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Money & Marriage

by Stephen Lautens


February 16, 2001

Every woman's magazine I've ever read says that openness and honesty about money matters is important to a good marriage. It seems there are men out there who are secretive about money or keep a tight rein on the purse strings.

Not at my house - but explaining our domestic finances is more complicated than negotiating a loan from the World Bank.

First of all, I should explain that my wife and I both work, so we're lucky enough to each have a few bucks coming in. But for some reason that I can't quite figure out, even after ten years of marriage, our finances have stayed separate. We each have our own bank accounts, credit cards and personal expenses.

I have no idea how much or where she keeps her dough, and she doesn't know which mattress my money is stuffed into. However, my wife is of Scottish extraction, and I've never had any worry she would be foolishly parted from her money. If anything, she's a bit too good with money - bless her. I've seen her agonize over whether she should spend a few dollars on something as frivolous as a new pair of winter boots, even though her current pair has a hole and lets in the slush.

Every married couple has their own way of looking after household bills. Some pool their money and pay everything out of a joint account. Some guys I know hand over their paycheque and get an allowance. We've never fallen into any of these money routines. In fact, none of our friends understand what we do.

After ten years or marriage, we still pay bills like we're roommates. I look after the gas and electric bills - she takes care of the phone and cable. We each pay the mortgage every month by depositing half of the money into our only joint account.

Okay, so that may not be so odd, but wait until you're behind us at the grocery checkout. If the bill comes to eighty dollars, I'll fish out forty of it and hand it over to her. After all, I don't want her to lay claim to all the food in the fridge.

When we order in we have an unwritten rule: when it's pizza, I pay - when it's chicken, she picks up the tab.

There are other times when I'm short of spending cash. I'll wander around town for weeks with the same twenty dollar bill in my pocket because I can't get to a bank machine. I'm only able to buy lunch for myself by scrounging in the mountain of coins on my dresser for loonies and toonies.

But when I need money and can't get to the bank, I'll ask to borrow twenty bucks from my wife Rhea. "I'll pay you back," I always promise, and I always do. I don't want her to think I'm not good for the money, or for her to send some guy named 'Rocko' after me.

There is a nice part to all this nuttiness about money.

When we go out for dinner we usually forget about splitting the bill. It's not like we sit down with a calculator and figure out who had the extra cola.

One or the other of us will pick up the tab. And then it feels just like we're out on a date.

Not bad after ten years of marriage.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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