(Mostly) Uncensored Confessions of a Money Weirdo’s Wife

I thought it would be fun if my wife were to write a guest post about her take on our finances. After all, this whole money saving thing wouldn’t work without her buy-in, and I’m extremely grateful that she’s on board with the whole thing. My questions are in bold. Her uncensored confessions follow. My rebuttals to her responses are in italics.

*** My pregnant wife in a freezing cold Seattle apartment.

 

On discovering your husband was a money weirdo (super frugal dude):

  • When did you find out?
    • I think The Professor’s frugality came gradually. I definitely don’t remember him seeming particularly frugal while we were dating. Maybe I should have had some clues when on our honeymoon, instead of eating out, we went to a grocery store and bought oatmeal, sandwich stuff, and strawberry cheesecake ice cream, and that’s what we ate on our honeymoon. 🙂 And also, we were poor college students, so it’s not like we had tons of money to begin with. I think I kind of discovered the extent of his frugality over the first few years of our marriage.
  • How did you find out?
    • Right after we got married, I had a job as an elementary school teacher intern (I had my own classroom, but hadn’t graduated college yet, so I just got paid a half teacher salary). My salary was about $1000/month. That doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but to The Professor and me, we felt like kings! We did a “we’re in the money” dance every month on payday. As we looked to the future, when we would have jobs that paid much more money, The Professor and I had many conversations about how happy we were living as poor college students and how we needed to continue to live that way for the rest of our lives and we could save tons of money. I thought that sounded pretty reasonable. And then he said, “And let’s take all of the money we have right now and put it in a Roth IRA. It will be great!” I was pretty terrified of the stock market, and thought that putting our money under our mattress seemed like the safest option, but I listened and in the end, it worked out (of course). That was about the time that I realized The Professor knew way more about the financial world than I did, and that I should probably just go along with whatever he suggested money-wise.
  • How did you feel about finding out?
    • When I left for college, I asked my dad if he had any financial advice for me, and he responded, “Don’t do what I did.” Knowing that my husband was smart about money was pretty comforting to me. (Although some of his more frugal tendencies did take some getting used to.)

On the upsides of your husband being a money weirdo:

  • What was your husband right about, particularly if you disagreed at first?
    • Getting rid of our cell phone plan, for sure! When he first suggested it, I thought he was crazy! But I have never regretted it for a minute, and have loved the money savings!
    • Putting our money in Roths was a good idea, even though I’m still pretty terrified of the stock market (I should never have watched Cinderella Man).
    • Living with four kids in a two bedroom townhome during his phd seemed a little crazy, but it was actually fantastic.
  • What are some things we do that you think everyone should do?
    • Definitely the cell phone thing! No one should be paying as much as they do for cell phones. It’s insane.
    • I love our cheap and free hobbies! Time together doesn’t mean spending money. I love board games, watching movies outside, hiking, bike rides, etc. I think everyone can find ways to save money by finding inexpensive hobbies that they love!

On the downsides of your husband being a money weirdo:

  • What are your biggest regrets?
    • I used to miss eating out, I don’t anymore.
      • Why not?
        • Because I feel guilty eating a meal for $20, when I know I can eat one that’s almost as good for $1 or $2. (There are other things I would rather do with that money.) Also, health benefits.
    • Sometimes I feel sad that The Professor is the voice in my head (like a little Jiminy Cricket) telling me not to buy things, but it’s usually for the best. 🙂 Honestly, every time I make a purchase I think, “Oh man, now I have to explain this to The Professor…. It will end up on the blog…”
      • I feel the same way about making purchases. It will end up on the blog. It’s a great accountability mechanism. I think we would all make more prudent financial decisions if we were held accountable to external parties.
    • I do secretly wish we could just take our whole family on a cruise, but I know The Professor would hate it, so it wouldn’t be any fun.
      • For the new reader of the blog, my wife just got back from a cruise with her sister & parents. I don’t find the idea of short term travel very appealing. The largest expense when travelling is airfare. In terms of economics, this is what we call a large fixed expense, and the variable expenses of lodging, etc is relatively small. I’m currently pushing Mrs. Frugal Professor to live abroad with me for a few months (Costa Rica?) rather than spend a similar amount of money for a 5 day cruise. I would much rather have my family experience an immersive experience in a new culture than a phony alternative reality on a few day cruise.
    • For the most part though, I feel very similar to The Professor about most money-spending activities, and so I don’t regret not spending money. I appreciate that I understand and value saving money, because of the good things I can do for others and our family as a result. Before I buy anything, I think about what I’m giving up by doing so. Sometimes it’s worth it, but often it’s not.

