Fellow personal finance writer Henry from Binary Dollar IM’d me Sunday night while I was working on the Carnival of Personal Finance to ask my opinion of something. First, though, I’ll mention that Henry authorized me to use his name in this post. He actually just posted today about “Agreeing on finances before you get married“.
Henry and his fiancée are planning their new life together, and he asked my advice on how much to budget for furniture for a new home. I had to ask for some clarification, and ultimately we settled on a 4 BR home (I’m assuming the home isn’t purchased yet). Two of the rooms would be offices, one would be the master BR and one would be a guest BR. Henry started off with the guess of $10,000 to furnish a whole house.
New vs Used?
But then I asked “new vs used furniture”? Furnishing a new home (2 offices, 2 bedrooms, dining room, living room, accessories, etc.) is quite difficult on a $10k budget if you want nice, new furniture. However, I suggested trying to get most of the furniture used on Craigslist. Why? Because as soon as you buy a $1500 couch, you can only sell it used for $500. You could try for more, but good luck! New furniture depreciation is as bad or worse than new car depreciation!
Battle of the Minds
But then Henry mentioned that his fiancée wants all new furniture while he’s fine living like a college student (the last part was my words, but he agreed). I mentioned that’s probably what she is worried about, which is why she’s insisting on new stuff. I guessed that she’s worried the used stuff he wants is college student quality, not “real world, grown up stuff”. He agreed.
The Art of Negotiation
So I suggested the following negotiation tactic to Henry. It’s actually a modification of an idea I got from My Big Fat Greek Wedding years ago:
Most people won’t agree to something unless they have sufficient information (although in the personal finance world, this may not hold true). Ultimately, they want to feel like the decision came from them, not from someone else. They don’t want to feel forced into something, so they’ll stand by what they think is right until you can sway them through other ways.
I simply suggested to Henry that he speak to his fiancée about this matter and assure her that he has no intention of finding random couches on street curbs to bring into the home. Also that he wants the very best for her, but that doesn’t mean they need to spend more than they need. I advised Henry to browse through Craigslist and find examples of excellent quality USED furniture, note their prices and find comparable NEW furniture online or at a showroom. Compile the list, with pictures, and show his fiancée.
However, that’s only half of the battle. The next half is something men will always have problems dealing with…emotional attachment to an idea. I had little advice in this area other than be sympathetic and patient with her decision process. This is where the real “make it her idea and decision” happen. She has to run the idea through her head and accept it for herself before agreeing to it with you.
I’m more of the blunt force negotiator. I’ll yell at you until you run away or give in. Unless you yell louder than me. However, I’ve been slowly changing that way of “negotiating” since I got married because it’s not at all productive.
A bit of a surprise
The next night, Monday night, Henry IM’d me again. He said he talked to his fiancée about the idea of used furniture and she accepted! He claimed I was a “friggin genius”, but I can’t claim credit for Henry’s negotiation skills, or her openness to the idea of used. But this leads me into something much more important, which Henry touched upon in his article mentioned above:
You need to talk about finances BEFORE you get married!
I’ll be blunt. If you and your future spouse are not on the same page regarding how you treat and think about money, and what you expect and want (e.g. new vs used) before you get married, you’re just asking for unending arguments after the honeymoon (or maybe even before).
If you want to try to keep that romantic glow and naivety of your engagement going, and think not talking about real-world stuff will help, then you’re sorely mistaken. A vast majority of marriages end today due to one argument topic: Finances. Don’t be a statistic (sorry about the cliché).
My wife and I rarely argue about money. We’re both spendthrifts, but we each have our vices. Mine happen to be alot bigger. I don’t like buying little things cause I hate clutter, but I get drawn to cars like a magnet. I didn’t realize I would have such a problem after college with wanting, and buying, new cars like I did, and I’m still paying for it.
My wife loves chocolate. Ok, not too expensive of a vice compared to new cars.
Before we even started “dating”, we were talking about what marriage would be like between us. That’s when we had all of our arguments about money. She convinced me that joint accounts are best for our marriage, and I’m glad I agreed. But it wasn’t an easy path towards enlightenment. But it was easier to argue before marriage because we had less on the line. We could both just walk away if we had too many differences to resolve (Love can’t really conquer everything, no matter what the movies suggest).
However, once you’re married, there’s legal ramifications for splitting up. We all know the financial and emotional heartbreak that happens during divorce. So why not try to prevent divorce by resolving your differences before marriage begins?
Ultimately, I only suggested the idea of “new vs used” to Henry. The rest was all him. But here’s a clear example that personal finance writers are not immune to the challenges of finances in marriage. I experience all of the same problems you, my readers, experience. My wife and I both come from low-income families, we have family members with major debt problems, and we have major debt ourselves. I’m writing to get my experiences and learnings out to the public, but it’s all YOU from here on.
It seems today was the day to write about “talking to your future spouse about money”. Trent at The Simple Dollar wrote a detailed analysis of the things he wishes he talked to his future bride about before getting married. As with any Trent post, I highly recommend reading his article.