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Vent or Explode

August 2nd, 2013 at 08:31 pm

Arrrrgh! Just got off the phone with DW.

Begin rant

DW and I used to have very significant non-mortgage debt. Through diligence and dedication, we paid off or sold off well over $100K in a relatively short period of time. We've been "except for mortgage" debt free for quite a while, and the money has been going to retirement accounts and investments since then, as well as accelerating the mortgage pay off.

We were left with our only debt being a relatively low mortgage principal due. Late last year, I had worked out an amortization schedule on that (remember, I'm still an Excel nerd), and determined we could pay the whole thing off in less than a year. I ran some numbers on a refinance and determined that the interest rate reduction wouldn't cover the closing fees over the period we could reasonably expect to pay off the loan.

Fast forward to now. DW is back in the US setting up home again in our "old" house, and she's spending like a Congressman who doesn't have an opponent for the next term. Between the BMP loan to the kids, a new bed (gotta be Tempurpedic, not just memory foam), a new garage door (yeah, that's an emergency, right?), repainting the outside of the house that really doesn't need it except for cosmetic reasons (paint is for protection, not beauty), the two sets of new French doors, and her new car LOAN... well the EF is gone.

She's starting to use the credit cards. I told her that I'm NOT cashing in any of the mutual funds for this (after tax, no penalty, but we're not going to touch any retirement funds until we retire). I guess now she's going to buy all new furniture and probably have the driveway re-paved.... Sorry, that's hyperbole and frustration, not actual plans. At least she hasn't mentioned all new furniture (yet?).

Anyway, all the work to get us out of debt is being thrown away. I let her get the car loan in a compromise, and now she's continuing - no accelerating - the spending without any more compromise.

To top it off, she's even asking to decrease the amount we had agreed to pay toward the mortgage in the "great car compromise." For that one, I told her a flat-out "No, we're going to pay the amount we agreed to." I even "threatened" to pay the note from here rather than transferring the monies to her account which has all the autopays. She agreed to keep that compromise, but I think that she just wants to make those Jones next door envious.

End rant

Now that I have that out of my system...

There's nothing she's doing that we hadn't planned to do over time, but she wants to do it all right now. The problem is that she's putting us back into debt and also killed our EF at the same time to do it.

Does anyone have any advice for me when I talk to her next time? I swear, this feels like she's an alcoholic who skipped out on an AA meeting to go to a bar.

25 Responses to “Vent or Explode”

  1. Jenn Says:

    I think paying the mortgage directly is a good idea, given the circumstances. Good luck - I hope it works out.

  2. creditcardfree Says:

    My advice is to communicate as rationally as possible. Ask lots of questions. Nicely without judgements. State your feelings. Try to understand her feelings. Is she really trying to out do the neighbors? Why is she going back on your agreements and plans? Best wishes...and hope you can find a NEW mutual understanding.

  3. CB in the City Says:

    I think what you are dealing with is someone who is telling you she is on board, but she's acting differently. You need to call her out -- nicely, of course. Reestablish what your real mutual financial goals are.

  4. PatientSaver Says:

    Being both extremely frugal but having battled my own spending demons at times (mostly the former), you have my sympathies.

    I think you need to get at the root of her spending binge. How long have you two been apart? Just an observation that a lot of times people who can't control their spending are attempting to make up for some other void in their life for the short-term satisfaction of buying stuff. If it's not a void or something missing, could it be boredom?

  5. scfr Says:

    Sorry - That's a tough situation.

    If paying a certain amount towards the mortgage was part of the car buying compromise, then she needs to honor that, and it sounds like she knows it.

    There very well could be an emotional component to the spending. Ask her what it is that she REALLY needs. Is it possible that she's just bored and needs a "project"? Sounds like it's time to work out a new "home improvement compromise."

    What if she were to get a job? Would you agree to let her use a certain percentage of her take home pay towards home improvement, and let her make the decisions about the order in which to complete the projects? (Paying off what has already been charged would need to come first.) Not only would that keep her busy so she'd have less time to come up with new spending projects, she may be less free spending the money that she has worked really hard to earn. And she could be really proud of her accomplishments.