Please humiliate the frugal professor

  • I love food. A lot. The Professor does not like eating out for many reasons, his frugality just being one of them. Over the many years we’ve been married, we’ve mutually agreed to not eat out very often, and I’m okay with that. However, every year on my birthday I get a bunch of free meals (I love birthday freebies!). The Professor used to come with me to my meals and just watch me eat because he didn’t want to spend money on himself. Eventually, I just told him to stop coming and I would bring a book.
  • Along those same lines, sometimes we’re invited to go out with friends and The Professor will always eat a meal before we leave, so that way he can just “share with me” at the restaurant. We even had a gift card to a restaurant once, and he still just chose to watch me eat, because he was too cheap to even buy himself food for “free”.
  • Sometimes I’ve suggested that we get some ice cream for a date night, and he will always suggest that we just bring a spoon to the grocery store, buy a half gallon of ice cream (for the same price or cheaper than an ice cream shop) and eat it at the store. (The grocery store we did this at had a café with tables, so we at least had somewhere to sit.)
  • When we moved to a new state for The Professor’s first job out of college, the company he was working for allowed him a per diem for food and would pay for any hotels we stayed in. He learned however that if we didn’t actually stay in a hotel or eat out, he would still get the money. So, we slept on the floor of one of his friend’s apartments (which was the dirtiest place I’ve ever seen, with no toilet paper (and I was pregnant)) and ate macaroni and cheese, so that he could save a couple bucks.
    • “A couple bucks” = $$$/day.
    • In my defense, I did not know my friend’s place was such a dive before asking to crash there. Had I known, I would have not done it.
      • I bet you still would have.
  • In our first apartment, the AC was not very cost effective and The Professor preferred that we didn’t run it very often, so I would walk to the library every day to sit in air conditioned building for a few hours. (I was pregnant.)
  • Along those same lines, in one of our apartments, the heater wasn’t very cost effective, and so we hardly ran it (this was when I was pregnant with our first child, so we didn’t have kids at home to worry about) and just bundled up instead. The Professor would often come home from work to find me cooking dinner in my winter coat and beanie. (In fact, one day we woke up to the water being off, and we were terrified that we had busted a pipe by not having our heat on. In the end, it wasn’t our fault luckily.)
  • I censored this comment. Suffice it to say, I subscribe to the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” philosophy. I justify this because I’m a tree hugger. Perhaps that’s a great decoy for my frugality.
  • The Professor has also been known to take cold showers to save money on hot water. I have never been frugal enough to do that. Sorry, Frugal Professor.
    • In my defense, there are non monetary reasons to take cold showers. I find it to be a great form of voluntary hardship and a way to empathize with those who are less fortunate. I lived abroad for a few years and knew that many people bathed in cold water. I wanted to experience what they did even though I could afford not to.
      • That sounds nice. Every time he told me that story it was, “I wanted to save some money, so I took cold showers.”

 

Frugal Professor’s Response

I’m a tree hugger. I cannot fathom why people crank the heat up so high during the winter time that they are forced to wear shorts inside. Nor can I fathom why people crank the A/C down so low during summer that they are forced to wear a sweatshirt indoors. I find central heating & air to be extremely inefficient. If you think about the volume of air in your home, the only air that matters for your physical comfort is the few millimeters of air around your skin. And it’s much easier to heat this few millimeters of air through capturing body heat in a sweatshirt. I find it inexcusable to use central heat without first putting on a sweatshirt. I also find it inexcusable to use A/C without first being at the cusp of sweating. Modern life has turned us all into a bunch of pansies.

Looking back at the early stories from Mrs. Frugal Professor, it is evident that I have become significantly less cheap over time. I used to be cheap, now I’m frugal. The tipping point was when I bought a plastic t-ball set from Walmart for $10 instead of a rubber one from Amazon for $25. After buying the plastic t-ball set, the tee broke on the first or second swing. I returned the piece of junk to Walmart and bought the rubber tee from Amazon. Almost a decade later, the rubber tee is holding up great. And that is how I transitioned from cheap to frugal. I see a similar transition with my thoughts on usage of central heating/air conditioning. I used to think it was stupid to use heat without first putting on winter coat and beenie. Now I think it’s stupid to use without first putting on a sweatshirt.

For as much as I’ve transitioned from cheapeness to frugality, I still don’t think it’s rational to eat at restaurants. It costs at least 10X the amount of money, much more time, and is much less healthy to eat out.

4 thoughts on “(Mostly) Uncensored Confessions of a Money Weirdo’s Wife

  1. Doc, I think you’ll like this: The “Metabolic Winter” Hypothesis: A Cause of the Current Epidemics of Obesity and Cardiometabolic Disease
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4209489/

    “Our 7-million-year evolutionary path was dominated by two seasonal challenges—calorie scarcity and mild cold stress. In the last 0.9 inches of our evolutionary mile, we solved them both. Refrigeration and transportation have fundamentally changed the food to which we have access and the environments in which we live. We also sleep less and are exposed to considerably more artificial light, particularly in the winter months. Obesity and chronic disease are seen most often in people and the animals (pets) they keep warm and overnourished. Similar to the circadian cycle and like most other living organisms, it is reasonable to believe we also respond to the seasons and carry with us the survival genes for winter. Maybe our problem is that winter never comes”

    • JD, thanks for sending!

      So now I can justify turning down the heat because 1.) I’m a tree hugger, 2.) I’m frugal, 3.) It wards off obesity, and 4.) It wards off Cardiometabolic (had to google what this meant) disease.

      My kids and wife will forever hate you, but I thank you for reinforcing my crazy behavior.

  2. Wow! I didn’t realize you had to evolve into the “frugal” professor. But I’m glad you did, for your wife’s sake. Hehe! Thanks for letting your wife shed some light on things.

    My wife and I, though not as frugal, have also discussed taking the kids and spending a few years abroad. I totally get the cold shower thing and appreciating the incredible luxury that surrounds us. I look forward to hearing more about your adventures.

    • Aaron, thanks for stopping by. We’ll see how this living abroad thing goes. GoCurryCracker is pretty much my idol when it comes to that. Check out his blog if you haven’t seen it yet. He’s basically raising his son while slow travelling the world. Pretty incredible.

      And you’re right, I think my life is substantially happier given the evolution from “cheap” to “frugal”.

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