We recently wrote a post where people from the BuzzFeed Community shared what it's like to marry for money over love — and they shared the shocks that came when they chose to marry someone much richer than them, and let's just say it got a bit...messy.
But what does marriage look like on the other side? A while back, Redditor u/knakworst36 asked, "Rich people of reddit who married someone significantly poorer, what surprised you about their (previous) way of life?" They got real about the major differences they noticed and what they learned after tying the knot, and it's actually thought-provoking.
Here are some of the most eye-opening responses:
1."What surprised me was making financial decisions based around the 'three-paycheck month.' If you're paid every two weeks, most months you get two paychecks, and all of your monthly bills and budgeting is based on those two paychecks. But twice a year, there are three paydays in a month, and that's when you can actually solve problems. That's when you can get the car registered, fix the dryer, or get the cat spayed.
"The other 10 months, you're doing maintenance and trying to scrape by. Three paycheck months, you can actually try to fix problems."
2."Honestly, food insecurity surprised me. When we were first married, my wife would get visibly uneasy if the food in the house was running low. She never overate or anything — she was just always concerned about it. A lot of times, when she was younger, she went hungry.
"On the humorous side, though, she hates camping. Her answer is always the same: I camped because it was fun, and she camped because they couldn't afford hotels."
"I was surprised that food was a privilege or luxury — not a given. My wife and I do well enough together, not rich but comfortable. My parents are fairly well-off, and I grew up in a house with an always-stocked pantry and refrigerator(s). If I was hungry, I ate without question. My wife grew up in relative poverty. If she was hungry, there was a strong likelihood there was no food in the house, and she would stay hungry. Trips to grandparent's homes to be fed were common.
"Her gratitude that our son will never know the despair of an empty refrigerator is a humbling reminder of our very different childhoods."
3."My S.O. said, 'Today I made rent,' meaning: 'Today I've earned enough/accumulated enough to pay the rent.' I realized that this is a monthly accomplishment to someone with no fixed income/salary."
4."I was surprised that credit cards were avoided. For me, growing up, we were encouraged to get a credit card in our name and use it as much as possible in order to build credit. There was always money to pay it off each month, so it made sense to 1) build credit and 2) collect airline miles or whatever the reward was back in the day.
"When we got together, she always used cash or a debit card. She had a credit card 'for emergencies' and avoided using it otherwise. It took a long time to get her over her aversion/skepticism (we were fortunate to have two good paying jobs), though it also taught me a healthy appreciation for what it means to have a financial cushion."
5."When the family had people over for dinner, if they ended the prayer before the meal with 'F. H. B., Amen,' it was a signal to let the children know that they don't have enough food for everyone, so take smaller servings and let the guests get a regular serving. FHB = 'Family, hold back.'
"They were always generous to their friends and didn't let their lack of funds embarrass them when doing so."
6."Not super rich by any means, but my husband said he’ll always be surprised about the following: How I lived off $13k in 2011, resiliency to survive financially and pursue my dreams of being the first college graduate, how I didn’t know what spinach was or tasted like until our first few dates (in addition to hella other leafy greens)."
7."She and her mother lived with her grandfather to avoid homelessness because her grandfather owned a house. She was putting community college payments on her credit card and building debt with it. I paid off her credit cards when we were dating, and she cried from me being so nice (it was only, like, $1,300). I bought a condo, then we got married, then we bought a house. I never really considered myself rich until I started dating her and learned that a trip to Wendy's was a treat.
"I grew up middle class, and we are currently middle class."
8."The prevailing mindset in his community growing up that insurance was something only rich people had. Not just health insurance: auto insurance. Going without it was a way of life for most everyone he knew."
9."I'm not rich at all, but my husband came from a very poor Mexican village. He told me he used to shower outside (because there was no in-house plumbing) and use leaves as toilet paper. I mean, there's poor, and there's my husband's-previous-life poor. He's been living in the US for 12 years now, but when we first met, it was so interesting seeing life through his eyes. Going to the cinema was a huge event for him.
"Heating food up in a microwave was a totally foreign concept. And staying at fancy hotels when we went on vacation was like WHOA. I still see him surprised by things now and then, and it just reminds me how much I take my middle class status for granted."
10."I'm not well-off, but my stepfather is. I was raised by a single mom who spent money on everything, and bills were always behind. She just couldn't manage her money at all. In her 50s, she met and married a multimillionaire. We are in middle America, so that goes further than most in a lot of areas. They have given themselves $10,000 a month budget to live on (living on interest) and own their home. Once my mom met him, and they got all her finances situated and paid off, she won't spend a penny. He spends like it is going out of style. He has actually begged me to take her shopping to get clothes and accessories. She won't do it. She spent more when she was a single mom with nothing.
"She is hell-bent to not use a penny of his money. They barely even have any groceries. If they have anything, it's because he buys it for them. She is a retired nurse who gets a retirement and social security, but she won't spend anything. She lives poorer now than any other time in her life."