  6. crazyliblady Says:

    I think you need to have a polite, but frank, conversation with your spouse about the financial reality of her decisions and the impact it will have on your future. The goals to be out of debt and have a financially secure future were for your family as a whole, not just you or her. For example, the interest rate on credit card purchases might influence how much you put in savings and retirement, etc. My spouse and I have an agreement to talk about any purchases over $50 in advance and to try to find the best, most financially doable solution to situations where we need to spend money. I agree with scfr's suggestion of her getting a job to pay for the purchases like the car, etc. I don't know whether she already works, but it seems only right that she put some skin in the game, too.

  7. snafu Says:

    I guess unless DW goes back to work to pay for all her purchases, you will be back re-visiting the 'significant debt' model and paying a ton of CC interest. It seems DW's buy-in was the nod of agreement to get the car she wanted plus a spending platform you are unable to control from Dubai. Obviously there was no buy-in.

    Is there a history of running up debt followed by contrite effort for you to get the family back on to solid financial foundation?

  8. Wino Says:

    Well, the first thing I'm going to do is write down everything she's spending. From that, I'll determine how much we need to cover it. Then it's a simple matter of setting up a reverse amortization schedule to pay down the debt once again. MS Excel is my friend for these decisions and setting up the budget.

    She was working when she was here. Because of that, we're not as bad off as it might seem. I did not (and do not) count any of her earnings toward our finances. In my mind, that's "her" money, and I let her do with it what she wants to do. I guess what really got me going to write the original post is that she went from using "her" money to do these things to using "our" money to do these things. The BMP loan* is the difference between paying (her) cash and putting things on debt cards. What we're doing is paying the interest on DD2's home improvements, more or less.

    I don't regret the BMP loan we gave to the kids. They need the money worse than we do. I guess the only thing that's really hurting is that we will have to stop the monthly retirement investment to cover this spending. She's setting up the house, and the things she's buying are not frivolous, for the most part, but why she won't wait, save up, and fund them out of cash rather than borrowing to do it... I just don't understand that part.

    She has "reasons" (editor's note: We all had/have "reasons" for wrong financial decisions):
    1. She wants to paint the inside of the house before she moves the furniture back in; DD2 still has her stuff there until she finishes her renovations. The same company is painting both the inside and the outside, so both jobs will be done simultaneously bringing the unnecessary outside painting into this year instead of three or four years from now when it will actually need to be painted.
    2. She wants to put in the new doors before she moves the furniture back in so the mess will be minimal, and there won't be any way for the workers to "case" the house as it will be mostly empty while they do the construction/installation work.
    3. We paid cash for the new garage door while I was there and before the other items came up. That doesn't even count in her mind.
    4. I agreed to the car loan for a new car rather than a temporary used car; she agreed to move into our "old" house until we find and buy a new house after paying off the old house completely.
    4a. That new house is going to wait a bit longer now while we work through the new debt.
    5. We also paid cash for the Tempurpedic before I returned to Dubai, and also before the BMP loan.

    Like the title said, I was venting, mostly. This only puts us a few months behind the "modified" schedule. It also means my decision not to refinance was wrong. We would have saved money in the long run after all, though not enough to really fret about. The new house fund is just going to go into dormancy until this gets sorted out, and our retirement investments will also stop while we pay this off.

    Now that I think about it, that must be what the cause is: She has given up on getting the new house, so the money that was going into that fund is "freed up" in her mind. She's also in the "we can afford it, because we can afford the payments" frame of mind. Our debt card percentages are under 10%, so we aren't getting overly-gouged on that part of this.

    Oh, well. It will work out. Once she gets things settled, we can attack the new debt separately. I think it will be less than 6 months to retire it when the dust settles, and we can clear that relatively easily. We are not high-maintenance people for the most part, and this debt level will be nowhere near our original debt level. Heck, I can still remember "breaking $100K" in our original debt payment plan. In relation to that, this will be child's play.


    *BMP is the Bank of Mom and Pop; a zero-interest lending institution with only two underwriting criteria: "Are you one of our offspring?" is the first question on the loan application. "Do I have the cash?" is the second.

