Money, Day 7: Relationships Before Money

October 25, 2009 at 4:23 pm

The Dave Ramsey Bible Study resumed at church today.  (It had started, run for about two weeks, and then had to go on haitus to make way for — ha ha — this year’s Stewardship campaign.)   Since it’s been about four weeks since we met, most of what went on was just recapping what we’d learned and discussing it in small groups.   It was nice, actually, because we were sitting with Cheri and Chris, good friends of mine who struggle just as much with money as we do.  They have six kids, though, so they have a bit more of an excuse than we do.

At one point in the discussion, the question was, “Do you value relationships over money? What would your friends and family say about you in this respect?”

I actually hadn’t heard this part of the video series, if it was a question Dave addressed directly.  Honestly, I could see the DR ‘Right Answer’ going either way.  He talks against emotional spending, after all, and it’s probably not inappropriate to warn against basing all of your monetary decisions on the emotional connections you have to those around you.  As with the Public vs. Private School issue discussed in the comments awhile back, there’s a point at which you have to accept that you have to show your love for your children in some way that doesn’t involve buying them a $5,000 mechanical pony.

But the followup question there suggested that, in fact, Dave does feel we should rank our relationships above our finances.  And I certainly can testify firsthand as to why that would be necessary.  I suspect that if Andy hadn’t spent the past ten years mishandling our money and making it abundantly clear that he blamed me for it, our marriage would not be what it is now.   When it comes to romantic relationships, I think I’ve discovered that my number one need is to feel that the object of my affection believes his life is better for having me in it, and Andy certainly has never sent that message on any level.   Instead, I’ve been told that I’m mostly just a distressing burden.

To Andy’s credit, during the group discussion he did say that yes, he had ranked money above relationships for a long time.    Yeah.  Just a little.

As for me, I tend to rank relationships above money… but I rank a lot of things above money, including my own capricious whims a lot of the time.  So that doesn’t make me a better person, and I guess to be completely fair Andy’s need to feel Just A Little Bit Persecuted found pretty fertile soil in me.  The issue, I guess, isn’t that I’m not a spendthrift and he isn’t justified in feeling he had to police me some, but rather that the way he chose to police me wasn’t fair or respectful.   He should have discussed the situation with me as an equal instead of acting like I was a spoiled child who needed to be disciplined whenever she was ‘bad’.

For me, though, even under the present circumstances, my judgment calls fall toward relationships.   Susanna, for example, has been going through a period where she’s annoyed with the fact that she’s a girl.   I can’t really blame her, either; at four years old, being a girl means she has to have her hair brushed, while her brothers run around sporting maintenance-free buzz cuts.  She has to wear dresses to church while her brothers lounge in the pews wearing comfortable slacks.   She notices this stuff, and doesn’t like it…  And I am often little help, as I feel as she does about a lot of that.  I’ve always been sort of a tomboy.

But I don’t want her to hate her own femininity, so I decided to do what I could to turn Being a Girl into a positive thing.  I sat her down and asked her if she would go out with me sometime for a Girls Only Breakfast.  We would get dressed up, do our nails, go shopping, have a fancy meal together, and no boys would be allowed because we’d only do GIRL things.  Susanna’s desire to be included in the boys’ affairs is trumped only by her desire to be the center of either parent’s attention, so this was JUST FINE BY HER.  In fact, from the moment I mentioned it, she has talked about little else.

I made the mistake of offhandedly suggesting we do this ‘on a Saturday’, which led Susanna to pinpoint yesterday as THE DAY.  This would have been fine, if I hadn’t spent last week wrestling with money..  At this point we really don’t need to be dropping anything extra on something like THAT, certainly.   I really struggled with the question of whether to put her off on this, but it was SO important to her that I couldn’t bring myself to do that.  Instead, I just tried to be smart about it; I visited websites of the girlier restaurants downtown, scoped out about how much certain things would cost and made a plan for myself about how much to spend, and tried to be conservative about it.

As it turned out, I wouldn’t have traded yesterday morning for anything.  Susanna was so genuinely excited about the whole thing.  She let me do her hair, paint her nails, do her ‘makeup’ (face powder and lip gloss, mostly), and then she was sweetly cheerful and chattery through the meal at the restaurant.   I had a fruit plate, she had french toast.  She poured my tea for me, and drank chocolate milk from a stemmed goblet.  She was very polite to our waitress and charmed the whole place.   Afterward we went shopping on Historic Main and I got her a caramel apple for $4.25.  It was, again, much more than something like that ever needs to cost, but she was SO EXCITED about it that it was worth it to me.

That afternoon, I took all of the kids to Six Flags for a ‘last hurrah’ before the park’s season ends.  We have season passes, so the trip didn’t really cost anything besides gas, but we did need to eat there and that wasn’t cheap.  However, again, the money was less important to me than making sure the kids had a good Saturday.  That logic can be taken too far, I know, but it’s still important.

The issue before me now is Luke’s birthday, which falls next Tuesday.  He is turning three, so we can get by without doing a TON, but I don’t want to not do ANYTHING.  I just don’t know how much we can afford to do.  I’ll have a better idea when the mortgage and stuff hits and Ic an see what we have left.


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