Divorce is rarely pretty. In my husband’s case, it was particularly ugly, and much of the unpleasantness stemmed from his subsequent financial situation. Without getting into the details of what happened I can tell you that when he and I began dating he was very hesitant to get involved with another person’s finances and very protective of his own. He found that he loved me but he didn’t trust me financially. It had absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with what he’d just been through.
When we got married we chose to keep our finances separate. Completely separate. He would pay some bills, I would pay others, and we’d manage those bills on our own. We look at money differently, we manage it differently, and thus we have differing opinions about finances.
Some of the most horrific fights we had when things were terrible were, at their most basic, about money. You can imagine how awful it was when, after enjoying a year on the mend, we were thrown back into intense money discussions when we got our taxes back. It wasn’t pretty. There were some flashbacks of how it was, and brief as they were, they were terrifying. We do NOT want to go backwards.
After multiple discussions about what the next year should look like financially, we decided it would make the most sense to…wait for it…get a joint account. No, I didn’t say merge accounts, we opted to get an additional account that is joint. This both feels like an incredible win for our relationship and the most terrifying thing ever. Why? A couple reasons. One, because I’m anal as can be when it comes to keeping track of purchases and deposits. I’m old school people…I still balance my checkbook on paper…and use the bank-issued check registers. I’m that irritating broad at Target who holds up the line (which I HATE) by writing down my purchases while still at the counter. How the hell will I keep track if I’m not the only one using this account?!
Last week when I told you of my ridiculous day that included a ridiculous visit to the bank? We were there to open this account, and it was nerve wracking and exhilarating and ridiculous all at the same time.
This will be the first pay period in which we will be working together on our household bills. We will be sitting down and determining what gets paid with what pay period for the next several months. The organization aspect of this makes me so excited! On the other hand, however, part of me feels like I am on a probation of sorts.
However this goes, whether really well or horribly, I feel like it will be a reflection of my competence financially. He has been scared to do this until now and it feels like a test. MY test. I’m not particularly fond of this. I’m not particularly fond of having to prove myself due to someone else’s irresponsibility and manipulation. It’s not fair.
But…as my mom would say…”life’s not fair.” So there’s that.
The little girls started doing chores a couple months ago. With their help I put together a list of things they will do each day they are with us and every other weekend. Things like putting their dishes in the dishwasher, folding socks, putting clean folded clothes away, etc. They have embraced the chores with eagerness and joy. They love that they are part of the mix when we are “getting things done.” Because I have NO idea what the going rate is for chores these days I offered them each $2 per week (I’ve since heard this is really low…shoot!).
Today I worked from home. On days when I get to do this I like to take the little girls to breakfast. It’s so nice not to rush them out the door to daycare if I don’t have to. We eat breakfast, read a chapter in our current Nancy Drew book, and chat about the upcoming day. Today while at breakfast I wrote them each a check…which by the way they died over…for their weeks of chores. I told them that next week we would go to the bank to open accounts for each of them. I then showed them a check register and explained how they are used. Since we’re always working on math I explained that it’s just addition and subtraction. I told them that THEY would be in charge of keeping track of the money that is in their account.
To say that this excited them would be a serious understatement. Their eyes got big, they wanted to hold the check registers in their own hands, and when I handed them their checks they stared at them in awe.
My husband and I have long talked about how important it is to US to teach our little girls about money. We want them to grow up with a strong understanding of what it means to have money, spend money, and to do it responsibly and carefully.
I think I’m going to look at this new financial adventure with my husband as a new beginning for our family. It’s not going to be a year of vacations, and gifts, and luxury. It will, however, be a year of feeling fiscally conservative and responsible, and teaching our little girls to do the same. And that’s a little bit exciting to me!
TODAY: What if instead of being irritated that I have to work at gaining my husband’s trust financially I look at it as a new beginning and a new fabulous aspect of our ever-growing (and hopefully always improving) relationship? What if our adventure can coincide with our teaching our little girls what it means to be fiscally responsible? And what if a year from now our finances are so perfectly in line that all of this worry will be long forgotten?