  9. Kiki Says:

    I love the BMP thing, very cute and generous! And such an easy loan application process!

  10. baselle Says:

    Reads like the Diderot effect writ on home improvement. (The Diderot effect is how new things make old things look shabby and replaceable; spending begats spending). Your comment about your wife giving up on getting the new house so she feels the funds are available is key - I don't know whether its simply you are each following different agendas or something more sinister is afoot. I'm thinking a nice dinner for two with a spot of liquor and a chat will help you figure it out. Of course you know that your agendas have to align, else there will be bigger battles.

  11. Wino Says:

    Baselle, we won't be in the same country again until October. DW is re-establishing the house in the US while I fulfill my commitment here in Dubai. I gave my word to stay with the company I'm at for three years. DW tried living overseas for a year and a half, and then decided she would return to the US. I cannot say that she did not make a valid and sincere attempt to relocate here, but she simply hated it.

    Skype, Facetime, and the internet make this more bearable that it was 35 years ago when I made first overseas move.

    Kiki, it is, as you said, a very simple application process, but very few people qualify. As of right now, the acceptance rate has been 100% for qualified applicants. Smile

    I think I've resigned myself to let her finish setting up the house, no matter the cost. She isn't buying wasteful or frivolous items. The only real cost to us is the risk of job loss - which is unlikely given my field of work - and the interest for a few months as we pay everything off. Neither of these is enough for me to get agitated about. Note that I vented when I first heard about her re-activation of the credit cards, but upon further inspection and reflection, I've decided to just go with it. I've been in debt for the majority of my adult life, so what's another year or so?

  12. snafu Says:

    From a reader's point of view, unplanned, or poorly planned debt has potential to affect your retirement assets. Just because DW feels you can afford the payments isn't financially smart. What happens when age prevents you from making up the loss of retirement income by working off shore where income is higher and expenses are controlled? Can I presume the hilight of your day is going to work? I don't think it will be skype where you hear the details of the latest Diderot. Are the house upgrades and their order being done to make the house 'sellable' or fulfilling another role? Furnishings for an existing home doesn't work in the next place. It's fine if you're walking into this big spender process if you and DW are fully aware of the risk to your future.

    As devil's advocate, I wonder about the message delivered via the BMP. Your generosity is commendable but supplying a car and paying for DD2's renovations concurrently extends the 'Princess' lifestyle. 'My daddy will always pick up the tab' mindset isn't the message I'd feel comfortable putting forward. Must be gender bias as we'd never feel ok sending that message to our much loved sons.

    ...just unfiltered thoughts

  13. Wino Says:

    snafu, I appreciate your thoughts. DD2 and SIL are both gainfully employed full time, and each work long hours. DD2 has a side job with her photography that brings in probably $1000 or slightly less per month. Are we financing the princess lifestyle? Probably in part, but for efficiency, it really is better to make the changes to an empty house than a moved-in place. Right now, it is their place upgrades followed by our place upgrades.

    Many of her upgrades are cosmetic, but most of them are for updating the 1970's box-rooms to 2010 open-floorplan. This will definitely increase the value of the house more than they're paying in to the changes. The purlins and staircase were not options, and the staircase was not cheap. Putting in hardwoods in the entire house... well, that's princess, pure and simple. I also doubt they need new appliances, but those are not bad investments, either, in the long run.

    The "our place" upgrades are, as I said, mostly things we had already planned to do. DW has just accelerated the timeframe. As with DD2's changes, DW is doing it to get the things done with an empty house. The French door upgrades may not increase the sales value as much as we're paying for them, but they will increase the energy efficiency and aesthetic appeal. I just wish she'd stay off the credit cards to do this. Another part of it was that the French doors are going to cost about $6000 more than I had estimated due to structural issues. If I were there, I could do it myself and save at least $4K.

    I no longer go offshore very much. I'm now one level below the managing director, and I only go out for political reasons. When I go out, we're saying, "This is how much we value you as a customer." When I'm unable to go out, that will necessarily change, but I'm bringing my younger engineers up to speed, so I hope that I have a group of very capable engineers ready when I'm no longer able.

