I got a text today from my husband’s cousin. She wanted to talk about finances. Her and her boyfriend are looking to buy a house together, and she is struggling with the money end. She is in a lower paying job (like me) than her boyfriend, and didn’t know how to work the mortgage, etc. I took time to explain to her how my husband and I do things, which isn’t the norm.
We divide our larger expenses (mortgage, utility bills) by how much we make. We “pro-rate” based on our income, because although I’d like to think I can contribute 50/50, I would never have anything to fall back on in savings. Then, for other things, kids stuff, food, day to day expenses, we split 50/50. We do not have a joint checking account, and we don’t share an ATM card. I get a lot of interesting looks when I explain this, especially when people don’t understand why I can’t just ask my husband to help foot the bill of some trip to take, or just up and go out shopping. Why it works: I can do what I please, and so can my husband, without having to worry about nagging each other. I could care less if he buys a golf simulator (yep, he did) provided he can continue to pay the bills. Same in his case: he doesn’t give me flak for going shopping or getting lunch with a friend, just as long as our kids’ daycare and my contributions are not in jeopardy. And the scary thing? It works. We still talk finances, and sometimes we reach an impasse that we have to work through. This usually happens when life gets in the way and we have some emergency expense to deal with, or my husband’s job is in peril (again, sigh), but we work it out. And as a result, I never find myself tsk-tsking him for what he might’ve spent on that dumb golf simulator. Yes, I think he could’ve spent his money more wisely. Yes, I think it’s dumb. And I will say as much. But I won’t beat a dead horse and continue to harp on it because it’s his money, he can do what he wants.
She was humbled to hear my ideas. Being in a similar job that I am, where we don’t as much as our significant others, she felt better after our chat. Does it always make sense for everyone? No. Do people not understand why we do it or how we do it? Yes. I am always hearing from family that they don’t get why I can’t just take money out of “our” account to pay for things, like my father’s upcoming 70th birthday party, or a trip for the siblings to Aruba. (It also has something to do with the fact that even combined, we don’t make as much as they do, but that’s a story for another time.) Does my husband’s coworkers ask incessantly (and in awe) about how it works and why we do it and why, why, why? Yes. (I think he gets annoyed, but he calmly answers.) I guess my point is, that there isn’t only ONE right way to do something. Finances suck. It will always be something that couples and families and friends will fight about, no matter how much we say we won’t. Whatever you do, make it work, be willing to change, and mind your own business with how others do their finances. For me, knowing I am making my contribution AND not being a nag besides is enough.