Money ranks high up there as one of the major conflict triggers in relationships. From business partners to couples, siblings and friends, it seems money has a way of binding or breaking. I have seen best friends and even lovers who seem completely devoted, parting ways because of a simple piece of paper with a symbol on it.
When I was in Grade 10 in High School, I decided to form an alliance with two of my dear friends. Our alliance was simple, we agreed to pool our resources together and manage everything centrally, within the walls of our red brick hostel, we created our own version of a Federalism. Initially, we had no rules of engagement, we got along really well as friends and shared the same accommodation. It really didn’t matter who brought what and how much, as long as everyone brought what they could genuinely afford. I guess in our teenage minds we were already practicing the concept of equal sacrifice.
Money Lesson 1 – Get your fundamentals right and keep things simple. Alliances should be formed between similarly minded people who are clear about their objectives. Having shared values creates an enabling environment for the relationship to thrive. Everyone needs to agree on what Money is, what it should be used for and how it should be used. Alliances are good because even though it is easier and faster to walk alone, you go further and can do more when you pool together with others headed in the same direction as you.
As we settled into our alliance, we decided to split the chores based on our strength, one person could talk a lot and put up a fight if required, so she went to get water which was a warfare like task considering the limitness of water and the long queues in front of the water tank. I couldn’t hurt a fly, so I sat down quietly and did the laundry. The last member of the trio was very organized and stay back to arrange our hostel space, before joining in the fight for water, she too had the right talking skill set.
Money Lesson 2: Recognize individual strengths and leverage it for the benefit of the relationship. In every relationship, you will have people with skills that save the relationship time and money, those contributions should never be overlooked or undervalued. Always entrust custody of the finances on the person who is the ‘saver’ in the relationship. The ‘spender’ should focus on other activities or simply play ‘siddon look’. It is best this way for the financial health of the relationship.
As the school term progressed, other students made demands on each of us, even going as far as playing us against each other. One person could ask me for cookies and ask the other 2 girls for the same thing and because we were all relatively kind, we will all say yes. The pool will lose 3 packs of cookies. When we realized what was happening, we too got smart and agreed to deliberate on all requests collectively.
Money Lesson 3 – Life and people will make unfair demands on your money, it is important to communicate so that you are on the same page with all involved parties and have a singular response for every money demand. You all worked hard and you should not allow anyone take advantage of you. Stay informed about market forces that may positively or negatively impact your money and be prepared for all scenarios.
We never had a fight for three years, we are still good friends today and that relationship helped me navigate my finances as an adult. Looking back, it is easy to see how those years helped me transition into marriage financially prepared.
When I started dating my husband, we both agreed early that everything we will ever have will be ‘Ours’. We will both work hard and whatever we receive as income will be pooled and spent together. Recognizing that we will go through many seasons in life (I have more, he has more, I have not, he has not) was helpful. Since seasons are seasonal, we agreed that they will not affect how we view and spend money. We started budgeting two years into our marriage (better late than never). As soon as money comes in, it goes into a holding account (joint account) which served as a funnel for dispensing cash to feed our different budget line items. My favorite budget line item is ‘Pocket Money’, yes I get pocket money monthly, it is also my space for personal financial freedom and I spend it however and on whatever I like (My husband gets his pocket money too). With a budget in place, everybody gets their needs met, no one feels cheated, family projects are executed, and we are more intentional about putting some income away in savings and investment. We have had no cause to quarrel over money because with a detailed plan in place, there is really none to quarrel or fight over.
Money Lesson 4 – You will find that in your relationships, everyone is happy when everything works according to the plan. By simply having a conversation, agreeing on guiding principles and honoring your commitments, you will save yourself the stress of quarrelling over who brings what, what it is spent on, when it is spent, where it is spent and who it is spent on.
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*Siddon look* is a Nigerian slang for observing or watching.