Thewriter lives in Chicago, just got married, and writes about money and writing over at The Writer’s Coin.
For the most part, my new wife and myself have done pretty well when it comes to adjusting to the financial side of married life. We created a joint bank account and the first few months have worked really well — we’re living our lives and we’re putting away a good amount of money. There have been some hiccups along the way, we aren’t the Brady Bunch or anything (nevermind the kids part, that’s a whole other ballpark). We’ve had our fair share of disagreements over things like emergency funds and semantics about targeted savings accounts, but overall we’re good.
This past month, something new came up that had us clashing again. It’s interesting that such minor things can cause such a lack of understanding between two people that love each other so much. The issue: I get paid twice a month but M gets paid every Friday, which means she’ll have four “extra” paychecks over the course of a year. When I got paid every two weeks, I had the same problem and I just treated it like found money — it went straight into my ING savings account.
M, however, didn’t see it that way. She would rather have it accounted for throughout the year and taken into full consideration when we budget out how we spend money on a day-to-day basis. This way would give us a bump in the amount of money we have to spend every month. Which is understandable because if you don’t count that money, on paper it looks like she’s not “contributing” as much to “our” finances (marriage invites the liberal use of quotes and air quotes — get used to it) than she’s actually making. So she wanted our budgeting spreadsheet to reflect that money.
I wasn’t thinking about that and stressed that this was a great way of saving even more money (me being greedy and cheap). Instead of bringing it into the budget (where it would likely get spent, I’ve learned), I wanted to shoot it straight into our joint ING account.
Then things got defensive. I kind of understood her point, but I still wanted to “win” the argument, prove I was right and get some extra saving going into our coffers. It wasn’t “my” money being accounted for, so what did I care? She could tell and wasn’t going to give in easily. It was late and her last attempt to foil me was to say that she would “forget” to transfer new money over on months where there was an extra paycheck. I countered with this jewel: “I’ll remind you.”
Now, it was late and we had just gone through our budget, so things were a little tense. So we left it at that and let it soak in for a few days. The next week was an extra paycheck week and I brought it up. We had cooled down a little — I wasn’t out to “win” and she wasn’t out to stop me from winning. We both realized that, in the end, it’s “our money” (there is that beautiful phrase single people dread to hear) and it doesn’t matter how we account for it as long as we end up deciding it together and being responsible about it.
The lesson? Money makes us defensive and edgy because what used to be “mine” is no longer. Not just with money, with everything. Sharing isn’t easy, especially when it comes to such a contentious thing as money. But that’s the lesson learned here — that money, like everything else, is no longer “yours.” When you marry someone everything becomes “ours” and the sooner you realize that, the easier it’ll be for you to let this kind of this just roll right off your back.