I got the idea for this poll after having a conversation with my friend, E. She was mentioning something about paying bills or managing finances. It came out in the course of the conversation that my husband manages all of our finances.
She was surprised, since in her marriage, she’s the one who handles all the finances.
This exchange made me wonder how common either arrangement was. I think it’s fairly subjective, depending on who is the breadwinner, who is good with money, how we were raised, and so on.
The results of the poll were split evenly into thirds, which, besides being cool, I guess means that each of these systems works well.
When I say my husband manages the finances, I mean that he is in charge of paying the bills, balancing the accounts, and whatever other money-management stuff he does. This is an arrangement we’ve had since we got married. Mainly, it’s because I was so pathetically lousy with money as a single girl that I didn’t want to taint whatever little money we had to work with.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t discuss financial matters. It’s important for a couple to be on the same page for their financial goals and outlook. It took a little while before we found that sweet spot where we were able to discuss money without me getting totally and utterly stressed out, but through that (stressful) process we found what works for us.
Now we have an arrangement where I have a general budget for items such as food and basic household necessities (toilet paper, dish soap, etc.), and we review that budget to see if it needs to be expanded, or if it can be contracted (someday soon I’m going to really apply Mara at Kosher on a Budget’s wisdom and watch my bills shrink!).
Anything bigger than that warranted a discussion which basically goes like this: “Honey, can we afford to get a ____ right now?” And then the answer is either yes or no. No really meant we’d wait until we could afford it, and usually, whatever it was could wait. This is partly why we lived with just one car for quite some time after it was comfortable to do so.
We have a “things to buy someday” list, and as the bills are slowly whittled away, we are able to get these things, one at a time. But our main goal right now (see, I know what it is ’cause we discussed it) is to pay off the substantial debt from college, med school, and living off a resident’s salary.
For the most part, though, I’m in the dark about how much the bills are, and indeed, what they are. I do my part, you know, turning off lights when I leave the room, and, um, turning off lights when I leave the room. Well, every little bit helps, right?
At times, this system has made me feel a bit like a relic. When our previous apartment was being shown, the first time the realtor and potential tenants asked me how much the utilities were, I mumbled something about my husband paying the bills and that he would email the realtor with the info. I felt like I was somehow representing the stereotypical image of a subjugated wife who lives on a stipend controlled by her husband (which is kind of true, except for the subjugated part).
But the difference is that I chose this. This is what works for our marriage. It’s a good arrangement. I don’t second-guess my husband’s financial choices (mainly); I feel like I can buy things I need, but I also don’t just go out and spend thoughtlessly either. I make sure that whatever I buy is within the budget.
That’s my story. Now go and vote in the newest poll. Much thank to Juliya Sheynman for the idea! It’s up in the sidebar. :)