Whenever I needed cash, I just wrote myself a check, took it to the bank and cashed it. I was in my mid 20’s and had never owned a debit card. I addressed envelops, licked stamps, and wrote checks to pay my bills. The year was not 1955, but rather 2009.
My then girlfriend, now wife thought I was dimwitted.
I didn’t own a computer, which is a prerequisite for online banking, thus my hands were tied (I hadn’t considered buying a computer). I had a system that worked for me, antiquated as it was. My future wife tolerated me while we dated, but she hinted at the need for change, uttering phrases like, “when we get married this will change,” or “I will do the banking.”
Personally I felt she didn’t fully understand my system.
Bills to be paid were piled on the desk, bills already paid were piled on the floor. If I needed cash I wrote myself a check. I was like a young Ben Franklin, dutifully filling in my ledger, “a penny saved is a penny earned.” My future wife said, “that’s great hun, but its not 1763.” Silently adding to herself, “you’re an idiot.” I could see it in her eyes. Maybe she was right and I should join the current century.
Happily, she secretly found these odd character traits endearing, and in 2010 we were married. We chose to combine bank accounts which was easy since we already banked with the same company. She didn’t trust my paper, pencil, and pile method, and I was having trouble coming to grips with her use of the world wide web.
We decided we would each just pay the bills as they arrived.
This worked great, so great in fact that we soon began to receive bills showing a negative balance. I attributed this to good clean living and was quite pleased. Sadly, my wife informed me that I had paid a bill twice, and was in fact NOT being paid to keep the lights on. This eager bill paying honeymoon was followed by a stretch in which we each attempted to pawn the chore off on the other. As you can expect, we now ended up paying a bill or two late which is much more unpleasant then paying a bill twice.
I’d rather clean the toilet, then pay a late fee so I offered to take over.
My wife, correctly sensing that I was only good for making messes, not cleaning them up, quickly agreed, and promoted me to head banker. The job comes with no perks and many responsibilities. We settled on a basic job description, in which all bills were to be paid on time (only once), we would use online bill pay because it was easy (she would teach me), and we would use a credit card for almost all purchases in order to receive the cash back rewards (this is a lucrative rule as we earned over $1500 in 2016).
Lastly, we agreed to have causal conversations about our finances on a regular basis. We would discuss savings and investing objectives, along with potential large purchases should the need arise. When a monthly bill has deviated from its normal range, I initiate a conversation, just so we are both aware and can make any changes if need be.
Above all, our system is built on trust, we are both responsible with our spending and consult our partner for large purchases, or when we have a want as opposed to a need. As the banker, I’m willing to have an uncomfortable conversation if I notice something has gone haywire, allowing us to work together to correct the issue. We are a team working towards a common goal, which makes our partnership a success.