Financial to a fault

September 20, 2010 · 41 comments

I admit it. I’m a huge dork. I’m constantly running numbers through my head. Last night, as Wife Ninja was making her best attempt to fall asleep (at 9pm!), I asked a handful of questions about her work schedule. While I was trying to beat around the bush, Wife Ninja knew exactly what I was doing. I was trying to count how many days she would work this month, so I could then calculate what her paycheck would be. She made it pretty clear she just wanted to go to sleep and it was time for me to stop bothering her.

This isn’t the first, and definitely wont be the last time, my obsession with numbers has caused a hiccup in my 6 week old marriage. No, I’m pretty much a pro at making the wifey feel overwhelmed by money. She loves to shop, and I hate it. So it makes sense to have her do the grocery, household, and decor shopping. While she enjoys the shopping aspect of it, she HATES the coming home part. Every time she would return from a shopping trip, I’d ask “How much did you spend?”

I asked what I thought was a harmless question, but soon discovered it was anything but. Wife Ninja felt as though I didn’t trust her to spend our money appropriately. I, however, wasn’t asking because I thought she’d go blow all our cash, but because I like to keep a running balance of all of our credit card charges in my head. I didn’t even think about the fact that it could be interpreted as me smothering her. Yeah, I know. I’m a big dumb dumb head and should have been more sensitive, but hey I’m still learning here.

Last but not least, the burrito factor. What is the burrito factor you ask? It’s a currency system I use. Here in San Diego, they have this tasty treat called a California burrito. It is essentially a Carne Asada burrito with one special ingredient. French Fries!!!! I promise you it’s not as gross as it sounds, and it is nowhere near as weird those Pennsylvanians that put french fries on their salads…

Anyhow, back to the burrito currency. I can get a California burrito for $5 at the local taco stand. Not only is that sucker scrumtrulescent, but it also fills me up. Now, whenever I go out to eat and look at the menu, I run the burrito factor through my mental calculator. It looks a little something like this… “Okay, this salad is gonna cost me $12.50, which is the same price as 2.5 California burritos. Plus the salad is probably only going to fill me up 50%. So that means this salad is gonna cost the equivalent of 5 California burritos to get full. Death to salad!

So ya see, there are times where money shouldn’t be on the mind….like when your wife is trying to go to sleep ;) I guess it’s pretty easy to be “financial to a fault.” Do you have any silly examples of your crazy financial/number habits? Or do you have your own “burrito factor” system (i.e. a Starbucks factor or Video Game factor)?

{ 38 comments }

1 Techbud

No burrito factor for me. Maybe it’s best to set budget limits for both of you on shopping items, so you don’t have to ask the question of how much did you spend each time you take a trip to the store. If it’s planned out ahead of time then there would be no need to worry.

2 Larry

I check my bank balance each day, and my investments at the close of each week. It’s one thing to do when you’re single, but can get a little obsessive when you’re married. Or even when you’re single.

3 Stephan

McDouble factor, they are a buck each, and i am constantly comparing other things i would eat at restaurants to that. Is that nacho appetizer at chillis really worth 9 McDoubles? No Way!

4 Kevin @ Thousand-aire.com

I don’t share finances with my girlfriend, but we do talk about them and I try to give her some pointers. She got a personal trainer a few months ago and it hurt me deep in my bones to ask how much it cost. As soon as she told me, I immediately started looking at things in terms of “personal trainer sessions”, which are a little over $50 for an hour!

The worst part is, I sent her to that gym because I got a coupon in the mail. I feel responsible. But she loves it and she’s happy, so I just try to stay out of the way.

5 Ted

Maybe she likes the trainer….

6 Jessie

I pretty much overwhelm Jordan on a daily basis about money. It’s taken a bit of time, but we do have a few rules now. One, I’m not aloud to talk about money while he’s driving and expect him to pay attention to the conversation. Two, ditto for video games.

BUT, if I say: Hey, I want to run some money stuff by you – then he’ll redirect and pay attention for a SHORT while. Emphasis on short.

7 Kim

Haha, I was the same so we made similar rules. I’m not allowed to talk money during football (3 nights per week!), or Sunday mornings. Also I try to keep it to twice a week – any more and he shuts down, takes it as a personal attack (he doesn’t hear me analyze my own spending since I do that…internally), and we fight. I’m sure you’ve been there.

