Couples and Their Finances

May 23, 2010

A few weeks ago bf and I flew up to my parents’ house for a family get together/Kentucky Derby party. Through my bff, aka Facebook, I learned that an old friend from high school and his wife were going to be in town as well. I messaged him and we made plans to meet for dinner.

It was as great seeing him after so long and meeting his wife. We rehashed memories of singing in the show choir together and an ill-fated trip we took one Spring Break to Florida during a hurricane. We found out that his wife was a former Miss Oklahoma who went to college with bf’s childhood next door neighbor.

When the bill came, they insisted on paying the tab. After some obligatory resistance, we acquiesced to their demand and handed over the bill. What happened next was something that I’d never experienced before and, if I hadn’t been there, would never have believed it.

They opened the bill, perused it a little, and then whipped out their i-phones. “We should split their tab fifty fifty.” He automated like Commander Data aboard the Starship Enterprise. “Well, they’re really more your friends than mine.” she retorted, as if speaking in binary code. “We split the bill when your sister and brother-in-law were in town last month.”  He sassed back, never looking up from his phone. “Noted.” She agreed. “We’ll split it.”

Like watching a documentary on the social rituals of straight couples that hate one another on National Geographic, I studied my friend and his bride itemize everything on the menu down to the penny. From who had more to drink from the bottle of shared wine to who had a bigger bite of the other’s meal, to how much of the tip each was to pay, nothing went unaccounted. Proud of their accomplishment, my soon-to-be ex friend and his Miss America reject wife wrote down each of their totals and inserted their separate credit cards into the bill holder.

“Whew,” Miss Oklahoma exclaimed as she downed the last bit of her husband’s wine. “That was a lot easier than usual.” Bf and I looked at one another, knowing what was coming next. Annoyed, husband blurted out “I’m taking that sip out of my portion of the tip.”

As we got into our car to head back to my parent’s house, we locked our seatbelts, looked at one another and said, in unison “Thank God for Diane.”

Six months into our relationship, with all my student loan money misappropriated and my credit score lower than Paris Hilton’s IQ, bf took over my finances and fused them with his own. Being a financial wizard, one of his many talents, he developed an intricate Excel spreadsheet to track cash flow, debt, loans and any other financial transactions. And Diane was born.

Diane is, other than an extension of bf’s brain, our financial advisor. Bf named her after Diana, Goddess of the Moon, among other things. And as the moon dictates the ebb and flow of the ocean, so Diane manages the comings and goings of our money.

At first, I was hesitant of Diane. I thought of her as some kind of financial Big Brother, lurking behind every debit card purchase, waiting to pounce on me at the first sign of monetary irresponsibility. But, I was wrong. It wasn’t Diane who policed my every transaction, it was bf.

Being a former bank employee and an MBA, bf was very aware of money and how it should be spent. I, on the other hand, being an architect and only concerned with how things looked, never bothered to look at price tags or receipts. And, in those early days of our joint finances, this caused an ample amount of friction. Enough so, that it caused the biggest fight of our relationship.

It was a Saturday and we were having lunch at one of our favorite Indian restaurants. After ordering, I noticed there was a new naan bread on the menu. I flagged down the waiter and added it to our order. I won’t rehash the specifics, but what followed was not pretty. My seemingly insignificant order erupted into a heated exchange. Bf accused me of not respecting the budget. I told him he was a control freak. We discussed disenfranchising the finances, but decided that would be a backwards step in our relationship – something that, although we were mad at each other, did not want to do.

We spent the rest of that weekend in relative silence (we’re both very stubborn).

The next week, bf called me at work. “Diane needs to talk to you” he said, as if he was her secretary. “Okay.” I replied, not quite knowing what to expect. “She wants to know if you’ll be buying your lunch this week or brown bagging it.” “Brown bag.” I answered. “Perfect,” he answered. “I’ll let her know.” That’s when Diane went from a mere computer program to a conscious, living member of our relationship. And all three of us couldn’t be happier.

Since then, instead of fighting over money, or the lack thereof, we simply throw Diane into the mix and talk through her. She’s the perfect financial mediator.

My advice to couples with separate finances: If you’re willing to trust someone with your body, mind and soul…why not your checkbook, too? If you’re scared about delving into the world of joint finances, shoot me an e-mail. I’ll send you a copy of Diane.

My advice to everyone else: Beware of dinner dates with old friends and beauty queens.


10 Responses to “Couples and Their Finances”

  1. FML Says:

    I remember when Diane was born. I’ve always had great admiration and respect for her. So much so, that we invited her sister Bridget to live with us when we moved to our house 2 years ago. I say, 3 cheers for Diane and the oh so fab person that brought her into your life. Just my 2 cents….

  2. masha Says:

    Your dad wants to know if Diane has a sister.

  3. Caroline Says:

    Great article!
    We have a Diane in this house too!

  4. […] five-star meals at the drop of a hat, while maintaining a household’s finances (see “Couples and Their Finances” for more information) and planning and executing flawless vacations all with a smile on his face and […]

  5. We tried doing that, but it just didn’t work. Now we have semi-separated finances. I’m in charge of groceries and childcare (and surprise gifts), and he pays for everything else. We have totally separate bank accounts and credit cards and look after them out of our own budgets. It’s not a scientific system, but it keeps the fights to a minimum.
    I’m in awe of people who can actually manage a budget. It’s like a strange, alien beast to me…

  6. Amber Says:

    Ah, my spreadsheet apparently needs a name. 🙂 It (she?) has totally changed our relationship with money.

    But, now I’m all curious about who you had dinner with…I have some guesses. CC?

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