“Argument of the Week” is a series written by Brenna Jennings. It will feature the daily domestic battles she gets into with her husband Steve. Arguments I guarantee will sound very familiar.
I was still at the pump topping off my little Honda Civic when the attendant came out to inform me that he’d be cutting my credit card in half right there where we stood. He looked apologetic as he sliced it in two while I watched, then handed me back the shards. I wasn’t so good with credit in my twenties.
Meanwhile in another state, my future husband was working a minimum-wage warehouse job and still managing to save what would become the down payment on our first home. He was probably wearing his brother’s hand-me-down sneakers from 7th grade.
I’ve gotten better by a lot when it comes to finances, and Steve has learned to loosen up a bit and actually spend some of what he earns. I wish these developments brought us to a happy middle ground where we never argue about who’s spending what on new boots again, but that will likely never happen. Because boots.
Steve has always done the bills. He has charts and lists and calculations, and takes satisfaction in getting the task done. He stations himself in our office and I hide stay elsewhere, awaiting the inevitable, “Honey? What did you spend fifty dollars on at 332 Main Street on Thursday?” It’s an innocent question and I get defensive anyway. “Mom’s birthday,” I say. “Anything else?” I add, annoyed. I feel like he’s parenting me.
It never goes well. In the list of withdrawals maybe two will be his in between three morning coffees for me, a few birthday presents, Goodwill just for fun, and gas. “Why are you driving so much? You’re putting forty bucks in your car every single week.” In my head I’m screaming YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS OF ME and what comes out of my mouth is only slightly more diplomatic.
I’m hardly a big spender, but I live with a man who only started paying for professional haircuts three years ago. He hadn’t owned a car for years when we started dating. I beg him to buy himself new jeans annually. Steve makes Gandhi look like a baller.
It was an exhausting debate every single month. I actually started leaving the house at bill time but that only postponed the line of questioning. Finally Steve proposed a solution.
“Hon, I’m putting us on a weekly allowance.” (You are not the boss of me you are not the boss of me you are not the boss of me…) “Hear me out. What do you think you’d want to take out each week in cash to buy your gas, coffee…” I cut him off before he got to boots, but agreed to only buy one pair per season. We settled on a weekly amount we’d take out in cash. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Asking me what I thought I’d need—within reason—felt less like a punishment and more like an agreement, like I was a partner instead of a dependent. The truth is I hadn’t been tracking my spending at all, and it would help us both if he knew where cash was flowing and I could see exactly how many Starbucks employees I’ve been putting through college.
We’re a team in this marriage; we both want to kill our last bit of debt, save for retirement, and see me in stylish but practical footwear. Steve knows I can’t live at his level of austerity and that I bristle at having my every purchase scrutinized. I know he feels less stress when we’re more frugal. We may not ever agree on how we spend (or don’t spend) but I intend to work through it—I may have a lot of boots, but they aren’t made for walking.
How do you handle finances at home? Is it a struggle? Do your habits conflict? Tell us in comments.
Read more from Brenna Jennings on Suburban Snapshots.