When we got married, Chuck told me that he would do the bookkeeping for the first year, and then he would like me to do it. I secretly assured myself that I would get out of the accountant position somehow when the time came. Nevertheless, after that first year, Chuck’s insistence won out. Thus began my initiation into the world of finance under my husband’s careful tutelage. I had never learned how to balance a checkbook and I didn’t want to start now.
All my expectations of my husband taking care of me, just as my father had done while I was growing up, flew out the window. I began to wonder if I had made a horrible mistake in marrying Chuck.
Even though I fussed and fumed every time I had to pay the bills, Chuck patiently persisted in his mentoring pursuit. He would pull me aside every two weeks, sit me down, open the account ledger, and walk me through writing bills and balancing the checkbook.
When the first year was complete, Chuck pulled away to watch me fly solo. I plummeted many times during the next few years, but finally my wings were strong enough to carry me and our household into financial security. Checks no longer bounced. Letters no longer showed up in our mailbox with service fees attached. And that angry scowl on my husband’s face disappeared. Well, almost. My track record was improving anyway.
Ultimately, it was my husband’s patient persistence that kept me on task and helped me learn a skill that I believe every woman should learn: how to manage household finances and balance the checkbook. Here are some things that helped us succeed. Perhaps you will find them helpful, too.
Use your differing backgrounds and experience to complement one another. Chuck had grown up in a family that provided him with financial tools for success. At an early age, he opened checking and savings accounts and learned how to keep his own books and manage his money earned from a paper route. He observed his mother manage the household accounts and assist his father in the insurance business. I, on the other hand, was given money when I needed it and was not taught about bank accounts. My first checking account was opened when I left for college and was used only to pay my school bill and for emergencies. Since Chuck knew more about setting up a household budget, it made sense that he should direct the way and help me learn how to manage funds.
Learn to compromise. What I learned about budgeting largely came from observing my parents’ attitude toward and actions with money with no practical experience to help me. While I was not frivolous with money, I saw no problem with spending for the here and now. Chuck, on the other hand, was a big time saver. Furniture and household items were low on his list of necessary expenses. Over the early years, we learned how to compromise when needed. Chuck would loosen the reins a bit so that I could purchase a new sofa, and I would delay immediate gratification in order to honor his desire to save more.
Talk about your expectations; write them down; then work together to carry out your financial plan. Granted, much of our discussion concerning finances during our early years of marriage was wroth with tension and dissension, but at least we talked! Chuck’s insistence that we save, save, save, led to many financial consultants frequenting our doors. I would typically sit through those encounters with arms crossed and steam coming out my ears, occasionally interjecting a sarcastic comment. I did not want to learn about stocks and bonds, mutual funds and retirement accounts. Why not enjoy the money God had given us now and let Him provide for our future? I didn’t realize that God had placed my husband as the steward of our funds to help secure our financial future.
As the years rolled by, we gradually learned how to calmly listen to the other spouse’s viewpoint, even writing out our thoughts when we were too worked up to speak kindly. Placing our expectations on paper, then sharing what we had written, helped us come up with a joint plan for our household finances. If something did not work, we threw it out, and came up with another plan. Periodically, we asked two questions: 1) What is working? 2) What isn’t working that we need to change?
I can honestly say now, after 38 years of marriage, that I am grateful for my husband’s early insistence that I manage the household finances. If something happened to Chuck, I would know how to take care of myself. I no longer growl when our financial advisor calls or comes to the door. In fact, I consider him one of my best friends and the first person I consult when I have a financial question.