Stacey and I have made a decision when it comes to money in the household: I no longer go to the grocery store. It just works better that way.
I grew up in the country—our home was 15 miles from the nearest small town—and when mom went grocery shopping, she wasn’t just picking up something for a quick dinner. Because trips to town were not as simple as driving down the street, she went shopping to get the things she needed for the next two weeks. She still has a large pantry that is well-stocked, and I envy it.
I can’t help but take the same approach to food in our household. I have this urge, this need to make sure we are stocked up on everything that we could possibly use. When we run low on granola bars, for example, I’ll feel this agitation because something is lacking.
The difference is that we live 7 minutes away from a grocery store. By bike.
Now that we’re back in the rhythm of the school year, and Stacey is working long days and some evenings, I am the one who manages food for the family—lunch items for school, dinner ingredients, etc. With my obsessive need to have a stocked kitchen, I found myself going to the grocery store every other day.
This was great for food security, but not so great for our pocketbook.
Recall that we’re still digging ourselves out of the hole we made when we had to sell our house at a loss (see The Biggest Mistake We’ve Ever Made). August is always an expensive month with school supplies and uniforms and activity fees. Things are generally tight.
Over the last few months, Stacey and I have had some serious conversations about money. She handles bills and balances the checkbook, so she kept getting my receipts from the grocery store and seeing our bottom line dwindle.
Stacey has helped me to recognize that we can make do with what we have when something from the pantry is running low. It is one thing to run out of milk and bread, and another thing to run out of chili powder. Still, it is hard for me to change my inclinations and behavior.
The simple solution is that I’m in charge of writing the list for groceries and Stacey is in charge of actually buying the groceries. When we came upon this idea, we both felt immediate relief. We didn’t have to argue either side—we both were delighted at the idea because both of us have our needs being met.
I don’t have to worry about making sure we have everything that we could use, I just worry about making sure that all we could use is documented on a list. Stacey feels much better about knowing how much money is being spent on food and when. Stress levels are much reduced, and our bottom line is not shrinking like it used to—at least not as quickly.
Sharing a pocketbook is a microcosm of sharing a life together. Money comes from hard work, so it represents a great investment of intelligence and labor and time. Sharing our finances means we have to be of one mind about how it is earned and used, and that takes attentiveness and communication.