My 8 Step Plan to Resolve Financial Conflict and be a Super Hero Husband

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My wife is a “Go big, or don’t do it at all” kind of person.


We once had a Valentine’s Day themed Pampered Chef party which included tables in our living room set with tablecloths, centerpieces, and a full dinner. While we were planning the party, we had several disagreements regarding how elaborate it should be.  It even became a joke of sorts between us as every time we disagreed, she would utter the phrase, “Don’t you see my vision?”  We had a huge turnout, and earned a ton of product credit from the sales. Taking into account the cost associated with hosting the event, we barely broke even.

With this kind of history in mind, you may appreciate why I was a little concerned when she offered to host her family’s Christmas gathering this year.


It’s been a number of years since we’ve hosted, so it’s appropriate that we take our turn. I fear, however, that Vonnie will create Clark Griswold like expectations for the event, and we’ll end up spending a small fortune making it unnecessarily elaborate.

My concerns were almost immediately confirmed when I found her sitting in front of the computer doing internet searches. She swiveled around in the office chair and stated, “I really want to make this special. I have some ideas, but I don’t know if you will like them.”

We took turns having her describe an idea, and me explaining why it was completely unnecessary. It didn’t take very long for my wife to begin to become agitated and defensive. The fact of the matter was, we had very different opinions on what hosting the Christmas event should entail.

I did not see her vision.


Watching her eyes get bigger and her hands become more animated with each negative reaction to one of her ideas, it occurred to me that I was having one of those jackass husband moments. One of the reasons I believe our marriage has been so successful is that I am able to recognize these moments, and quickly change course. I decided that this was one of those times that a course correction was necessary.

I remembered a technique our home builder recommended to help us decide what options to include in our home while  keeping within the available funds.  I quickly adapted it to the situation and suggested we do the following:

  1. Determine the amount of money to spend
  2. Make a “blue sky” wish list for the event containing every possible idea.
  3. Approximate the price of each item on the list.
  4. Discuss the feasibility and need of each item, and whether they should stay or go.
  5. Draw the “cut line” on the list to show which items make the cut. This may result in some changes in opinion of some of the items.
  6. Re-evaluate each item on the list, rewriting the list with new order of priority if necessary.
  7. Let the list rest for a few days.
  8. Repeat steps 4 – 8 until both of us are satisfied.

The most difficult item is #1. There’s certainly an upper limit on how much our budget will allow, but we may have different ideas regarding how much we should spend on the event.

Before we start that discussion, I need to remind myself:

  • This is important to her and she wants it to be memorable and special
  • Compromise is key

Similarly, I will gently remind her that:

  • We don’t need to completely crazy to make this event memorable and special
  • Compromise is key

Keeping these points in mind, I’m sure that we can agree upon an amount.  After that, it becomes mainly a numbers game. Several rounds of discussion will likely be needed to determine which items on the list will add the most to the event, and how many of them fit in the agreed upon cost maximum. I can then become the Super Hero Husband by getting creative and helping her fit  as many of the items on the list as possible under the cap.

From Jackass to Super Hero – that’s my goal.


Wish me luck, we’re scheduled to talk about this again tonight.


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22 Responses to “My 8 Step Plan to Resolve Financial Conflict and be a Super Hero Husband”

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  1. Ah yes the Griswald family Christmas… I can see Vonnie now her face beaming with excitement and then just when she thinks she has the best idea “dream crusher” that’s you comes in and well we all know what happens next. I love the idea of using the contractor’s method and applying it to spending money on an event! I think Vonnie will be able to have the magical Christmas event and both of you will be able to stick to the budget you lay out for the event . The two of you never cease to amaze me….Great post!

    • Travis says:

      “Dream Crusher?” That hurts, Suzanne – Hahaha! My lovely wife is good at a lot of things, and getting as much as she possibly can for her money is one of them. I suspect that this is going to be an interesting ride, and the Christmas gathering will indeed be special and memorable for all. 🙂

  2. Good post. I love having the list to measure the decisions against. That can be very helpful when making decisions like this, plus my analyzer side loves doing this. A key is finding that right balance between being practical and still allowing your wife to have fun at the same time. This is a lesson I am still learning myself. 🙂

    • Travis says:

      My analyzer side loves doing this too, John. I’m a “gotta see touch it, feel it, see it” kind of person. Making a list and writing things down helps me organize my thoughts and makes me more sure of the decision I eventually make. Balance is the key to many things…..and I think we all struggle with it from time to time.

  3. LOL, I hope that it works out as planned! But- if it is important to your wife then it is probably a good idea to get on board. Happy wife, happy life!!!

