Madison Kearney on inflation and marriage planning for Salt and Iron: Seasoned Writing

Wedding Planning in a Financial Crisis

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven.”

While I’d heard that verse often enough, I hadn’t really thought of it as applying to me. I’m not rich in any remote sense of the word. My idea of splurging is more of a spontaneous stop at Chick-Fil-A or a shopping spree at Target instead of Walmart. Christ’s words were for “other people,” not me with my well-crafted, planned-out, Every Dollar-inspired budget.

Yet this verse came to mind again when two significant events occurred in 2022: inflation and a marriage proposal.

My Plan for My Money

I’m careful with what I earn with my teacher salary and have had the same budget for the past three years, building my savings and working on paying my student loans… which is why I freaked out with everyone else as gas prices soared this summer to new heights. The cost of everything rose: food, housing, everyday necessities.

All this extra cost threw my budget out of whack, along with my emotions. My eye twitched when canned goods rose ten cents, but I lost it when my usual dozen egg carton doubled (and they weren’t even organic!). It sounds dramatic, but I felt out of control spending my hard-earned and well-saved money on nonbrand items that weren’t worth the new yellow price tag that the stores labeled a “sale.” My plan for my money started cracking at the seams.

Then my plan underwent another major shift when the most wonderful thing happened: My boyfriend surprised me with a mountain-sunset proposal. We were going to get married!!

Cue wedding planning (“are all venues this expensive?”).

Cue house searching (“there’s no way this house is worth this much”).

On top of all that, he handles money in a distinctly opposite way from me. I save, he spends.

Cue internal financial crisis.

From Bachelor to Budgeting

As my fiancé and I began to prepare to live our lives together, our financial conversations became more frequent, serious, and — for me — emotional. I began to realize that I had an attachment to money, and I felt his spending habits (which, let me clarify, consisted of his going to Chick-Fil-A slightly more than I) threatened my plan to save all our money. This feeling reared its head during the initial stage of wedding planning. My fiancé wanted to book a nicer venue, order the kind of food we actually wanted, have an open bar, etc., while all I saw was the price tag. I wanted the cheapest option possible, even when that meant touring a run-down venue with questionable owners. We struggled to find a balance between practicality and beauty.

While I trusted my fiancé with my heart and soul, it was difficult to trust him with what would become our money. He was more comfortable using money than I was, and he didn’t keep as close an eye on where the money would go. We settled on a well-priced venue and vendors that we both loved, but I freaked out again as we began looking at rentals and saw how current prices already created a need to tighten our belts. I struggled to trust that he could shift his bachelor habits to budgeting and tracking receipts and spreadsheets. Meanwhile, he would grow frustrated at my tendency to prioritize cheap prices over good quality. Still, how could I look at nicer houses when they were absurdly priced and came with a strip of turf advertised as a “backyard”?

Stressing about house inflation exposed my true priorities and revealed what I really wanted. As much as I obsessed over saving and fighting for some sort of financial control as we searched for semi-normal rental prices — and as much as I felt my sense of control challenged by someone who valued quality over price tag — I was getting exhausted. I found myself missing my fiancé. We had spent so much time stressing that we had stopped dating each other. I was letting my attachment to money overshadow my love for my fiancé. It was at this point that God reminded me that it’s easier for the camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter Heaven — not because they have money, but because they cling to it so fiercely.

My Man Above Money

I took a step back and studied my relationship with money. I reflected on how I had seen money as the tool to get what I wanted, how I felt empowered by watching the savings grow. Then I considered how I spent much of my early twenties longing for my vocation and how deeply irrelevant money had been to that yearning. Now here I was, about to marry “the one whom my heart loves.” That reflection sparked a more intentional focus on connecting with my fiancé through our shared interests. We started going on more dates that just focused on us.

As we spent more quality time together, we became more relaxed about the future and confident in each other. We found ourselves even deeper in love before and more attuned to each other as we deepened our emotional and intellectual connection through conversations and activities unrelated to money worries. We had needed a break, and we embraced it.

That time we took to reconnect refreshed us and allowed us to have more honest, less tense conversations about money when we were ready. He listened attentively to my financial concerns and worked more consistently to collaborate with me on our vision for our finances, showing me that we were on the same page. I, in turn, trusted him more, and learned to relax. I still knew that money was important — as did he — and that we needed to spend it wisely, but at the end of the day, we just wanted to get married and start our lives together. We were each other’s priority, not money.

As of writing, we are three months out from our wedding, and we haven’t found a house yet. The prices are still high, and gas — though it’s coming down — remains nuts. I still bargain shop intensely, but I get less emotional over price tags. It’s been sweet to notice my fiancé reaching for the cheaper brands I like. He and I both need money in this world, but we really want each other more than any amount of money. I’m still not sure where that desire for each other and the necessity of money fall in relation to each other, but I feel it is a grace that I have finally set my man above money. May that trust and surrender draw us both closer to the kingdom of Heaven.

Author: Madison Kearney

Madison Kearney is a graduate of Hillsdale College and Franciscan University, and currently teaches in Phoenix. She enjoys sipping wine, reading T.S. Eliot, and watching desert sunsets with her fiancé.

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