My fiancée owes me $10,000.  She always makes lavish trips.

My fiancée owes me $10,000. She always makes lavish trips.

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Dear Pay Dirt,

My fiancée has a rich social life and loves going out with her friends to drink and dance the night away. They have a monthly dinner club where they go to the coolest restaurants where they spend over $100 per person for dinner. She recently spent $600 on a birthday weekend with her friends.

The problem is that very little money goes into savings/emergency funds. She currently owes her mother and me approximately $10,000 each due to emergencies over the past year or so. The last important element is the wedding that we have to plan. She wants a giant party but then complains that she doesn’t have enough money.

I sound super condescending when I explain how saving $300-500 a month by skipping social events could add up to a nice chunk of change — maybe enough to pay for the lavish wedding she wants . It’s also kind of insulting that she prioritizes social events with her friends over paying me back. But these conversations are always antagonistic and uncomfortable. In the future, I’m sure more huge purchases will crop up and I don’t want to go through that back and forth when we’re planning to have a kid or when we have to buy a new car, or fingers crossed, a single family home. Do I live the rest of my life always ready to bail ourselves out financially? Any advice on how to approach this diplomatically when another big expense ends up coming your way?

—Fiancé financially exhausted

Dear financially exhausted,

Are you sure you want to marry this person? It seems like your financial priorities and lifestyle don’t match. This will sound terribly unromantic to me, but marriage is a set of legal contracts at its heart. Even if you maintain separate accounts, there are still many ways your financial future is tied together when you sign that marriage certificate. This is especially true if you are in a community owned state.

I’m not going to blame your fiancée for spending money on experiences she enjoys — it seems your fiancée’s social life is a big part of who she is. (And her monthly dinner club honestly sounds nifty!) But if she doesn’t care to pay off her debt at the expense of these events now, what makes you think she’ll even be a unmotivated to repay you after your marriage? Looks like she doesn’t think she should attend your lavish wedding. I dare say she expects someone else to pay for it. You have released her on bail before.

There’s more to a marriage than financial compatibility, but this type of disagreement points to an underlying value conflict. Not only does your fiancée prioritize the vacation over you and her mom, you can’t even have a productive dialogue about it. You should only consider marrying her after you’ve been able to have an adult discussion about finances without it becoming antagonistic. Marriages require you to have the same long-term goals. Both partners should agree on shared financial priorities even if one of the partners is more financially savvy and manages the budget.

If more people talked about money before marriage, I would get a lot fewer letters in this column. I would recommend attending pre-wedding financial counseling or taking a personal finance workshop together before letting wedding planning go any further. Offer it as an opportunity to work together to budget for the wedding, but also use it to assess whether you really are a good match. If you can’t find a way to have open and honest conversations about money, you’re setting yourself up for constant arguments (and resentment) over every decision in life. Money is just an exchange of value, but sharing the same values ​​is the basis of a successful marriage. And if you decide to go ahead with the union, I have three words of advice: Get a prenup.


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