I might have an over-planning problem – want to allocate every penny. He is more into general plans. Of course as PFers know, in general plans the money simply leaks away!

8 Stu

Nugget-ology. Everything converts to an equivalent number of Wendy’s chicken nuggets. Also can do the same thing with JBC’s (Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers).

9 Red

Ha! I once calculated how much a meal of three scrambled eggs, two pieces of toast with jelly and four pieces of bacon cost. It was under $2. I was eating a lot of eggs those days, so that was my go-to meal. Now every time I consider going out to eat, I say, “$7 for a Wendy’s combo!? I could eat more than THREE MEALS at home for that price!” My husband is constantly rolling his eyes, but having that in my head keeps me from going out to eat constantly.

10 Natasha

I always break things down to my hourly rate of pay. Like, do I want to wear flip flops that cost me an hours worth of work. Hell no! Do I want to wear runners that cost me an hours worth of work…maybe. :)

11 PunchDebt

Oh yeah! I do that all the time, except I break it down by daily pay. Is XYZ really worth a whole day of work? Usually, the answer is NO!!!

12 Greenback

Dude, it’s all about receipts. I can’t constant pester my husband about what he spent and where—I usually just ask one question in the evening (“Did you spend anything today?”) and all the rest is left to receipts which he’s learned to dutifully leave out for me. I only give him our financial report once, at the end of the month, when I’ve balanced the budget and set up the next one.

13 psycharah

Perhaps you can use your wife’s hesitation to discuss money every second of the day to curb your obsessive tendencies. :) Could you set aside a time for a brief “budget meeting” once a week to satisfy your obsession, while respecting her style too?

14 mary m

here’s a good time to think about the separate bank account idea.

15 MoneyMan @ FinancialOdyssey

I don’t use burritos but I do use the “how many hours of work” factor. I get paid by the hour so I calculated what my take home pay is every hour and I use that before I buy things. Seems to work well for me.

16 Kathy

Like Greenback said, it’s all about receipts. I update “the book” (now an excell spreedsheet — in the cheap days, it was a ledger) every 2 weeks on payday…..at which point we shake our heads in disgust and think “we should really stop spending money on junk food or (insert thingy here)”.

As for stupid money-obsessed quirks? I used to look at my mortgage spreadsheet daily (or more), even though it was paid monthly. I would obsess over how much longer we had to pay that sucker off….even though it wouldn’t change between morning or night, I would still open it and STARE at it. I don’t anymore….’cause we paid that sucker off!!!! woohooo!! ($116k in 5 1/5 years….*SO* glad it’s done!!)

17 Libra

Wow Kathy … I think we’re twins. I paid off an $118 mortgage in 5.5 years, and I still open up my expenses spreadsheet 5 – 10 times per day and stare at it.

18 Jared

“I didn’t even think about the fact that it could be interpreted as me smothering her. Yeah, I know. I’m a big dumb dumb head and should have been more sensitive, but hey I’m still learning here.”

I’m glad to see that you’re working on your communication style and being more aware of your wife’s feelings. As someone with a few years of marriage under the belt (which still makes me a novice, in my opinion), I hope that she’s running through the same process you are and working on being more sensitive to your needs as well. It takes two to tango on things like this.

I’m not assuming that she isn’t doing the same just because you didn’t write it down (after all, this is your blog from your perspective). That said, one of the mindsets I had to adapt to with marriage is that there are actually three entities in a marriage: “you”, “me”, and “us”. Some problems are “you” or “me” problems, but many are “us” problems. Learning where to categorize a problem was (and still is) one of the hardest things I had to work on, and I find that when things are categorized correctly it makes them infinitely easier to solve.

To me, reading through your post today it seems like there’s the possibility that you’re turning an “us” problem into a “me” problem and putting everything on yourself.

19 Savings

Maybe you should come up with a system where she just drops the receipt in an envelope by the door or something. That way you can keep a tally, but you don’t have to bombard her (I would hate that too!). Since I keep track of our household finances, my boyfriend knows that anytime he buys something with our joint credit card, or our joint checking he just needs to give me the receipt, and I won’t make a big deal out of it. Plus, if we’re going to spend a lot of joint money on something, we always check in first. If you think she’s spending a ton of money on unnecessary stuff, have a talk about it. But honestly, if she’s not ever going over budget, then it’s probably best to just let it go.