  4. My parents host Christmas each year and my Mom definitely is a go big or go home type. She decorates the entire house, we have an amazing meal, and everyone buys everyone presents. It’s quite the event, even for a small family like ours! It is fun, but if you want to spend money on it you have to spend less somewhere else – it’s give and take.

    Makes me worried about hosting one day, though! The bar is set so high.

    • Travis says:

      It does sound like the bar is set high, DC! The funny thing is it only takes one person to say, “Hey, why don’t we scale it back a bit?” We were exchanging presents between everyone on my side of the family up until a few years ago when my sister-in-law suggested we change it to just the kids exchange gifts. Everyone thought it was a good idea and that’s the way it’s been ever since!

      • JMK says:

        Fifteen years ago the adults in both my husband’s and my family decided to go to a name draw format. We buy for all the the kids, and then everyone gets the name of one adult and buys only that gift. For us it meant dropping from about 15 gifts for various aunts, uncles, siblings and their partners and their adult children down to 4. Now we buy for two people in my family and two in his. Once kids turn 18 they join the draw and stop getting presents from every adult at the gathering. Hey it’s the price of growing up. Every year when I send the emails out with the names to each person I include the reminder about the agreed gift value- it’s $15 for one family, $25 for the other. I always include the reminder that it means the VALUE of the gift, not necessarily what you paid for it. If you get the gift for half price, good for you, pocket the savings. DO NOT give a $50 gift you got for $25. It makes all the other gifts that followed the criteria look a little sad by comparison.

        About 5 years ago we started delegating parts of the meal rather than the host being responsible for everything. Now the host family is always in charge of turkey, gravy, stuffing and potatoes. Then they delegate the various veggies, appetizers and deserts. (tip: never assign appetizers to the ones who are notoriously late…dessert is a better match). This new arrangement works very well. When you don’t have to host, providing a single item is no big deal and lots of items can be prepared ahead so you don’t have anything to do on the day. The hosts have looked a lot less frazzled the past 5 years!

        • Great ideas JMK! We go even a little bit further on my wife’s side and do a name draw for the kids, and each adult brings one “adult” gift in which we play a dice game to exchange the gifts.

          The fact that the hosts have looked less frazzled the last few years means you’re definitely doing the right thing….it shouldn’t be such a burden on the hosts.

          Thanks for sharing what your family does for the holidays!

  5. Catherine says:

    Your wife is my husband in female form I think. Mike is the exact same way, while I love hosting a good party I’m all for cutting costs (without coming off as too cheap) where if he had his way we’d throw a massive all expenses paid party. Sorry but our Christmas party is BYOB this year!

    • Travis says:

      Your comment brings back memories from Christmas’s with my Dad’s family when I was little. Grownups would all bring an “adult” gift to put into a box (wrapped up). Then they’d pass the box around and everyone would just pick one. They were almost always bottles of alcoholic beverages – then they’d around a huge table playing cards while they enjoyed their gifts. So, it was kind of a “bring your own” and “pass the bottle” combination. LOL.

  6. Enjoy the party and try not to think about what you ‘could have done’ with the money.

  7. Good on you for recognizing your jackass moment. Few men notice these moments after the fact, let alone during the discussion. Good luck with the negotiations

  8. I don’t really have the vision either. Eat and have fun, but I’ve never been much for decorations. We covered the tables at our wedding with paper and gave guests crayons so they could doodle when the speeches got boring.

    • That’s awesome, Mandy! I love low key kind of gatherings….more focus on just having a good time. My wife is a big believer in ambiance encouraging more fun….which I have a hard time with sometimes. Most guys would just slam a case of beer on the table, open a bag of chips and turn on “the game.” hahaha! Thanks for your comment!

  9. Hi, only just found your post – Myself and my wife both used to be “go big or go home” and that’s how we ended up in such a big mess financially. I’ve changed and become more frugal… unfortunately, she hasn’t.
    So I’ve been looking for articles on couples and dealing with joint monies, beause let’s face it, while most financial advice is “common” sense, things are always a little more complicated when it comes to women and joint finances. Posts like this are thin on the ground though, so I just wanted to say, thanks for posting.

    • Travis says:

      I’m so glad you found your way here, Matt! I heard a speaker once say that rarely is there a situation where a person truly doesn’t know what to do. They make not like the answer/solution, but they know what they really should do – it’s simply (or not so simply) a matter of execution. So, yes, while most financial advice may be “common sense,” that doesn’t make it easy to follow. That’s why I write about my experiences, as well as read other personal finance blogs – it keeps me focused and motivated to execute the correct solution – not that I don’t screw up, because I certainly do. 🙂

      I do agree with you, being in a relationship with another person takes the execution of the right solution to a whole new level of difficulty. I hope you’ll come back, writing about my family and I’s experiences and interactions is what I like to do best.

      Great to connect with you, and thanks for the retweet!

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