Finding a Frugal Mate

by Celeste Leibowitz

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If you want to prosper and thrive, get married and stay married like 92% of America's millionaires. But don't just marry the first person that comes along. Choose the right mate, and live frugally ever after.

In The Millionaire Mind, author Thomas J. Stanley devotes an entire chapter to the importance of marrying the right person. Why? First, divorce is financially devastating. All your efforts to save and live a thrifty lifestyle can be negated by divorce. Even a no-fault "simple" divorce will cost you far more than the "low, low fee," because you'll have to maintain two separate households where one would have been sufficient.

No one can guarantee that your marriage will last, but you can reduce the likelihood of a breakup and increase your happiness quotient by finding a mate as frugal as you are. Of all the issues that couples fight about, money is high on the list. Eliminate money as a source of dissension, and you've eliminated many marital spats.

What are some of the clues that you've found a frugal soul mate? Here's what Bruce, my husband of 21 years, told me in the first year of our marriage: "One thing I really liked about you was that you treated my money as if it was your own."

His jaw dropped when I sweetly replied, "And now it is!"

When he retrieved and replaced his lower jaw, Bruce explained that he noticed I was cautious when ordering in restaurants. I ordered modestly priced meals and didn't force him to break his budget when treating me.

Here are some other signs of a frugal date:

  1. When you compliment her on a new outfit, you hear, "Thanks! I got it at the thrift shop (or yard sale). Best $5 I ever spent!"
  2. He bikes to work. Not only will his frequent exercise save on medical bills, but this saves the cost of gas and upkeep on the car, too.
  3. Your date is Mr. or Ms. Fix-It. A handy person can save thousands of dollars on home repairs. Someone who took the trouble to learn these skills knows the value of DIY (do it yourself).
  4. You see a copy of The Dollar Stretcher around the house or protruding from a jacket pocket or tote bag.

Find this person, and if the other aspects of his/her personality check out, you're on your way to a lifetime of frugal wedded bliss.

What should you avoid? Certainly, no matter how hot the chemistry, you'll want to steer away from a person who is perpetually in debt. If her motto is "When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping," run the other way. Similarly, the person with a house full of expensive, trendy clothes and "toys" isn't going to change his spending habits the minute you tie the knot.

Aside from steering clear of obvious spendthrifts, be careful also of people who call themselves frugal but are simply cheap. Watch out for these red flags:

  1. Tax evasion is not "frugal." It's against the law. The fines are steep, prison is a possibility, and you'll be in trouble too if you sign a joint return.
  2. Failure to tip is not "frugal" either. It's cheap and rude. If your date can't afford to leave a tip, buy take out or cook at home. Don't penalize an innocent waitperson in the name of "frugality."
  3. The person who spends freely on herself but doesn't share with you isn't going to view marital finance as a team effort. Beware.
  4. Watch out for the "frugal" guy who sponges off of you in order to save his own money. When I was studying for the bar exam, a man at my table asked to read my newspaper every day. He bragged, "I haven't bought a newspaper in over seven years, and I've saved enough to go to Europe." This man took advantage of people around him, making him a poor marriage risk.
  5. Stay far away from a person who insists on tit for tat when circumstances force him to spend money on you. Mike, the same man who bragged to me that his jeans cost $100 (worth $315 in today's money), always insisted on going Dutch. One evening, I fell ill while we were out and was too indisposed to take the subway home. Mike grudgingly paid for a taxi to take me home. On our next date, he was determined to make me pay my "debt." It was a raw, drizzly day, but he insisted we walk to the late World Trade Center. Once we arrived, he fussed until I agreed to pay for both tickets to the Observation Tower. Visibility was 0-2 miles, meaning all we would see was gray fog. Despite my protests that this was a deliberate waste of money, Mike would not be deterred. Is anyone wondering why he didn't become my husband?

We all have checklists for the ideal mate. Put "frugality" high on yours, and look for that special person whose approach to money matches your own. Then fall in love and cherish each other for as long as you both shall live.

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