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Is It Time to Use the B-Word (Broke) with Your Spouse?

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Well, tonight my city mouse sister is having dinner at Le Cirque. In the words of my brother-in-law, “We’re partying like it’s 2007.” While they’re supping on Lobster Poached in Lime with Caramelized Quince, I’m the suburban mouse sitting home making my Wal-Mart shopping list. Luckily, my sister and her husband haven’t had to have The Talk, as a few couples I know have called it.

The Talk is when one spouse, with supreme delicacy, of course, tells the other spouse, “Honey, we are f-ing broke. Our 401K is just a K. If you don’t stop pissing our money away on stupid crap, let me tell you about our next home—here’s a hint, it has wheels.”

Now before you go thinking this is Mr. Responsible Husband going after Mrs. Shopaholic, in my house, I was the one to initiate The Talk with my husband. We are both rabidly thrifty, so having The Talk with Steve wasn’t going to yield much: he spends only a teeny weeny, tiny bit more than I do.

So what does the couple who spends nothing cut back on? I personally blame my brother-in-law—yeah, the one “partying like it’s 2007”—for getting Steve hooked last Christmas on Nespresso, fifty cents a shot (he gave us the machine and the starter capsules … that was about 400 espresso bucks ago). He’s cut back on some of that.

His martial arts classes are more than a hundred a month but it’s the only hobby and exercise he loves: even this Scrooge couldn’t ask him to cut that out.

There is the occasional Tool Binge. Because tools are, well, tools; they can never be a silly expense, right? In our house I have two words for that: Matte Cutter, and I can reliably annoy Steve by just saying those two words. It was a tool I knew we’d only use once, it wasn’t cheap, and I said to Steve, “We are going to be dead before we need this Matte Cutter again.” Five years later, it’s never been used again.

(Before you think I’m totally crazy, there’s a lot of back story to the tool obsession: Steve has been lugging around an arc welder and an air compressor for the sixteen years I’ve been with him. They took up half of one of two closets in our Manhattan apartment (500 square feet) and now have a permanent home in the suburbs but haven’t been fired up since the late 1980s.)

We thought about cable; we went without it for years and really wouldn’t miss more than a few shows (we watch plenty of TV but most, we realized, was broadcast TV). But one of those shows features that toothy supernatural force of frugality, Suze Orman. How could I learn to save money if I couldn’t watch crazy Suze yell at me every week? Can I afford cable? Approved!

By Linda Keenan for Burbia


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