Upon exiting the parking garage, I swiped my debit card through the self-pay machine, the cross-arm lifted, and I slammed the accelerator. As I raced to a meeting thirty minutes away, it occurred to me that something was amiss. With my eyes fixed on the proper route back to my office, I had failed to observe the exorbitant parking cost. The receipt caught my attention at a stoplight, and I exclaimed, “Three hundred dollars!” At the next stoplight, I managed to call the telephone number on the receipt. By the grace of God, the parking company’s manager, Sheila, answered the phone, which, she later informed me, she rarely does. Out of kindness, Sheila reviewed a list of transactions from the garage I exited and assured me there had been no three-hundred-dollar charge. My relief fleeted as she declared, “Aw, honey, it’s worse than that. You spent $1,300. Our machines can’t print that many digits on a receipt so it must have dropped the 1.”
“What? I only parked for two hours!” Because Sheila was the nicest parking garage manager in the profession’s history, she agreed to take a look at the receipt once I could send it to her.
So I called Cherie.
“I need you to transfer some money into the checking account. I just spent $1,300 on parking.” While this was strange to say, I’m sure it was even more bizarre to hear. My circumstances limited my options and forced me to get right to the point. Those two sentences were all I said to Cherie before ending the call.
After a few unsuccessful attempts to scan and e-mail the receipt to Sheila, I finally forwarded a picture of it. Sheila canceled the excessive charge.
Aside from a complicated scheme to gain free downtown parking, we learned two important lessons from the fiasco. First, having $1,300 can prevent financial disaster. Years of frugality, toil, and paying off debt got us to the point where my $1,300 error would not have broken us. A few years prior, an unexpected $1,300 hit would have overdrawn our funds and bounced a litany of checks. I’m confident my conversation with Sheila wouldn’t have succeeded either; let alone my conversation with Cherie. Financial stress inhibits effective communication.
The second and more powerful lesson gained: trust takes time. Cherie trusted me enough to know that if I made a confounding request, it must be legitimate–embarrassing, but legitimate. Unwavering trust doesn’t happen overnight. Since I had not made multiple strange and excessive financial requests over the course of our marriage, Cherie trusted me without hesitation in a critical time-constrained moment. She wasn’t harsh, she didn’t freak out, she didn’t even call later to ask, “You did what?” In order to achieve a higher level of trust with your finances and beyond, employ the following habits.
Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Consistency fosters financial foreplay. Why? Because following through on your word is sexy. When you make any kind of promise and fulfill it to your spouse, the balance in your “trust account” goes up. Following through on your financial commitments yields trust in all areas of your marriage, including the bedroom. It’s easier to make a promise than to keep a promise. Couples who agree on a financial plan and adhere to the plan know they can trust one another. Cherie trusted me in my parking garage gaffe because I’m consistent in my frugality and refrain from goofball financial moves. Cherie built trust with me by not overreacting about my financial error and inattention.
A vow is a vow.
Committing to your financial plan isn’t about the five, ten, or one hundred dollars spent or saved but about a sacred promise. In marriage, all promises are sacred. When you agree on your finances and follow through, the commitment communicates a message without words: “She’s serious about this” or “He’s really going to keep his promises.” The message translates even deeper because establishing trust in your finances constructs confidence in your vows. “He does what he says he’s going to do” transcends finances. If you can handle the little things, you can handle the big things. It might seem silly that fulfilling a small pledge like “I’m not going to grab my morning latte” for just a couple of weeks evidences commitment not only to the budget but also to your mate.
Go big or go home is not the answer here. The steady steps of small decisions over time pave the path to the pinnacle of trust. If you go too big, too fast, you will fail with a capital F. For example, instead of just giving up your morning latte habit, you decide to give up coffee, caffeine, sugar, sugar substitutes, meat, social media, cable TV, video games, and all your annoying habits (oh, you have them). I’ll play the odds on this one, and take the sure bet you’re going to fail–miserably. When you declare lofty intentions to your spouse and fall short within the hour, it takes longer than you realize to rebound. However, if you start with attainable goals and persist over time, your spouse notices more successes than failures. Through dependability and fortitude, you slowly release control and steadily build trust.
No more secrets.
Keeping secrets about money leads to keeping secrets about extramarital affairs. Cheating on your spouse starts somewhere. Keeping secrets with money trains you to lie to your husband or wife for selfish pursuits. It’s financial infidelity. Financial infidelity is a close look-a-like cousin to marital infidelity. They have the same last name. Initially, you’ll get away with lying and the secret will feel safe. Eventually, the habitual secret-keeping grows and festers into your entire relationship.