11."I was surprised by how much she hates Hamburger Helper. It's because it would be her meal five times a week growing up. I had never even seen HH before I went to college and love that stuff. Ten for $10 deals are awesome."
12."More of a funny incident, but I was the poor one. My husband (at the time, still boyfriend) took me out to a very nice restaurant. The server asked if I want pepper on my Caesar salad that was just made table side. I said sure, and he goes about it. The thing is, I didn’t know you had to say stop. My husband slowly realized this, but he decided to see it play out.
"He did eventually say that I need to say stop. ... I just thought a Caesar was had this way as it was my first time even eating a salad that wasn’t just iceberg and ranch dressing. It still tasted fine — just a little bit too much pepper."
13."There were differences in our childhoods. For example, I went to Disneyland often, and part of the experience was eating the expensive food there — but she rarely went, and if she did go, she always packed her own food. For birthdays and Christmas, I had big parties with lots of friends and gifts, and she didn't have gifts and didn't really celebrate.
"Plus, our perspectives when it came to expectations and disappointments were different: Because I wasn't constantly growing up with disappointments, I didn't care if something didn't work out as I expected; I took a chance anyway. She faced constant disappointment growing up, so as a defense mechanism, she never expected much out of fear of disappointment."
14."My family is far from rich, but I grew up closer to the upper middle class realm and was making three times as much as my now-husband when we met. He grew up extremely poor, and his family is still living that way. One big difference is how he's surprised that my parents pick up the check when we go out to celebrate a birthday or a graduation, and that my parents ask him to pick whatever restaurant he wants. Outside of the ritziest steakhouse in town, they don't care.
"To his family, a big meal out is going to McDonald's and not eating off the dollar menu."
15."My experience is from the opposite perspective; I was the poor one. It absolutely floored me how my wife acts when something broke, like a car, appliances, clothes, etc. As a child living below the poverty line, replacing a tire or other necessities was a disaster, requiring tricky trade-offs in the budget or just plain acceptance of just how broke you were. When my wife's phone broke, I went into full panic mode, while she shrugged and said, 'We can just get a new one this afternoon.' And then we did."
16."He was making good money, but he came from a poor family. One thing that surprised me was the lack of budgeting: no knowledge of a 401(k)/Roth IRA, and retirement seemed like something that he'd never get to do. So, even though he made good money he was starting to rack up credit card debt.
"Now, he's much better at it than I am. He adores budgeting and looks forward to FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early)."
17."About to marry him. We met in college, and my parents paid for everything while he had student loans and a part-time job to pay for everything else. If he was really hurting, his parents would transfer $40 into his account — but that was pretty rare, and they’d give him hell if he asked. He was always very anxious about spending money and never bought name brands. He would also buy essentials like toilet paper by two rolls at a time (1-ply only). He didn’t really realize that buying so little every few days was wasting money rather than buying in bulk. When we booked our first vacation (cheap road trip to Georgia), he couldn’t pay for anything and was worried the whole time. The anxiety that would keep him up at night made me so sad.
"He still never fills up his gas tank all the way, only $10 at a time. Drives me nuts. But now, we both have great full-time jobs, and he rarely has any anxiety. He never has to worry about money anymore and is so much happier as a result."
18."I’m from the poorer family (not super poor, but my in-laws have a stupid amount of money, so by comparison, I’m very poor), but I think I can answer for her. We have two young kids, and my wife was shocked when I said we should look for clothes and toys for them at local flea markets and garage sales. The idea never occurred to her that we could save money by getting some gently used items; she had never even been to a garage sale in her life.
"She has grown to love them and now questions whether it's worth it to buy any item 'new' before running to Amazon or a store. Her parents think it’s disgusting we make our kids wear clothes that another child had before, but they don’t pay my bills."
19."My wife earned many times more than I did when I was a high school teacher back when we were dating. She sometimes would drive my 10-year-old primer black, stick shift Honda Civic that my cousin lent me until I could buy another car. She was blown away at how aggressively mean people are to you when you drive an ugly, old car. When she got out of the car, the spell lifted.
"I got a lot of respect from her for that. She seemed to think I was a saint for not turning sour over it. I was constantly getting pulled over by cops and let go, targeted by road rage, and also pedestrians felt too comfortable engaging with me. Now, I drive a newer Honda (1-year-old), and it's so different. I drive the same but probably a bit more aggressively now that I can’t hear the wind roaring by when I’m going over 40 mph. I haven’t been pulled over and haven’t had a negative interaction on the road in a long time. Also, my wife now enjoys trading cars with me."
20."Probably what surprised me was how our lifestyles differed; she often shopped at Ross, Grocery Outlet, and other discount stores. I shopped at Whole Foods and bought my clothes at Macy’s or online. For grocery shopping, we now go to Grocery Outlet mostly with a trip to Whole Foods every once in a while. It’s significantly cheaper at Grocery Outlet, but checking expiration dates is a must. Aside from my hobbies, I find I spend a lot less on groceries and clothes now, which in turn allows me to spend more on my hobbies. She never forced her lifestyle on me, and I appreciated that.
