At age 32 I had been a widow for nearly three years and was not eager to remarry. I had many reasons for this, not the least of which was money.
I liked the security and freedom of my own income. I liked knowing my bills would be paid on time, that no one was dependent upon me, and that I could use my money as I wanted with no explanation to anyone. Sharing bed and board was one thing -- sharing a bank account quite another.
Then I met Tom, who was irresistable. I kept my job, but conscented to marriage. It proved to be a felicitous decision for many reasons, one of which is the way we handle money.
Tom had been taught at his mother's knee that good money management included keeping an account of all expenditures. Well*n. The prospect of recording the purchase of every new dress, every luch out, and every bottle of nail polish sounded grim even to me, a veteran diary keeper.
I pictured myself trying to justify every extravagance, large or small, and wondered what I had gotten myself into. . .But I gave it a try. Within a month it had become painless and automatic.
The secret: I fond there was no need to justify to anyone but myself. And so far as worries about loss of freedom, this simple record-keeping system, helped me in the financial security and freedom that are so dear to me.
Here is how it works. We stock a supply of mimeographed expense sheets with these categories:
Housing, Household Funishings and Equipment, Food, Clothing, Insurance, Loans, Transportation, Medical and Dental, Drycleaning and Tailoring, Wine and Spirits, Lunch, Entertainment, 'books and Publications, Contributions, Stationery and Photo, Gifts, Personal, and Miscellaneous.
We each use a separate expense sheet every month. We have individual checking and savings accounts. Since I get an obsessive-compulsive pleasure from seeing that the routine household bills are paid, I write the checks for the mortage and utilities. As the cook I also do the major grocery shopping.
Tom usually handles entertainment and contributions. Either of us might pick up a bottle of wine, stop by the fruit market, or pay the paper boy. All these items are recorded, along with all individual expenses.
Since I tend to pay more of the monthly joint expenses, Tom gives me set advances at the beginning and middle of each month. At the end of the month, he adds all the columns and compares our totals, allowing for the advances. He then makes whatever adjustment is necessary to evenly divide joint costs. At that time and throughout the month we scrupulously repay all loans and debts to each other.
All money beyond shared expenses is strictly personal. When Tom decided to take flying lessons, he got no argument from me. When he started evening classes for a certificate in (what else?) accounting, he determined that he not we , could afford it.
He prefers to conserve on car expenses, while I like a little more pizazz. No argument. He drives an economy car, while I bear the costs of a sports model.
I must admit this accounting does reveal fascinating information, particularly in a year-end review. I was sobered, for example to learn that in a typical year I spent $220 on a favorite bubble bath.
There is never any question about where the money goes. The expense sheets show it plainly. For this reason, they can be most useful in planning a budget and determining what areas of spending might be changed -- if one is so inclined. There also is the added advantage at income-tax time of having a ready record of nearly all information necessary to itemize deductions.
I can easily understand why money is one to the most common causes of contention and resentment in marriage. Although our system requires discussion and agreement about shared expenses, it helps reduce many potential problems. Although we have no children, the general rules could work well for couples with a family.
As for sharing a checking account -- I'd rather share a toothbrush.