front, within the couple he’s the free spirit and she’s the nerd.

  2. NCN,

    I completely agree with your thought process but not necessarily your method. My wife and I found YNAB to be a waste of time and a poorly written piece of software. Case in point, check out the website and you’ll find this widely displayed advertisement.

    “On average, a YNAB user pays off $500 in debt and saves $235 in the first 31 days! That is an $835 change in just one month!”

    Do I want to use a software package where they have trouble with addition?

    There are many, many viable alternatives out there. But the most important thing is that people plan before the next month how much income they will have, what their fixed expenses will be, what their variable expenses are expected to be, and what savings they will setaside for future expenses/purchases or known, upcoming intermittent expenses. This can be done on a piece of paper, Excel, Google Spreadsheets, etc for free!

  3. YNAB poorly written and a waste of time? I’ve used YNAB for a year, and it is far superior to any spreadsheet I’ve used as well as Quicken (which I used for 12 years before I found YNAB).

  4. Jae,

    You are entitled to your opinion as I am to mine. I just find it a bit troubling that NCN chooses to use an affiliate link to mention only one budgeting program in an article when there are many free alternatives out there that are far superior. I have a great deal of respect for NCN and his wonderful blog but again I find it troubling.

    Not sure if you have ever tried anything outside of YNAB and Quicken. I have and for the money the free ones are better. I for one would like to see pf bloggers post more reviews of personal finance software that they are not paid to push or receive affiliate compensation.

    By the way, I noticed that YNAB conveniently fixed the saving error I mentioned shortly after it was posted here.

  5. @Michael..
    As soon as you made your post, I contacted YNAB and informed them of the math error. And, yes, there are free alternatives out there, but I’ve been very happy with YNAB. Feel free to use the budget of you choice. No need to be ‘troubled’. 🙂

  6. In my ‘family’ I’m the budget nerd, and my fiancee is the lesser budget nerd. 🙂 He kind of went from budget nerd to free spirit back to budget nerd. If you could see my spreadsheets, you’d realize why I’m the Greater Budget Nerd.

    I’ve also used YNAB. I am in fact using it now. (Apathy mostly) But the more I use it, the less I like it. It also really annoyed me when an update randomly got rid of transfers as an inflow category, screwing up every transfer transaction since I used the program. I had to go back and change each one. Unacceptable. I’ve gone back to Plan A, which is writing my own budget program. I plan on posting and/or selling it (think $5) when it’s done.

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