Husband vs. Wife: A Holiday from Spending


Lori and Marek Fuchs have never fought in their 16 years of marriage—except over money. In this column, Mr. and Mrs. Fuchs, a real-life married couple with three kids (ages 12, 7 and 5), articulate their very different approaches to personal finance.

This round, they implement the idea of a day spent without spending.

Mr. Fuchs: I cheated on you.

Mrs. Fuchs: Come again?

Mr. Fuchs: I cheated on you—with a donut and cup of coffee, not to mention a tank of gas, which might not count.

Mrs. Fuchs: Ah, phew. You are talking about our contest.

Mr. Fuchs: Contest puts it in such secular terms. I’m talking about our religious experiment, or experience. And don’t give me that look like I’m being too high-falutin’. It’s Ramadan right now and Yom Kippur is coming down the pike, two holidays that revolve around fasting, or forgoing food. What I want to start is a holiday of forgoing spending.

Mrs. Fuchs: Oh God. Festivus, as interpreted by the cheapskate Mr. Fuchs.

Mr. Fuchs: Once a year, from sundown one day to sundown the next, you can’t spend one thin dime. The goal is to appreciate how much money you waste on little mundane purchases. Once you raise your awareness, you can cut down on spending the other 364 days of the year.

Mrs. Fuchs: That is a bizarre holiday, I’ve got to say. Like anything else, you’ve got to have moderation. Too much spending is obviously not a good thing but so is too little! Even so, as I told you – you’re on! I bet you I could can spend no money easier than you – for one day. I’m banking on your little vices, of which I have none, to trip you up.

Mr. Fuchs: Hey, I resemble that accusation! But you cheated! You went out to sea!

Mrs. Fuchs: What? So what if you can’t spend money while you are on a sailboat? Not my fault you picked yesterday. That said, it certainly is easier to not spend when you keep busy and stay away from the kids, not to mention land. That, and packing your own lunch.

Mr. Fuchs: Well, I did OK on lunch. I ate it at your parents when I dropped our kids off their for an overnight. But driving back from the Jersey Shore on a Sunday is tiring. I stopped for a coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, right after filling the car up at the Exxon nearby (Stock Quote: XOM), even though it didn’t need it (because the gas in Jersey near your folks is about 50 cents a gallon cheaper than in New York by us).

Mrs. Fuchs: And?

Mr. Fuchs: Ugh, you know me too well. When I stopped for the coffee, I couldn’t help but buy a donut. Chocolate glazed. But at least I saved money by not stopping at Starbucks (Stock Quote: SBUX). I thought about really slumming it and buying coffee at McDonald’s (Stock Quote: MCD), but then I would’ve given into the temptation of buying a Big Mac.

Mrs. Fuchs: Wow! Usually I think I’m the one who spends the money – what with buying clothes for the kids and giving in to the occasional pack of baseball cards. But I’m still not getting the point of your torturous exercise. To prove how easy it is to blow through 50 bucks without even noticing? You know how if you only eat salad for a whole day, the next day you reward yourself with a chocolate cake?  Well, I’ll bet you that fasting with money is like fasting with food – you don’t spend any money on one day but then you buy all the stuff you didn’t buy the day before, plus a few things extra to reward yourself. I don’t see the point. These days it seems that people are looking for reasons to splurge.

Mr. Fuchs: I disagree wholeheartedly ... though, uh, respectfully. What I’m doing is raising consciousness here. Just as fasting for one day can, say, give you sympathy for those who don’t have enough food, a spending fast can raise your awareness of how easy it is to drop money here and there throughout the course of a day. Avoiding wasteful daily overspending is the key to staying under budget. Besides, I’m not suggesting that you take this to the ridiculous five days a week extreme as a cool blog — Notes From the Frugal Trenches does.   I’m just saying once a year.

Mrs. Fuchs: But, look, you couldn’t do it for that short a time.  And how much did you eat after fasting last Yom Kippur? How sick did you feel after the 3rd bagel with the works? I rest my case.

Mr. Fuchs: I have to rest after speaking with you. Anyhow, after arguing these issues out, we usually reach a compromise or consensus.  We might have to agree to disagree on this one, though, huh?

Mrs. Fuchs: I think so.

Mr. Fuchs: OK, so we’ll agree to disagree ... with the underlying understanding that I’m right.

Mrs. Fuchs: Be right about this instead: You’ll be fasting instead of eating dinner tonight.

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