Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dollars and Not So Much Sense

The other day I was at the park with Mr. P, and I struck up a conversation with another mother. Somehow we got to talking about money, or lack thereof, or wanting moreof, when she confessed to taking out bills from the mail before her husband got home and hiding them from him.

I didn't tell her, "What the hell are you thinking, woman?"

But I should have.

Because really, why do so many couples have trouble dealing with money? The vast majority of people possess a finite amount of it. So I am thinking that when you are looking at your bank statement and see various chunks of cash missing, then there might be some sort of a problem going on.

Money tends to be the number one thing that couples fight about, although all the experts say that it isn't really about money. But that's the thing about money, it is so damn convenient to fight over. We all make ill-advised purchases from time to time, and it can be quite satisfying to hurl the accusation of self-indulgence at an irate spouse.

I have to say that Hubba-hubba and I do not fight about money. We may fight about him bringing home too many bottles of salad dressing, but we don't fight about the state of our bank account. Because what is there to fight about, exactly? The number is what it is, and fighting about it won't make any difference.

We make large purchase decisions jointly, and if I want something that is above and beyond the usual, I will ask if there is enough money in the budget, which is a joint checking account. It is as simple as that. Perhaps the strong feminists are wailing at me in despair that a) I ask my husband for permission to buy things and b) that I am not more aware of the budget myself. Well, I am aware of the budget to a degree, but Hubba-hubba is the one with his finger on the pulse. I merely check to see if the patient is breathing from time to time.

It has nothing to do with equality or fairness, it has to do with the fact that I recognize that he is much better with numbers than I am, and thus he is the better suited to doing the budget. Just as I am better suited to cooking. If the situations were reversed, we would do it that way, but they aren't. We are a team, and we play to each other's strengths.

My sister and her husband, however, recognize that in order to work best as a team, they need to work separately. They have two his-and-her checking accounts, and one will pay the other for items as needed. So, he writes her a check every month for his half of the mortgage, and she writes him a check for her portion of the car insurance, and so on. Personally, this would drive me nuts, but it works for them because she is a saver and he is not, and she would rather be spared the pain of seeing his excess. They both make their own money and they are happy with the arrangement. This strategy is a big part of why they remain married.

Money. Everybody's got it, but not everyone knows how to manage it. Why is that?

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