It’s shocking how many couples have silly fights over money. The solution is rather simple. Behind all of this drama are the real issues of valuing your partner’s time, and whether or not you’re a fair person.
That’s right. This should be simple stuff to deal with but, with all those love chemicals going off, it’s hard to be objective. The answer is simple, get “The Envelope.” Now this isn’t some product that’s advertised on late night television, although it probably should be. Just get an envelope, which you and your partner put equal sums of money in. Then, in order to pull money out of the envelope, you both have to write down on a sheet of paper what you purchased, and replace that money with a receipt with your name on it.
So what is a household item? Anything the two of you agree to share the expense of. Delivery food, dinner out as a couple and groceries are all good stuff for that envelope. Spa treatments, dry cleaning, beer out with a buddy, are not in that envelope. Where it gets more interesting is when the money runs out fast, and you both have to put in equal amounts to refill the envelope.
The biggest benefit of the envelope is that you’ll both be dealing with a shared reality based on facts. The facts are that the envelope will either have money in it, or it will have receipts. When everyone knows what they’re spending their money on, both parties will know the real value of that expensive dinner, and will both appreciate it that much more. Now there’s also an option to say to the other person: “I’m inviting you out to dinner” and then pay from outside of the envelope. When that happens, it becomes a real treat.
The envelope works well when both parties are bringing in income, but what happens when one of them isn’t working? It works just the same, except one person puts money in that envelope and sets a budget based on the household’s requirements. So if you’re a new couple, and are wondering how to get off on the right foot, and may or may not be living in the same place, then set up an envelope in both houses.
Because roles are expanding, and are no longer gender specific, we need to get away from traditional theories. The basic element that’s being traded is time. You see, time is what a person puts into all activity. Time is the one thing that’s gender neutral. Society today already hires the best person for the job, or they’ll go out of business. So the paycheck you demand in the market is based on an unbiased value society will pay for your time.
Let’s assume my wife’s an attorney who’d invested time and money to get a degree from Harvard, and she bills out at $600 an hour. Let’s also point out that I didn’t graduate elementary school, partied a great deal and now dig ditches for $8 per hour, and it takes me 75 hours to make $600. It makes more sense to have my wife work for $600 per hour while I take care of the children, clean the house and cook the meals.
When my wife comes home, is it fair to ask her to work at home because I’ve been working all day digging ditches for $8 per hour, and I am much more tired then she is? No, it’s not fair because I respect my wife, and value the choices she made with her time. You see, for whatever reason I didn’t figure out a way to get society to value my time more. By not going to college and racking up credit card debt. By not spending years working 20 hour days to get experience in a profession society values, I enter the relationship with my wife having a very serious deficit of time invested in me.
I decided that building a $600 per hour career in the future was less important than traveling, or getting a degree in what society calls a hobby. If people do it for free, it’s most likely a hobby. The years I spent finding myself, backpacking and partying around the globe came at a cost. The way I spent my time has hurt my ability to demand money for my time from society, and it’s only fair that she makes the decisions when it comes to spending the fruits of her time. If I were not married to such a wonderful woman who allowed me to stay home, I’d be working all day digging ditches and coming home to a life of cooking and cleaning alone.
David Alsabery is thinking about the wonderful trips he has taken around the world. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.