Show Me The Money!

Photo: Judy Berna

It’s that time of year again, time to either jump into those annoying New Year’s resolutions with both feet, or ignore them completely. I have a few rolling around in the back of my head, the usual stuff. You know, getting healthy, being a better person and all that. But there was one resolution that surprised me, and hadn’t even been on my radar just two weeks ago.

I resolve to give up balancing my family’s budget. No, I don’t mean we aren’t going to be paying our bills anymore. Despite what some government bodies are doing, that would just be irresponsible. Instead, I’m handing the responsibility over to my husband.

It’s been my baby for all of the 22 years we’ve been married. In the early days, there wasn’t much to balance. Then the kids started showing up and I was mostly home with them, so I had more time to attack the stack of unwanted envelopes that kept showing up in the mailbox.

It’s been tricky through the years, not just because our household continued to expand, but because my husband took a job that had us moving around the country for the past decade. Every time I seemed to get some system going, for our regular monthly obligations, the picture would change. There was closing up of old services (cable, internet, trash service, etc) and opening up of new ones. And that’s not counting the extra expenses that come from moving a family of six across the country (four times in the past ten years).

This past move was the one that did me in. The house continued to linger on the market, no matter how low we dropped the price, and for the past six months, we’ve essentially been supporting two houses. Even the empty one, back in New York, was costing me over 400 dollars a month in utilities alone. It was a nightmare to juggle our budget.

For the first time in my life I had insomnia. I found myself laying awake at 3 a.m., wondering how it would all pan out. My husband, our token family insomniac, noticed he wasn’t the only one watching the time tick by in the middle of the night. He knew I was pretty possessive when it came to the family finances, mainly because I feel like it’s not fair to him, to bring in the bulk of the income, then spend his free time in the evenings doing more paperwork.  One day last week he gently said to me, “You know, I do budgeting for my section at work. I wouldn’t mind taking it over.”

I supposed he hit me at just the right moment, because suddenly I was fighting tears (they won). It all felt so heavy and hard. I wanted to be done with it more than I had ever realized.

So two days later, I made a print out of what we owed, and who we owed, and I handed it over. I bought him his own set of files and gave him a full drawer in the family filing cabinet.

I felt the relief immediately. I slept soundly that night, and every night since. He’s not thrilled about our financial picture, but for the first time in years, he knows it intimately. I’ve told him to give me a specific allowance for groceries, gas and kid stuff, and he can have a ball, taking the rest to pay off our debts.

When we made the big plunge I posted the news on Facebook. It was interesting to read the comments, left by friends and family members. I suddenly realized that everyone feels differently about this topic. Some couples split the bills and are happy with that arrangement. Some won’t let their spouses touch the bills, for fear of losing every asset they’ve ever acquired.

Some of our own GeekMoms love the science of it. Numbers don’t lie, after all. Some use graphing and charting programs on the computer, to keep track of their expenses, and love the game of it. Some are married to GeekMen who take the challenge on for themselves.

So our question for you is this – who handles the money in your household, and why? Does the set up work for you or does it stress you out? As one who has been more than happy to jump ship, I’d love to know how other people make it work.


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6 thoughts on “Show Me The Money!

  1. I did the budget in the beginning of my marriage but with the stress of bad postpartum depression my husband willingly took that stressor away from me. He has been doing the budget ever since and after an adjustment time its usually been ok. I get frustrated occasionally about not being in control, I’m a bit of a perfectionist about somethings, but it does make my life easier. We are still a team when it comes to figuring out the hard problems and planning out long term goals, paying off debt and such, but he does the month to month. I love the arrangement.

  2. My wife handles the day-to-day… basically, importing the transactional records into Quicken. She categorizes them, puts them in the appropriate bank accounts, and transfers money when needed.

    I’m in charge of overall fiscal outlook and projection. I know, at any given time, how much we owe (approx) and to who, how we are against our yearly (and monthly) budgets, and where we should be at this time next quarter.

    At the end of the year, we print off what we spent and budget for the next year based on it. Did we feel to pressed with groceries? Up. Do I need a new computer? Maybe, if extra money is available. Did we not spend as much on office supplies last year and don’t expect to this year? down.

    Then I check the budget every so often and make sure it doesn’t need adjustment.

    Our money is pooled but we decide together, through the budget process, whether or not we individually get some advantage out of extra monies. Then, if bonuses, dividends, tax refunds come up, we then choose to spend frivolously (after all, it was not budgeted) and we decide on that use together – maybe an extra vacation or so.

    -Transactional (paying bills, downloading and categorizing into Quicken) – my wife
    -Fiscal projections and budget review – me
    -Annual budgeting planning and spending of extra monies – both

  3. One of my “goals” for this year is to cement our financial plan. With one income, It would be nice to “get into the science of it” as you put it and see how much we spend a year on certain things, which things we might want to cut back on (or find an alternative), etc. My husband and I have to flip a coin to see who will do the bills from month to month because we both dread it.

  4. We try to play to our strengths. My husband has a “freight train” brain. He’s slow to start because he wants to know all the facts up front but, once he gets going, he’s a force to be reckoned with. He always does hours of research for each topic which means he also finds the best deals and the easiest long-term solutions.

    I have a “sparkler” brain. I’m good for quick, bright flashes of brain function. That means I cope well with quickly changing situations but can’t hold on to it for long (unless I hitch a ride on the freight train.)

    So! Husband does the long term planning and deals with big picture changes in the economy. He lets me know what he’s found out and we decide together what is useful and what isn’t. Then I do little picture items and pay the day to day bills and tackle the immediate issues that support our agreed upon goals.

    It usually works pretty well. And then there are the days when it doesn’t. But that’s what foam swords are for. ^_^

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