My husband never goes out, and he only reluctantly takes holidays — except if we stay in a cabin in the mountains, and even then he doesn’t see why we should be paying for our mortgage and paying to rent somewhere else too. He has never bought me a single piece of jewelry in my life. However, we both agreed before marrying that a diamond engagement ring was a waste of money.
He does all his shopping at big-box stores, buys in bulk and wears clothes until they are worn through. He doesn’t use social media. From time to time we will go out to eat for an early-bird menu — on special occasions like our anniversary. The most ironic part about this whole thing? He’s an accountant! It beggars belief.
“‘He does all his shopping at big-box stores, buys in bulk and wears clothes until they are worn through. He doesn’t use social media.’”
My husband works in IT and earns $90,000 a year. I am a teacher, and I earn $65,000 a year. We have a comfortable life. We have no children, and our monthly mortgage payment is $1,600. We are about halfway through the lifetime of our loan. We both have retirement accounts, and we are on track to have a comfortable life after we finally retire.
We have a good relationship, and we are in this for the long haul. I go out with my girlfriends when I need excitement, and my husband stays home with our dog, watching golf and cooking shows. He bakes cakes as a way of relaxing. But I wish we did more together, and if he made me feel special from time to time with a necklace or a bunch of flowers, that would also be nice.
Is my husband the cheapest man in America? Or am I judging him harshly?
There’s a big (free) silver lining to your story: When you hang up your chalk and your husband hangs up his mouse, you will have the comfort of knowing that you didn’t fritter away your retirement on over-salted restaurant food, and hotel rooms with views of the car park. The more frugal and vexing behavior you described in your letter, the more I liked your husband. A man who doesn’t spend all day doom-scrolling on his iPhone AAPL, -0.42% !
I admire his independent spirit and self-containment. He’s a man who needs no affirmation via Instagram, Facebook META, -3.66% or TikTok. And I also appreciate that he does not need to be out and about, socializing in five-star restaurants to feel validated. No $190,000 Tesla TSLA, -0.60% Model S Plaid for him! There is a lot to admire about your husband, and that comes across in your letter.
The average U.S. household spends about $3,600 a year eating out — which comes to $300 a month. That’s more than the average annual budget for vacations — which was $2,000 a year before the pandemic — and it could pay for a lot of things, like maybe a gold bracelet, or a cruise from time to time. Imagine your husband on a cruise. He might love it! He might hate it! He would probably hate it. Or would he?
The lack of an engagement ring is a headline-grabbing detail, but it was a mutual decision, and a smart one. Some people in the diamond industry suggest spending twice your monthly income on a ring. The “A Diamond is Forever” marketing campaign by the DeBeers diamond company, written by copywriter Frances Gerety in 1947, was a stroke of marketing genius.
“Communicate your wishes. Suggest surprising each other with a monthly act of kindness. ”
Communicate your wishes. Suggest surprising each other with a monthly act of kindness. It’s the little acts of kindness that we remember: The person who approaches us at a party because they see us standing alone; the kind word from a friend when we look tired and emotional; and, yes, the partner who bakes a surprise cake, cooks dinner or buys flowers.
My final suggestion touches on something that runs through your letter: support — which goes both ways — and acceptance. Your husband appears to be more of an introvert, whereas you fall somewhere at the other end of the spectrum. Being an introvert doesn’t always jibe with the social-media age, when everyone is supposed to be a star in their own lunchtime.
Some studies have shown that introverts who acted like extroverts boosted their energy and mood and, while a certain amount of performance is required in the workplace to make a good impression with colleagues and managers, climb the corporate ladder and get that promotion and salary hike, it’s also best to allow people to be themselves.
Introverts get a bad rap in the modern era. Extroverts may believe them to be rude when they are actually shy or simply quiet. But there is a beauty to spending time with someone you love — as you do with your husband — and not having to talk or engage in an activity, but simply occupying the same space and knowing that you want to be together. That’s a good test for your impending retirement.
You have bought yourself something more valuable than an engagement ring — a room with a view of your retirement, which I hope brings you peace of mind. More than a third of Americans say they’re losing sleep over their finances. A financial therapist or counselor might help, but you can also give each other regular nudges about how you feel and how you’d like your needs to be met.
In the meantime, enjoy your husband’s cakes. I am sure they’re delicious.
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