"But I’m not super rich. I work as a software developer in Silicon Valley, but there are people with 20 times my wealth here that would scoff at my salary. I also live in one of the most expensive cities in the country, but I was born here, and I cannot leave."
21."She just ignored things and didn't plan. Car needs to be registered? Well, it has a service light on and can't pass inspection, so I'll just drive it unregistered. Student loans need to be paid? I don't have the money for it, so I won't open my mail from the servicer and ignore the problem. Need to fly somewhere for a big personal event? Can't really afford the plane ticket, so I'll push it off until the ticket is twice as expensive.
"It drove me nuts as I'm the opposite. Luckily, I was able to change her worldview on these things, and her credit score went up a few hundred points, she got back on track, and now can't believe her other family members who act similarly to how she did."
22."She wouldn't waste any food. Ever. We went through a few rounds of her getting sick from eating month-old muffins and similar before I convinced her it was OK to toss old food and go shopping."
23."I was surprised by the student loans. I have none, while he had $550k in debt at graduation.
"He went to medical school."
24."This is super embarrassing and will probably make you all hate me if it even gets any attention, but I come from a family just a bit higher than the top 1%. I was walking out of my ex's garage, and I saw a lawn mower. I asked her why they owned their own lawn mower if they weren't in the landscaping business. That was the day I learned most people don't hire other people to mow their lawn."
25."I was shocked how many tools her family could replace with a butter knife. I was also surprised how they used the same cup for everything. Each person's cup was used for everything from coffee to wine to milk to beer. I’ve come to appreciate many aspects of my wife’s previous lifestyle. I find I’m much less stressed now, knowing how unimportant material things are.
"One thing I can't accept, though, is how she used to put safety second. For example: no outlet covers on outlets, no railing on stairs, standing on a makeshift ladder to grab things from high shelf, etc. I should add that I’m not what most would consider rich; however, I was absolutely comparatively rich. I’m also proud to say my wife now makes more than me!"
26."My wife's family and upbringing was much poorer than mine. Surprisingly, she is the one who has poor spending habits. I am the frugal one; I always weigh the inherent value/quality of the purchase vs. the cost. She never does. She doesn't think much ahead of the basic monthly paycheck cycle. She'll spend money on junk — I'll wait and wait, and then buy something really nice as opposed to something cheap that merely 'fills the gap' in the moment.
"It has been the cause of many an argument between us."
27."I'm not 'rich' really, but I grew up firmly middle class and married someone from a poor family. I was surprised at just how expensive it is to be poor. Planning ahead to limit long-term costs tends to cost more upfront, and his family just didn't have enough money in a given month's budget to do that. For example, his family would go through paper towels SO quickly, and they didn't own any cloth kitchen towels. At first, I found this horribly wasteful, but it's because a single roll of paper towels is much cheaper than a couple of kitchen towels. Even though you'll end up paying a lot more for the many rolls of paper towels you'll go through in the time it takes the cloth towels to wear out, you just can't justify the initial expense. And it became habit, so even when they were at my house, they would reach for the paper towels.
"Normally, a roll of paper towels lasts me a month or two because I use cloth for most things. They'd easily go through a roll or two a week. It was the same with pots and pans and any other durable household items — they would buy the crappy pans that only last a year or two, while I have Revere Ware pans that I inherited from my great-grandmother. They also didn't treat these items well, which caused them to wear out even faster. I'm not sure why that was — maybe just because they had every expectation of needing to replace them, so squeezing out an extra couple of months of use wasn't worth the time it takes to be careful."
28."I was shocked by the amount of planning that went into their vehicles and how the 'hillbilly economy' works. They would buy a decent vehicle, maintain it, and over time, they would acquire additional (beaters with heaters) vehicles of the same type or with similar parts. While their yard looked like an auto parts salvage yard, they would strip parts and tires as needed from the beaters into their main vehicle for pennies on the dollar.
"Finally, when a beater was pretty stripped out, they would buy a case of beer for their friend with a trailer and have him take the beater to the scrap yard. They would get anywhere from $50-$150 from the yard and keep on going. I learned that a case of beer or a decent dinner could go a long way to make friends and get work done."
29."I came from a family worth multimillions. My wife came from a family who could barely eat and dealt with CPS (Child Protective Services) at times. We fell in love in high school. We've been married for 12 years and love each other more each day. About five years into our relationship, I realized just how much strength she did have. And I realized that much of what I had growing up, while providing a net of safety, produced feelings and issues of anxiety. On the contrary, when we faced adversity in our earlier years, my wife was a solid rock. I don't mean this to sound insensitive, but at times, I am envious of what she experienced growing up as it has made her an amazing human being full of strength and peace. Nothing phases her.
"I was told by people outside of my immediate family (friends and others) how there would be challenges with our demographics being so vastly different. The only challenge I've found is on her end having to deal with someone who had so much given to them growing up out of good intentions from their parents — and her being so gracious and strong in helping me overcome my weaknesses."
Have you married someone with significantly less — OR more — money than you? What was your biggest shock? Let us know in the comments below.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.