20 Sandy L

I don’t convert currency into burritos but I often find myself looking at items in stores and referencing the yard sale price. Whenever my kid wants a toy or book at a store, I’m always like, “$20? you can get that at a yard sale for $1.”

Ninja, I couldn’t live with someone who wanted to track every penny I spent. That would be really annoying. There’s a reason we have separate bank accounts. It’s not critical categorize every last nickle. I really would suggest a “spend money any way I choose category” for you both. Although I’m sure you trust girl ninja, if you’re on the receiving end of such requests it may feel like you’re scrutinizing every mundane decision girl ninja makes. Good Luck working things out and thanks for sharing your journey.

21 pdent ninja

California Burrito, we salute you. And everything you bring to our stomachs and financial planning systems. :)

22 PunchDebt

Amen :)

23 Samantha @ Food Edu

The Burrito factor-lol! We save our receipts and enter them into monthly budget spreadsheet. I also leave our balanced checkbook in the desk at all times so the hubs can check it if he wants. We are both a little crazy about money, so I normally mention how much I spend, especially if I feel like I spent a lot. We are still figuring out this joint money situation and open communication has been a huge help :)

24 Sara

I think the real problem is that you’re paying too much for your CA burritos, when you could be getting them for $4 or even $3.50. =P

Really, though… it seems that you’d be easier to deal with if she knew up front how much to spend. For instance, if you all budgeted $1,000 for home furnishings, and she knew that overall it needed to stay under that, then you wouldn’t have to worry about how much she spent as long as she kept to the agreed-upon budget!

25 Sophie

Now I want a Burrito – darn it.

I just wanted to say that I know how Mrs Ninja feels – and it probably has nothing to do with you. I’m 41 years old and I still lie to my mother about how much I pay for anything. But then again, it’s because she is cheap, cheap, cheap – and regardless of how good a deal it was, she assumes it was too much, and has no problem telling me how I have no business spending my own money, and how she could have bought TWO of those for HALF as much at Value Village…it just winds me up to even think of it.

Now I want a glass of wine – lol.

26 Nicole

Hee. I used to put things on a “candy bar” system. Candybars were 3/$1 growing up. Then 2/$1. So conversions were easy. These days I don’t really track that because we don’t need to. And I can’t eat candy bars anymore. :( (Though $8/hunk of cheese… $500 for a plane ticket… $2000 for a mortgage payment, etc.)

Re: the marriage thing. I do ask DH how much he spends on stuff to keep the running tally in my head since I’m in charge of finances and he’s in charge of shopping. He does not take offense. BUT, we have been married over 10 years and have been together more than 16. Early in our relationship these kinds of things could have been misinterpreted.

What is important it to talk with her about exactly what you just said in this blog. You’re not judging her spending, you just want to keep a running tally of what’s been spent in your head, how much things cost etc. You both have full say in all spending decisions and you trust her to make the right decisions with spending. You are ONLY asking for informational purposes. If you start having monetary troubles then you will have a joint meeting to discuss what can be done together. But you’re doing fine now.

Especially if her parents fought about money, it can be easy to misinterpret this kind of thing.

And like Sara above says, however you’re handling money, if it is a budget or whatever, you need to sit down and discuss your long term goals and how much you can afford on things with her full input. What goals are important to both of you. How much on furnishing the apartment? About how much on groceries? Do you want to set a limit in advance or cut spending in month two if you go over month one? What objective measures will the two of you use to know when spending needs to be cut or could be increased? These are discussions to have as a couple. What does SHE think?

27 Crystal @ BFS

Mr. BFS and I had this problem in the beginning, I’d want to know the amounts and he’d think I was criticizing his spending habits. We had a nice, honest conversation a few times (and one big let-it-all-out-athon) and he now doesn’t mind me asking and I don’t pick on the amounts he spends.

