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- My husband always managed our finances, while I paid the bills.
- After an unexpected expense, we decided that I should take over the family finances.
- Now that I do, I find that I think differently about spending money, today and in the future.
Payday in four days. Every now and then, I’m determined to spend less than $100.
It’s not because we only have $100 left. There are no serious consequences on the other side of $100. I am determined not to spend more than $100 because that would mean indulging in the money I had set aside for it Emergency casesHolidays, my husband’s birthday dinner, etc. It’s a complex, well-thought-out system of automatic deposits, payments, and financial goals.
A year ago, this system did not exist.
While I tried to think carefully about our family’s spending, when it came to money, my thoughts were based on vague knowledge rather than minute details. She took care of our expenses: grocery shopping, medical bills, donations to my kids’ school, etc. I did not resent my husband for this setup. His salary is much higher than mine. He works hard to make money, so I’m comfortable with the mental burden of spending it. But because I took that burden, he took the burden Managing our finances.
He preferred it this way. Since my husband suffers from anxiety, as far as he was concerned, giving control of our money to the person who spends it all was not an option. And for more than a decade, we’ve been comfortable with this arrangement.
But over the past year, my husband’s anxiety about money has begun to affect his health, and I’ve begun to resent the implications of our roles. Yes, I was a low earner and a “spenter,” but I’m also a temperamental and personal financial writer better suited to dealing with the stresses that come with money management. I can’t help but feel that subconsciously, we set things up the way we did based on gender more than anything else.
Unexpected debt inspired us to change our strategy
Things came to a head a few months after I created my new backyard. We had saved for the pool and budgeted for landscaping, but failed to consider the lounge chairs, picnic table, twinkling lights, and bafflingly expensive bollards. I could go on, but you get the picture. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the picture until it was too late, and we had a credit card bill that we couldn’t pay in full at the end of the month.
The revolving credit card balance is my husband’s main motivation. As the optimist among us, I reminded him that in the grand scheme of our income, $5,000 in debt would not break us. But those reassurances aren’t meant to come as often from someone who… didn’t really know what she was talking about. After all, how can I? I would check our accounts regularly, but understanding the ins and outs of our financial structure was his job.
For his part, my husband was very confused. Since he didn’t spend much, he didn’t understand where all our money was going. While I was trying to explain it to him, I saw that he didn’t understand. I decided it was my turn to take charge of our finances.
When I told him what I had decided, he said, “But you are the one who spends all the money. I don’t know that you should be responsible for managing it.”
I replied, “That’s exactly why I have to manage it. You make our financial decisions without understanding how much money we need, and I make our spending decisions without understanding how much money we have.” And so, we switched.
I think about money completely differently now
Our financial conditions have never been bad, nor have they improved or deteriorated under my tenure. My husband still struggles with financial anxiety, but he finds it less difficult not to take full responsibility for our finances, even if it gives him a stronger sense of control.
For me, my attitude towards our family’s spending has changed dramatically. I’ve found that much of the past spending reflects some important assumptions. Assumptions like, “I just sold a great article. I can afford to take my friend out to lunch.” Or, “We’ve hit an income milestone; we’ve reached the upper middle class. Upper middle class people don’t need to be frugal about shopping their kids for back to school.”
These days, I’m actively working with and achieving our financial goals, so my spending reflects the reality of our finances, not the idea I built them out of in my head. For example, Target has completely lost its appeal to me. You don’t need a $40 beach tote bag if we can’t take a beach vacation this year. And we can’t afford a beach vacation if I don’t budget for it every month. And if I exceeded my family’s spending on nonsensical items like basket bags, I wouldn’t have enough money to put into these Monthly vacation savings.
I learned another thing when I also took over the management of our family’s finances, and that was how emotionally draining it was. It’s a bit like riding in a car. Sure, being a passenger doesn’t have the ability to steer the car around sharp turns or hit the brakes when traffic is suddenly heavy. But when you’re in a traffic jam, passengers don’t have to pay attention to the tail lights of the car ahead or evaluate lanes to see which is moving faster. Passengers can play on their phones and complain about how much they need to use the bathroom. It is the driver who must remain alert and resist the siren song of their text notifications. Because when it comes down to it, a passenger’s gasp doesn’t stop an accident. The driver does that.
I’m the driver now, and while I don’t like stress, I have a newfound appreciation for a partner who’s carried me for more than a decade. And it’s an honor to take that weight off his shoulders and take my turn.