On Sharing, Co-habiting, and Adulting

On Sharing, Cohabiting, and Adulting

My life was great for a single person. I lived alone, ate mostly takeout food, worked constantly, and my plans for the new year were always self-improvement projects. I was a self-sustaining unit, which I preferred. As one of four kids, I felt like I reached my sharing quota pretty early in life. As an adult, I avoided two types of sharing: financials and emotional bandwidth.

But life had other plans—and as it goes, I’ve fallen in love and we’ve co-habited before the year is over. I’ve never lived with anyone before, and I also never thought I was partnership material. As I’ve come to find out, really loving someone means sharing. My person is a big sharer and I’m slowly practicing my sharing skills, especially when it comes to my money story.

My money issues take days to unfold. Just like most people, my money issues began with my parents who kept epic money secrets from each other. Properties and cars have been bought and discarded unbeknownst to the other person. They operated under the whole “you do you, I do me” principle when it came to their finances.

As you can see, I don’t have a positive role model in either love or money and at 31 years old I want to do better. The money part is easy to figure out. I’m fiscally responsible, and I make people crazy with my frugality. The hard part is talking about finances without wanting to cry. The two people in this world who knew my exact financial picture are my one-time tax preparer and attorney. After each meeting with those people I went home and hid under my blankets for hours. The funny thing is, my finances were better than most twenty-somethings—IRA, liquid cash, savings, and no debt whatsoever.

Sitting in front of someone to ask for money or to divulge my finances is my seventh circle of hell. I think this is why I love the anonymity of the cash economy and online tax filing. Of course, part of adulting means my financials might get more complex in the future and I’m slowly preparing myself for the inevitability of sharing my money story with more people.

My person loves to talk about finances. I like to talk about it, but in a grander scale such as “so and so’s net worth”—which is really a ploy not to talk about my money story. It took me a long time to tell him how much I paid in rent, and I used to hide the bill when I paid for our date nights.

Thus far, my money story has been heavy with the sadness that comes with a lifetime of self-imposed spiritual poverty. I have been known to wear shoes for seven years, unable to buy a new pair because of the fear that I might need that $50 for some unknown and impending financial collapse. When I had a bad day at work, I bought shares and fiddled with my portfolio. I spent my nights staring at numbers, thinking that a wall of money and all of its secrecy could protect me from life’s disappointments. Nobody in my immediate family knows exactly what I do or what my finances look like, although stories of my miserliness is currency with my kinfolk.

But my person has changed things. He has taught me that it’s okay to buy the really cute compost bin that I really want instead of the $20 one that I don’t really like, but is $20. I’m working on being okay wanting the things I want, rather than settling for the less-thans. Being one of four kids always meant I had to forgo what I really wanted because there were three other kids to think about.

Yesterday I showed him the Tiffany rings that are on my wish list, and it took me weeks to say “I want to go to Tiffany’s and this is my price range.” Even thinking about wanting a $2,300 gold and diamond ring makes me itchy, but I’m learning to deal with parts of myself that doesn’t fit my spiritual poverty. I showed him the most expensive ring in my wish list, which tops off at $3,200. I told him anything above that price is out, and it felt surprisingly good to say these things to an actual person other than having long arguments with myself inside my head.

I came into the relationship with two suitcases and almost no household possessions. He’s a homeowner who mostly had boxes for furniture. Together we’re slowly buying furniture that fits our life as thirty-somethings who won’t ever have children. Co-habitation has stretched my sharing self into avenues I didn’t know I had. I used to meticulously keep a ledger of my expenses and debts owed to me like a bonafide Ebenezer. My friends used to say I would make a great CPA, and I don’t think that was a compliment.

I’ve learned that life is better when I think of money in fluidity rather than numbers in Excel. My person has shown me to take out cash for fun money every payday, which has visibly improved my idea of money being hardworking soldiers all meant for overhead costs and investments. Really though, walking to an ATM for spending money is one of life’s great pleasures.

When we go out to eat, sometimes he pays and sometimes I do. There isn’t that money tension I’ve had with my other relationships; the tension of knowing the other person can’t quite afford any of this, or the feeling that I have to pay for everybody yet again. When we buy groceries and stuff for the house, I don’t keep a mental tally of who’s spending more on whom, like I used to. I envision that our purchases are paid from our communal vault, although we keep separate accounts.

In the next year, I hope to get even better at sharing, not just of my resources but also of myself. My life has grown in beautiful and unexpected ways since I’ve decided to open my dark heart and finally really love someone. I think we’ve yet to unfold our best selves. Thus far, we’re ringing in 2016 with solid financial footing and I hope to share more with the Billfold community.

This article is part of The Billfold’s 2015 end-of-year series, “Our Best Selves in the Coming Year.”

Ruzielle Ganuelas is a writer, baker and PF nerd in Washington State.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.