Now, he does tease me incessantly that I know our bank account amounts any time any day as well as what charges are about to hit, just hit, and where it’s coming from. He also likes to raz me about our 8 ING sub accounts, but I notice he’s never wanted to take over the budget…

28 StackingCash

Can you recommend any Mexican restaurants in the San Diego area? I’m always on the lookout for good food.

29 dogatemyfinances

If you really care that much, you can check it on Mint or or something.

You are obsessed with frugality, it’s just who you are. If she were on the same page, she would be proud of the amount she spent. But then she wouldn’t want to do the shopping, so you can’t win them all.

30 Small Town Runner

I agree with other commenters that having a set budget for shopping might be a good idea. I know you like the “guess and check” system, but when you add another person into the mix, that’s a lot harder to manage. I think you’ve mentioned that the budget system a la Dave Ramsey feels constrictive to you, but maybe you could scoot a little bit in that direction. If Wife Ninja knows how much she has to spend (that the TWO of you have agreed upon), there will be no interrogation when she comes back home. It certainly has made my husband and me a happier couple.

31 Kim

First, her reaction is quite normal. We went through this same exact pain. Marriage is about learning about yourself, no? And realizing that everything you do (and have been doing for 20+ years) *might* not work for everyone else!

You want to know RIGHT NOW! But if someone pays with uses debit, doesn’t the amount automatically show up in your online bank account? And if not, maybe it’s a sign that you need to not obsess quite so much. All the more reason to have a buffer in your account. Do you really spend that much per week that you’ll blow thru your bank account? Doubtful; you both sound fairly responsible. This is also the problem with the joint account (which we do). You probably won’t even have time to obsess this much when you have kids! Yet the bottom won’t fall out.

32 Squirrelers

I have had my own “burrito factor” of sorts, when analyzing expenditures.

When I was younger, I would have a “Vegas” opportunity cost measure.

What’s that, you say? Well, I would annualize costs of certain unnecessary expenses, and think about what else I could do with the money. For example, a buddy of mine would spend $1 per day buying a Diet Coke or Diet Mountain Dew from the company cafeteria. I told him, if you take 250 working days per year, multiplied by a dollar a day, that’s a roundtrip fare to Vegas right there! That seemed to resonate with him a bit, as it was a cold Chicago winter when I said that.

Now, I think of opportunity costs in terms of how I could save instead. For example, if you saved $250, mulitplied it by 20 years, that’s $5,000 – not even counting compounding.

33 Allison

No lie. I do the burrito thing too. WITH burritos. Mostly for impulse buys when I’m shopping at the mall or something. I normally pack my lunch for work, as I started to realize just how much I was spending while eating out each day. Now, before I purchase something impulsively, I think I can either have this item I really don’t need at all, or I can eat out at Qdoba (my guilty pleasure) for a whole week with that money. The burrito usually wins. Now, I don’t necessarily go and eat Qdoba for the next week, but it does help to put things into perspective.

34 Cian

Perhaps it’s a bad reflection on my country of origin, Ireland, but I count things as pints of beer. And I don’t mean just in terms of money. While “a pint” is a pretty good monetary unit (because it costs roughly 5 euro – the type of beer and where you buy it will affect the price, but 5 euro is a decent yardstick) it’s also a good measure of enjoyment. I know that if I spend 15 euro on beer, it will get me a transitory amount of pleasure, lasting at best a few hours. So I can use the unit “pint” to measure a purchase both in terms of how much it will cost me, and of how much enjoyment I can expect to get out of it.

35 Stephanie PTY

There’s always… catpennies! http://poorerthanyou.com/2007/04/03/value-is-relative-to-catpennies/

(Although I don’t honestly stop and evaluate purchases based on their catpenny value. I probably should!)

36 Mike

Dude, how is it possible to mistake italian exotica for sweetish exotica? The car you have there is a koenigsegg not a lamborghini, they go by “turnips” for short. The turnip would be about 100k burritos. :( but at least it has awesome dirotational doors and not weak gullwings.

37 Money Pincher

Haha, I enjoy your blog a lot. I can see where you are coming from. The funny thing is that I love to shop too and my BF don’t hate it, but every time I come home, he asks me the same question you ask your wife. HOW MUCH DID YOU SPEND? AND DO WE NEED IT? And I feel totally guilty when he asks me that but I off-set that guilt telling him that what a good deal I got from buying the item!

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