Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Money Matters of Marriage

When I was much younger - in my late teens and early twenties I was not very good at managing money. It's not something my parents spent any time teaching us about other than the constant reiteration of how broke we were - which was at times confusing because we were only broke if us kids wanted to do something. If the 'rents were up for entertainment fundage somehow magically appeared.

I started working when I was 16 and from then on pretty much took care of any personal finances I had myself. Car, insurance, gas, clothes, snacks, etc. If I wanted it and it was 'extra' I paid for it. And as I was guilty of the misguided notion of 'checks to write = money to spend!' I ended up paying for a lot of stuff I didn't have the money to pay for - twice.

Well once for the purchase and again in NSF fees which as you may be familiar with can easily add up to much more than your initial purchase once that 'bad' check hits the bank and a few more 'would have been good if not for that bad purchase' checks follow.

Thankfully the struggle to dig myself out of a negative bank account acted as a crash course in money management and I became very thrifty after that.

In 2003 due to the unstable and at times violent nature of my last relationship I ended up homeless. I moved into a domestic abuse shelter with my personal belongings crammed in my car - which had less than a half a tank of gas at the time. I had about $20 to my name and no job. But thanks to an amazing web of net-friends and the sheer grace of God I found a job, a room to rent and got myself back on my feet in a relatively short period of time. Being destitute did a number on my psyche though and once I was able to pay bills again I didn't take those responsibilities for granted or what having the money to pay them meant.

For most it just means another dip in the bank account. Another bill eating up your entertainment fund. For me... it meant standing on my feet again. That is still what it means to me today. I never groan when I get a bill, instead I thank God I have a home to bill me, that I have lights to pay for, and most of all that I have a job that provides the money to pay it all.

So bills get paid the day I get the bill or as soon as I have the funds available. Rarely do I wait for an actual due date to come before sending off a payment.

Which leads me to the real subject of this blog. The money matters of marriage.

I was 34 when I got married so I'd had many many years of handling my own finances and being responsible for paying bills. And over the course of those many years I have become a bit OCD with handling my money.

My husband (as I'm assuming is the same with most guys?) is not quite as eager to part with his deniro as I am. Not to say that he waits until the day before a late fee will be charged to pay his bills but he tends to stray pretty close to actual due dates.

When we moved in together and got to the point of having mutual bills we never discussed who would pay what or who's name stuff would be in. Well in the beginning he moved in with me so I just kept on paying the bills and just deposited his half into my account. We split the joint 'household' bills and each paid our own personal expenses like phones, gas, etc. And when we got a car together we decided he would pay that note since he would be the primary driver.

Well in February of this year, after work relocated us to Gulf Shores we decided to move. This new place would be our first home as a married couple. The first place we moved in new together where evey thing was equally OURS,  instead of mine - with him living there. And once again I just sort of took over setting up the new utilities, putting everything in my name and after the first month of bills came in I let Matthew know about what his half would be.

Over the last few months I've hinted that I'd like to no longer bear the full responsibility of making sure bills got paid and Matthew has said he'd be more than happy to help but (as I made sure to point out to him) not once has he come to me or had us sit down together for me to go over all the bills with him so he could actually take over paying them.

Of course I could just dump them in his lap with a timetable and say 'here figure it out', but I'm hesitant to do that. It's not like he's never been responsible for paying bills before. He lived on his own before we met and has had rent, utilities etc that he's paid on his own for numerous years, it's more I think that his lack of 'eagerness?' to assume the responsibility leaves me a bit uneasy releasing the reigns.

The last time we talked about it, ok - the last time I complained about it - Matthew informed me that no one told me to put all the bills in my name. That no one said I had to be the one to get everything set up and turned on - I just took it upon myself to take care of it. Of course I reminded him that I didn't recall him offering to jump in and do it for me, but like our previous conversations about money it ended in a stale-mate of him saying 'sure I'll take over' without actually TAKING OVER and me just continuing to do it myself.

So my question is this - when you got married - or to the point in your relationship where paying bills became a joint shared effort - who took over?

Was there a conversation about it or did one partner just assume the responsibility of collecting the money and making sure things got paid?

Who pays the bills in your house? Husband, Wife - and why? Who's more money minded? And would you be comfortable handing off that task to your partner if it's currently your job?

I think for Matthew and I it was a combined case of the bills being in my name first when he moved in and that I've always made more money than him so if we were going to be short getting something paid I knew best how to work my own budget to make up for the difference that needed to be covered.

We're pretty even now though on the financial front so maybe one of these days I'll get to the point where I can't stand to pay another bill and really just dump it in his lap... Then again probably not.