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Ask Malyshka: Money Money Money

Ask Malyshka! Ask Malyshka! Ask Malyshka!  Ask me things, so I can answer them. Please. Until then, I’m going to get all up in your personal finances.

Money.

It makes the world go round, according to the Radio Lab podcast I just listened to, it might be what is symbolized by the One Ring in Lord of the Rings (mind = blown), and it is the leading cause of (and predictor of) divorce.

As feminists, we want equality, and being independent (economically and otherwise) is dear to our hearts.  As women, we are likely to make around 80% of the salary of our male counterparts.  As people in relationships, we are taught from early on that two become one, including economically, and once you start amassing belongings (cars, Wiis, kids) the push to combine is stronger.

So what do we do?  Be fiscally independent?  Be desperately dependent?  Share and share alike?

The problem is, whichever path you choose is fraught with hazard.  Money is nothing but intricately printed paper, yet it represents every major pitfall that most relationships will go through – power, independence, equality ““ and often it is held so closely to a person’s sense of self that the stakes are astronomical.

No matter the relationship, if you break it into bits and pieces, equality is impossible.  Even if tasks around the house are split evenly down the middle, folding clothes sucks more than mowing the lawn, which sucks less than cooking dinner.  For me.  But for my partner, there’s a different order.  Every benefit and asset that a person brings into a relationship is too subjective to compare on the micro level.

And, I’ll go ahead and say it: the 18 hours of vagina ripping labor after 9 months of general awfulness are never going to be met by my husband’s sacrifices when it comes to child bearing.  Ever.

But the goal, or at least my goal, is to get close to Big Picture Equality. I do more work around the house. My husband spends his free time computer geniusing so that infuriating tech glitches are solved while I sleep.  My mental health is a drain on our emotional strength as a couple, but my hilarious jokes are a boost.

Which brings me back to money.  Unlike everything else in the “what do I bring to this relationship” competition, it is quantifiable.  Coldly, objectively quantifiable.

This is at the root of why monetary inequalities can be so destructive.  I make X salary, husband makes Y, I spend A amount of money on my (absolutely necessary) fancy shampoo, husband spends B on his (really, truly frivolous) fancy computer accessories.  It is all too easy to see a tally in your mind, and no matter which side of the inequality you are on, resentment can build.  If you are contributing more and/or draining less, you can blame tight budgets on your partner.  If you are contributing less and/or draining more, you might feel like you constantly owe your partner something.

But.  Big Picture Equality is the goal.  In theory, frequent self-reminders about this can solve the problem.  I make more money than my partner.  He makes me laugh so hard I pee in my pants a little bit.  Equal.

That doesn’t always work, but it helps.

Here is the best solution that we have come up with: all money goes into a joint account from which we pay for necessities: rent, groceries, tuition, clothing, pet food, utilities.  From this joint account, each of us gets a small amount put into a separate account for extras: gifts, fancy shampoo, stupid computer accessories, dinners out.

I can’t recommend this enough.  Our “budgets” have eradicated any resentment toward personal spending, because I don’t give a rat’s ass about how he blows his budget, and he doesn’t even know how I spend mine.  It has removed guilt from the equation, too ““ I don’t feel bad about fancy shampoo because it is taken out of my budget.  We ended up spending less money overall because it is really easy to justify fancy things when it’s coming from joint money, and much harder when you have a finite limit of your own each month.  And it’s made things more romantic ““ one or the other of us has to pay for dinners out, so they are special, a sacrifice and a gift.

I’m not going to say we don’t ever argue about money.  This system, though, has allowed us to feel joint and yet independent, and so for us, it has been the best of both worlds.

What kinds of solutions have you come up with to deal with money in your relationships?

By Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

3 replies on “Ask Malyshka: Money Money Money”

It sounds like you’ve come up with a good solution! We’ve tried this time and time again, and neither one of us can keep our paws out of the joint account.

Instead, we have one account for expenses that are auto-debited- mortgage, utilities, etc.

The second joint account is for everything else. Which isn’t ideal, but both of us will tread lightly when we hit a certain low in that account. Using cash for incidentals actually made us spend more- it was a weird discovery, I don’t think that usually happens. I can see in the future both of us having our own accounts in addition to the other two, but gah, that’s a lot of accounting.

It’s been an evolving process for sure, but it not longer makes me cry, so that’s a step, right??

 

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