By nature I am quite a frugal person. I don’t splurge on purchases all that often especially when it comes to bigger ticket items. It sounds geeky and boring, but I get more excited about building up savings or working towards financial independence than I do about getting the latest and greatest gadget, car, or clothes. However, back in 2009, I did go on a bit of a spending spree (though it was probably pretty tame compared to most people’s shopping adventures). You see, we had just lost a great deal of our household items due to contamination from the mold infestation in our recently foreclosed upon home and needed to replace some stuff. Also, I had landed a better paying job after getting laid off the previous year. Despite still facing a huge battle against massive student loans, I was feeling a bit cheery at the time. Perhaps it was a form of therapy or release for me since I’d been dealing with so much stress. Nonetheless, I threw “caution to the wind” (I’ve put this in quotes because, as you read on, you’ll notice the irony of using this cliché) and opened up my wallet. My purchases included:
- A Tempurpedic bed
- Various furniture items from IKEA
- A PlayStation 3 and several games
- A Samsung 32″ LCD TV (which was quite nice back then!)
- A Weber Charcoal Touch-N-Go Propane Ignition Grill
The grill was fantastic and was a great purchase. If you’re like me, you prefer the flavor of charcoal grilling but don’t like the hassle involved: lighting the briquettes and then waiting forever for them to heat up, having the charcoal not fully catch the flames and then go out, resorting to using lighter fluid which compromises taste, etc. This Weber grill allows you to fire it up via a normal propane connection which then fuels the charcoal until the briquettes are ready to go. It saves so much time and is quite convenient. I highly recommend it. Why I am going off on a tangent about a grill? Because we spent just under $400 on it and now it’s completely ruined – all because my wife just wouldn’t listen to me!
What the Heck Happened?
We live in a second floor unit and have a front patio and stairwell all to ourselves. There’s also a fairly small back patio which we had mostly used as storage space including for the Weber grill (we aren’t allowed to use it at our current complex). One day in late August, my wife shared her idea about clearing the back patio out and transforming it a cozy “deck” where we could enjoy an evening cocktail or a morning breakfast. My immediate response was, “That sounds like a great idea, but I don’t think there’s room to store the grill anywhere else especially in the garage. So, before you do anything, you must find space to store it.” She readily agreed and off she went to excitedly plan everything with her sister and friend. I came home the next day and, lo and behold, the back patio was cleared, cleaned, and looking very inviting with some comfortable chairs, bamboo siding to cover the rails, a little glass table, and some nice looking lights. I was impressed. Except, how did she find room for everything that had been stored there previously – particularly the grill? The front patio of course! I complimented my wife on a job well done, but firmly reminded her the grill could not stay on the front porch. I also re-voiced my concern about there not being sufficient storage space elsewhere. She passively said she’d take care of it. Nothing happened. This process repeated several times over the ensuing weeks. Then, as fortune would dictate, we had an extremely windy day here in northern California. It’s not uncommon for the winds to kick up around here, but such ferocious winds usually accompany a storm system. On this particular day, which was sunny and clear otherwise, gusts of over 50 mph were occurring. Crash, boom, bang. Yep, the gusts were strong enough to blow the grill about 3 feet forward (it was on wheels) and then down the stairs it went…plummeting all the way to its demise. As you can see from the picture it was a gruesome scene (people, please don’t let your bbq’s or grills look at the screen ).
Needless to say, I was hopping mad. Without hesitation I cast all the blame on my wife. Why hadn’t she just listened to my repeated requests and warnings? Look what’s happened and it’s all her fault. What a stupid $400 mistake that was completely unnecessary and completely avoidable. Boy was I ready to give her an earful.
How to Handle Costly Financial Mistakes Made by Your Spouse
In retrospect, I did not handle this situation as cleanly as I could have. No, my wife and I didn’t have a blowout argument. However, I did send a few terse – perhaps unkind – words her way when she arrived home from work. It’s one thing to make an innocent blunder I thought at the time, but she purposefully ignored me and that’s what lead to the loss. Should she have been more responsible? Yes. However, I should have been more mature in how I reacted. So, how should I have handled the situation? After some reflection, I’ve realized how I could have approached things differently.
- Don’t lash out - It’s so easy to react in the heat of the moment. When you let this happen, you usually end up regretting what you say or do. Understand that lashing out ultimately doesn’t make you feel any better and it usually only intensifies the problem instead of relieving it.
- Deal with your emotions internally first - Yeah, you’re irate. Yes, it’s their fault. How could they have made such a ridiculous mistake? You’ll be better off if you sort through your feelings and emotions before approaching your partner. Try to make your thoughts match your emotions so you don’t convey the wrong messages.
- Take some time to calm down - Cooler heads prevail. If you let some time pass you might be able to overcome initial, unnecessary negative emotions. Forcing yourself to take a cooling off period will help you to accomplish the first objective listed above in not lashing out. That said, don’t let things fester either. Pent up anger or frustration can have a detrimental impact too.
- Don’t guilt or hold things against them - Holding grudges never works. Neither does rubbing their face in the mistake. Don’t constantly remind them of their error. They’re obviously aware and probably feel awful already.
- Don’t try to even things up or keep a tally - This may sound ridiculous, but sometimes resentment can make us do foolish things. While you probably won’t be tempted to take purposeful revenge, you could find yourself being careless or lackadaisical in manners that could hurt your partner especially if you feel extremely slighted by their mistake. It’s just not worth it to keep a scorecard.
- Rationally explain – Raised voices, yelling, cursing, incoherent rants…what does that accomplish? Nothing positive. Sure, you can still voice displeasure – that’s healthy. But do your best to explain your stance and feelings in a rational manner. Doing so will improve the chances of a solution to prevent future similar occurrences.
- Shoulder some of the blame yourself - Hmm, are you partially culpable too? In my situation, while the onus was on my wife for taking care of the grill since the patio project was hers, I could have stepped in and tried to find storage space too. I didn’t. So, in a roundabout way, the grill’s destruction is partly my fault as well. Using this line of thinking might help to alleviate any anger you have towards your loved one.
- If the mistakes are more serious then evaluate the need to get outside help - Ok, so I’m lamenting the loss of a grill that would cost close to $400 to replace. While it’s a blow to a family that’s trying to be as fiscally fit as possible to reach its financial goals, it’s not the end of the world. If the financial mistakes are of a more serious nature though and you’re unable to work through the issue, then you might want to consider seeking outside assistance whether that be financial or relationship counseling.
- Learn to forgive - Finally, learn to forgive. You’re far from perfect and have faults too. You’ve made dumb financial moves before and will in the future. Once the problem is fully addressed, even if there is no perfect solution, then move on. “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
Has your spouse or significant other ever made a financial mistake that’s infuriated you? Was the mistake something that could have been avoided had there been better communication or action on their part? How did you handle it? Do you agree with these tips? Do you have any to add?