Make Your Spouse More Useful by Leaving the Country!

While I was in India for two weeks, I fully expected my family to throw frugality to the wind and dine on fast food at an alarming frequency. I also braced myself to return to a very messy house. (To be fair, this assumption was based on empirical data.) Instead, my hard-working husband saved us mad cash while improving our home through his DIY and negotiating skills.

I didn’t have time to make & freeze meals, so I left him with a couple pounds of thawed chicken, a box of Mac & Cheese, and some microwavable bags of broccoli (which were untouched), and a folder with fast food coupons and gift cards.  Had I returned to a home strewn with Taco Bell cups and dirty diapers, I could not have complained. After all, I enjoyed two weeks without cooking, cleaning, or laundry, while experiencing another culture with friends. But there was nothing to complain about.

Here’s the run-down of what he accomplished in my absence:

  • Re-built our deck, thus finishing a huge DIY home repair. Savings = $6,000.
  • Negotiated a 50% discount on professional treatment to prevent future damage. Savings = $350.
  • Fixed a coolant leak on his 13-year-old Ford. Savings = $100.
  • Replaced all the living room furniture for $300. Savings compared to buying new = $1000.
  • Canned 12 jars of homemade salsa from his garden. Savings = $36.
  • Made our son a birthday cake. Savings = $20.
  • Moved his behemoth (trash find) desk out of the office to make way for a guest or rental bedroom. Savings = TBD.
  • Discovered a more efficient way to hang-dry clothes. (In case you didn’t notice, this means he did laundry! And hung the laundry to dry!) Savings = time.

Grand total = $7,506.

I should leave more often!

The real take-away is that pretending to be poor can make your spouse a more useful person. Oh, and that applies to you, too! Rather than arguing over who spends more money on their hobbies or clothing, we strive to work together as a frugal team. We’re both interested in inflating our usefulness rather than our lifestyle. We haven’t always been on the same page about our frugal lifestyle. But we’ve hashed out our pecuniary values together over time. Last summer we found ourselves on vacation, sipping wine in a hot tub, talking the dirty details of Roth IRAs and early mortgage payoff. If this sounds boring, think of it as dreaming together. If you could do anything you want, without money as a major obstacle, what would it be? Now pray and plan about how to get there. We call this financial flexibility. (Read here why financial independence is not our dream.)

I must mention the invaluable help of our friends and family while I was gone. My mom watched the kids for the whole first work week, and Neil’s professional remodeler brother helped vastly with our home repair. We also had the help of his sister and several of our friends who babysat, cooked, and cleaned during the second week. I can’t thank our gracious helpers enough. It was frugal friends synergy at its finest.

The home repair deserves its own post. Regarding the living room furniture, two free couches, a free TV stand, and a Craigslist HD CRT comprised our living room furniture before I left. The couches did not match AT ALL. They were very comfortable but also very stained (thanks, babies). One of them was literally disintegrating. The kids were picking off the faux-leather finish and dispersing it throughout the house. And you know how some people sort of mindlessly fiddle with things while they’re talking? Sometimes there’d be a pile of pleather crumbs in the built-in (read: hideous) cup holders after certain guests left. The other sofa had issues too dark to mention. I was and am sworn to secrecy.

To say the least, I’d been feeling embarrassed by our furniture but used it as an exercise in the principle that Life is Not About Your Preferences. And our hand-me-down TV stand, though good quality, felt too large for our small living room. Neil scored two couches that not only match each other, but also the rest of our open floor plan decor, on a local Facebook buy-sell-trade page. He replaced the TV stand with a low-profile modern (free) one that’d been collecting dust in our basement. One of our biggest fights over the last five years was over couches–there’s an example of us fighting over frugality–but I’d made up my mind that couches are not worth fighting about. I guess the moral of the story is, if you shut up and leave the country, maybe your SO will replace the furniture. Oh wait, I mean be content, everything doesn’t have to be your favorite, and free & broken furniture is the best. 🙂

How has frugal living made your spouse more useful?


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14 Responses to “Make Your Spouse More Useful by Leaving the Country!”

  1. Hannah says :

    I left for my business trip two days before my husband joined, and in that time he finished painting and priming the walls- an activity which had dragged on for three weeks prior to that.

    He did however subsist on Kung-Pao Chicken and spaghetti.

  2. Holly says :

    Wow! You really should leave more often. I shudder at the thought of how my house would look after being gone for 2 weeks =/ I know my husband would take excellent care of the kids, but I can’t say that anything else would get done!

  3. Abigail says :

    Well, the only time I leave the state is at the same time that Tim goes on a trip to Washington. So there’s not much to be done in the one day between his getting home and my getting home. Except pick me up a the airport, which was nice.

    By the way (grammar nerd moment) THANK YOU for using “comprise” correctly. It’s one of those weird pet peeves I have.

    • Kalie says :

      Yeah, obviously there’s not much mass application to the leaving the country part, but it’s always good when your spouse remembers to pick you up.

      LOL, I’m a former grammar nerd (a.k.a. English teacher). I’m afraid mom-brain has blurred my eye for grammar details at times, but I’m glad I got this one right.

  4. Luke Fitzgerald says :

    “inflating our usefulness rather than our lifestyle” – Awesome!

    You touch on a great point – using personal finance to bring a couple closer together, not further away! Yes, money is the culprit of many divorces. But you know what can make a marriage really strong? Money! Good for you guys to take that approach instead of the “don’t look at it and maybe it won’t ruin our lives” approach.

    • Kalie says :

      We find the planning, DIYing, and creativity that frugality fosters to be very fun and marriage-building. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to marriage and money.

  5. DC YAM says :

    Wow good for him. I am seriously impressed at this -> “Re-built our deck, thus finishing a huge DIY home repair. Savings = $6,000.” I’m curious how high up your deck is. We have one that is pretty high off the ground so unfortunately I don’t think the DIY route is possible for me : / I did rebuild our retaining wall, though, saving us about $6-$8k.

    • Kalie says :

      That’s great you were able to save so much by doing the project yourself. Our deck is less than 1 story high. He also replaced the framing and siding in that part of the house.

  6. Selina (Financial Buddha) says :

    Haha, how awesome!

    I actually just left to go visit my family for a month and my boyfriend stayed at home. During the time I was gone, he managed to make one of his online businesses work and turn a profit! I think he just needed some true alone time to focus completely on that one venture. We both hate being away from each other for extended time frames, but there’s also something very invigorating about time apart too.

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Hospitality Hacks | Pretend to Be Poor - October 12, 2015
  2. On Frugal Aesthetics | Pretend to Be Poor - February 22, 2016

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