10 April 2014

Surviving a Long-Distance Marriage Part 2

This is Part 2 in a Series. Other posts in this series can be found here
Welcome back to my series on surviving a long-distance marriage. I know that when someone is deported, it can take awhile for you to join them in exile in their home country. I also know there are more reasons to why someone could be in this situation: work or military deployment. Today, we are going to discuss splitting your finances.

Combining or keeping separate finances is a BIG decision in any marriage. Money arguments are a BIG predictor of divorce. Combine money issues and distance issues, and there have been times we've felt like we're drowning. 

Hector and I combine our finances. We always have since we first got together. There was a time I could stay at home with Cecilia and just went to school, and Hector was the main breadwinner in our family. I depended on his income then. But as things changed and I became more and more financially important in our family, my viewpoint changed. I am selfish person, naturally. I will be the first to admit that I, as a spoiled brat baby of my family, feel like I deserve more that I actually do. As I began to make more money, I didn't see myself falling into the money trap.

When Hector was deported and I became sole-breadwinner, I decided that I deserved to spend my money, because I earned it. Saving for Mexico never really crossed my mind. I knew I had to do it, but I thought I had plenty of time. I would buy myself this or that, new clothes or scrapbooking things, or even new furniture. In the last 3 years, I have spent probably $700 on books alone. I never really noticed how much I was spending, because I don't keep track of anything. I just thought I could work more and replace the money. Well, after 3 years of arguing some NASTY money arguments, that yes, almost made up contemplate the devastating D-word, Hector put a stop to it. I either quit spending like a crazy lady, eating out every day, buying stuff I don't need, not saving anything, or we were done. Well, that stopped me in my tracks. I had neglected Hector's needs for my own. I would eat out every day, while Hector ate soups and beans. I have a beautiful smart phone, Hector has a cheap TelCel. Wow...I needed a change, BIG TIME.

So I started saving this year. I cannot keep money in my bank account or I will spend it. I have that problem.  I know I have that problem. I love spending so much, that I cannot have it readily available to me. So my money is saved in an account that I have NO access to. When I need to get it out for our move, I will have to have someone else access it for me. I have managed to save from almost EVERY check this year, and I'm really proud of myself. 

Other things that help us (me) better manage our finances:
  • On paydays, we have a Skype meeting. We discuss any debts we have, and we write them off. Then is money for Hector to survive. I'm spending WAY less money now, so I have more money for him to eat. We decided that I will be the bread-winner. I make more in an hour than Hector was making in a day in pesos, so now that Isaias is with him, I am the worker. It just makes financial sense. After that, I get a spending allotment. It sounds childish, but I know that I need it, because I spend like crazy too often without one. Next is money to be saved, then what is left over is our "Emergency Money"- money left for us to live off of here- shoes, clothes, entertainment, food.
  • Hector has access to manage my bank account. Most people who know this are appalled that I would give him so much access to that, but it is our money, and it's not an invasion of privacy. Hector needs to know where the money is going, and I need the oversight to constantly keep me on track from going crazy. 
  • As I say this is OUR money, it took me a long time to remember that- too long, really. I really felt like, I was slaving for this money, I wanted to enjoy it a little bit. There was way too much instant gratification going on and not enough thinking and planning for the future. 
So how does a long-distance couple avoid these pitfalls in the first place? Well, open communication is key. Everyone needs to be on the same page. If Hector and I had monitored our finances as closely from the very beginning as we do now, I would have already been in Mexico. I believe, that once someone is deported, that both people in the relationship need to have a serious Skype call, and figure out this one thing- before even discussing moving or visiting or anything else- nothing else that would want to do as a couple can be done without managing your money. It might mean that the left-behind spouse gets a job (or a second) just so that you can be making enough money to save. It might mean that a husband who once provided completely for his family, let's his American wife provide- she will make more money working in the US than he will in almost any other country. It's not fun, but it's a sacrifice. Whoever is making the money and is most responsible for where it ends up, needs to have a budget in place from the get-go. And the couple needs to be open about everything from the beginning. Each member needs to keep the other in check.

Most of our marital problems could have been avoided if I had managed our finances better. Our family would not have suffered if I had not been over spending. 

Here are some good pins I found regarding budgeting:
I hope that this is helpful to anyone in this situation. It's hard to take over as main breadwinner over night and keep a level head among all of the other things going on when your loved one is taken away. Since implementing many money-saving tactics, we have been on a much better money and have had many less money-issue arguments.

How do you save money in your day to day? 

6 comments:

  1. We are similar in a lot of that, I love to spend my money because it's there, it's mine, and why shouldn't I? Since I'm the computer literate one, I handle EVERYTHING when it comes to money and it has caused so many fights, oh my goodness. I still spend even while we are here but my allowance has shrunk to a tiny percentage of what it once was. Switching to digital Project Life has helped me saved hundreds and hundreds of dollars because now I can buy the supplies on sale and use them over and over again so I feel so much better. I never had to balance the two households though so I can only imagine. We always had tons of money so we just kept putting it off, putting it off. If I had focused, we could have bought property and had a house built by the time we got here! Instead we live in a big room attached to his sister's house.

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    1. I have thought about going digital, but anymore I'm not buying scrapbooking stuff- i buy other junk and I eat out almost every day. It's a bad habit, but I don't really have anywhere to put a lunch if I take one to work, and I always leave work on my lunch because I need the escape. I always think "oh 2 dollars won't hurt" but 2x5=10 x4= 40 in a month if i only eat out for lunch and if I only spend $2. It adds up, and that's the part I stuggle with.

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  2. Open communication about money is so hard! But, you are right, it is crucial to any marriage. I mean stuff always comes up, houses, cars, education. I have found that tracking my spending helps me curb it alot. I use the Mint app on my phone for that.

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    1. Is Mint available for Android? I've never heard of it. Will definitely have to look into that one. Thanks!

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  3. You are very brave to be able to admit that you spending was too much and to take steps to make your family's financial situation better! I can't imagine getting separated from your spouse for that long--that would make for some huge challenges. It's wise that you guys have learned to communicate openly. We've also always combined finances and take the strategy of writing down all money going in and out so that we know where we're at. My husband has relatives in Jalisco and D.F. but I've never been to Mexico before--he's told me stories about the long lines and border patrol as you return back to the U.S.

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    1. Yup, those are LONG lines all right.

      We (as in I) still struggle with this financial agreement between us and I still spend more than I should. I know that I spend too much and I have to make a change or when I get to Mexico in 2 months, we will have nothing.

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