  14. scfr Says:

    QUOTE: I guess the only thing that's really hurting is that we will have to stop the monthly retirement investment to cover this spending. END QUOTE

    This statement concerns me greatly. Retirement savings are a BIG deal. And of course you know that ... see your own post about baby boomers and retirement savings. Smile
    It sounds like you may need to try a different "language" when speaking to your wife about your finances. You sound like a "numbers geek" (a lot of us here on the SA blogs are). And it sounds like your wife may not be. An Excel spreadsheet may not be the best way to present information to her. You know how it is when someone starts talking to you about a boring topic and you keep nodding and saying "uh-huh" but your mind wanders elsewhere? That may be what the finance discussions are like for your wife.

    Can you find a way to talk about your finances and goals and budget/spending limits in a way that she can relate to and that will motivate her? What are her interests?

    There was a young woman who used to blog here who had a hard time getting her boyfriend to reign in food spending, until she started using a baseball diamond visual (he was a baseball player) because the numbers meant nothing to him. And there was a guy whose goal was to pay off his mortgage and he did an outline of his home's floor plan and put a grid on it that he filled in as he paid it off. That was his motivation.

    And I've learned that it makes the most sense for my husband & I to hold balanced funds at Vanguard. I get it that asset mix is important and sometimes one asset class will be up while another is down, but my DH doesn't and never will get that, and when we had an assortment of index funds he would nitpick and fret and want to sell whichever fund was down. He would literally start to cuss and practically break in to a sweat. In his eyes, my trying to persuade him to hold on was me "wanting to throw our money away." Thank goodness those days are behind us. I had to learn to work with my husband's "limitations" ... we now have essentially the same asset mix but in balanced funds and there is peace in the household again.

    You know your wife, maybe better than she knows herself. I'm sure you can come up with something that will work.
    Good luck!


  15. Wino Says:

    scfr, "Stop" may have been too strong a word. "Delay" is probably better. I think we'll still be on schedule for the year end, or very close. I've given some thought to your idea, but nothing comes to mind. I'll sleep on it and see if anything presents itself to me tomorrow.

    Our retirement will be comfortable. We won't be buying any private jets unless things change drastically, but we won't be eating cat food, either.

  16. snafu Says:

    to clarify...by off shore I meant working outside the US 48. If you can DIY french doors and therefore save $ 6K why can that home improvement not be delayed? It's not like having to move furniture totally out of the room to install underlay and hardwood flooring.

    While Princess desires hardwood has she verified the location and size of house warrant that upgrade? Today's laminates are difficult to identify and have in excess of 25 year warranties. The don't suffer the destruction from high heeled shoes so stylish these days and best of all are so easy care with just a Swiffer. Tell DD there are terrific deals at scratch and dent aisles which are often hidden when slid into place. I just bought a W/D which was a prop in a show home. It had never actually been used but the was a tiny scratch that had been poorly 'touched-up.' The discount included delivery and the markdowns [several] reduced the original price by $ 800. for the silver colored set. Apparently candy apple red is a preferred color for W/D in this market.

  17. PatientSaver Says:

    I've been going to real estate open houses for years and yes, you can easily tell the difference between hardwood and laminate. It looks "fake." I'd invest in hardwood.

  18. Joanne Says:

    Have you talked with your wife about going back to work? Being able to provide for herself to some extent might make her feel good, and be real. It sounds like she wants to be "taken care of". Sorry if this sounds harsh, but being somewhat independent would be good for her... I didn't think women wanted to be dependent anymore... Just my 2 cents..

  19. Wino Says:

    DW is not afraid of work. She has been working for the vast majority of her life since the age of 16. She returned to the US less than one month ago. DD2 is still in the house while her place gets the upgrades done. Once she moves out, DW will be able to actually turn the house back into her home.

    At that time, if she decides to go back to work, she is free to do so. If she decides not to go back to work, then I'll definitely support her in that, too. I expect she'll be traveling to her family's home state to see her mother whose health is failing. She also has other relatives she sees only rarely. If she decides to visit for a month, or two, or three, then I see no reason she should not. Well, except for the dogs, but she may drive and take the puppies with her.

    As far as her being "dependent" on me, I don't see it that way. She may be spending on things I'm not too happy about right now, or (more correctly) buying things on credit that I think she should wait until we save up, but that doesn't mean we aren't saving and investing otherwise. I am just upset that she's taking our cash buffer (what others call the emergency fund, which I also called it on the above post and comments) and spending it on non-emergencies. Until that's built back up and the debt cards are paid off, I'm going to remain uncomfortable and somewhat irked.

    This may be a case of us saving so much that I have a problem spending where the money needs to be spent. I just don't like seeing balances on those cards again after all that work. Once they're back to zero, I think I'll be able to accept this more easily.

  20. My English Castle Says:

    It does sound like emotional spending--a reaction to being somewhere she hated? Calm and Communication seems like the best idea. Deep breaths, Wino!

  21. Wino Says:

    OK... Good news in the update.

    She didn't put the French doors on our credit card. She got one of those "no interest if paid in XX months" deals. I've already told her that "we will have zero balance at least three months before that date, and she agreed. There's no way I'm paying over 20% interest due to a late payment.

    Second "good news." She hadn't received my August deposit and there was no July deposit (we were in the US, and I just used my debit card, paying 3% more each time, but that's another story). Because of that, she waited until the August deposit cleared before sending off payments. The French doors will be paid off within two, at most three months. The painting she'll pay cash for once DD2 moves out.

    I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop on the furniture. She'll have no TV once DD2 moves out, and I'm certain that there's no way DW will miss "The Bitchelor" (as I call it). She and some friends watch it together during a hen party. I went one time. I wasn't welcome. Just see what I call it, and you can imagine why I'm no longer welcome.

    Anyway, though the EF is gone, and the float is very shallow, we're not completely off track. The debt cards are still balance free, except the new "zero interest unless you missed one of the 'gotchas' we've included" debt card, and DW has agreed to put all possible payments to that. Included in this last is her agreement to pay less on her car loan than planned to zero out the other items first.

    And I made a deposit to one of the Vanguard funds, so the retirement is only being slowed a bit. We'll catch that up before the end of the year. Thanks to everyone for their words of advice and consolation. Things are not quite as bleak as I initially thought.

    Also, I'm supposed to get a bonus check within a month... only 9 months late, but better than never. We should be able to even our keel again once that comes in.

  22. scfr Says:

    Thanks for taking the time to update. It does sound like the ship is being righted. Instead of "waiting for the other shoe to drop on the furniture" can't the two of you agree on a plan before any money is spent?

  23. Wino Says:

    "...can't the two of you agree on a plan before any money is spent?"

    Even though I was venting here, and even though I am trying to save money for retirement... well, I still don't really care all that much about money. Strange, huh? I have a hard time telling her "No." I have a hard time turning down our kids when they ask for something.

    I know it's hard for folks to understand, and it's hard for me to explain, but I really don't put much value on money or things. I had a friend who had a saying, "I work to live. I don't live to work." Well, that's about as close as I can come to my feelings about money. So, when DW says she wants to spend some of it, and I'm still able to fund the retirement... why shouldn't I let her spend? Of course, I then tend to rant and biotch a bit... but that's like me yelling at other drivers on the road. I yell so I don't get mad. I don't yell because I am mad. With DW's spending, I vent because I don't want to get mad, not because I am mad. I let it go; get it out of my system quickly, then get back on an even keel.

    Oh, and we do have a plan. We share our bank account equally. She never spends more than I deposit. Wink
    We had a good talk tonight. She isn't doing the painting until she has more cash. I didn't even suggest it. I think she just wanted those doors done, so she did the credit card thing. I think she doesn't like doing the shopping part of house repairs, so she just opened the account and "spent" the money to get it over with. My suggestions earlier that she was trying to impress the Jones' family were way off base. I really think it was her not wanting to go back and do it later. "I'm here. Let's get it over with," is probably what she was feeling.

  24. soogar Says:

    --double post---

  25. soogar Says:

    Guys never understand a woman's need to set up the home properly. A guy would be happy if he lived in a shack. Women care about details and practicality that guys never consider. Makes no sense to put furniture and fixtures in a place if it needs to be painted.

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