While no system of caring for family finances will work unless
husband and wife unselfishly are looking out for each other's
welfare and that of the whole family, yet some sensible method of
handling money is necessary. Thus, the subject of a family budget
must be considered. No matter how high the husband's income
may be, some attention must be given to a budget, lest their
finances end in chaos.
An individual may live a happy-go-lucky existence and get away
with it, but not a husband and wife with responsibilities to each
other and to their children.
There are all sorts of methods of keeping a budget. No hard and
fast rules can be given. Personalities differ. What has been found
successful for one couple might bring disaster to another.
In all cases it is essential that there exist between husband and
wife absolute trust and confidence in each other. How many
couples live with little or no trust and no habit of sitting down and
frankly and intimately discussing their finances has been one of
the greatest revelations to me.
The first requisite is that husband and wife come to frank
understanding and mutual agreement as to what they are going to
do with their income. For the vast majority a high percentage will
have to go for current household expenses. Because they are no
longer children, they will want to save some for the future, for
their own home, the children's education, contingencies of
sickness, and so on.
Their earnestness in this direction will be indicated, if they
remove a pre-determined amount from the weekly check and bank
it before they begin spending for their current need and expenses.
Incidentally, it is interesting to observe what are considered needs
and what are thought to be luxuries by different couples. Those
who confuse luxuries for needs usually are drumming along no
farther ahead economically years after their marriage.
Foolishly some parents will squander amazing amounts of money
on, for example, toys for their little children. As often as not a big
spoon would keep a little child as contented as some intricate and
expensive toy. It lasts longer, too. A doting parent accedes to the
myriad requests of his little children. Besides spoiling them this
weak-kneed and misdirected affection looks not to the future.
Money kept from them, when they could not possibly appreciate it,
is saved by intelligent parents for them for the time when they will
be able to understand the advantages of a fine home, an
education, and vacations.
In this difficult task of saving for the future, it is a great help to a
couple to have a definite goal, such as a new home of their own. I
do not know whether or not there are any statistics on the
percentage of divorced couples who rented or owned their own
homes. I have a strong suspicion, though, which way the wind
Once the couple understands what they want to do with their
money, another question comes up as to who will handle the
finances. Since the husband is the breadwinner and head of the
family, the ultimate responsibility would seem to rest ordinarily
with him. Of course, if he is wise, he will work out with his wife a
weekly or monthly budget for the daily household expenses. The
big item here will be the purchase of the food. The wife is by far
the more competent to do the ordinary shopping. She should have
a set and agreed upon amount of cash for this purpose. From time
to time adjustments as to the amount will have to be made to keep
at the level or standard of living upon which they have agreed. The
husband does the banking. He takes care of the other expenses
such as rent, mortgage payments, phone bills, and the like.
This system of caring for family finances seems in theory to be the
most sensible. In actual practice the procedure seems to be the
one most successfully followed by the great majority of happy
Some husbands with little background of true sportsmanship will
expect, apparently, in their own peculiar, dumb way that the wife
should be able to take care of her personal expenses out of a
limited budget for food. It would be just as unreasonable for her to
expect him to be able to take his personal expenses out of the
phone bill or the rent money.
She should have some leeway in her budget, so that she does not
have to skimp on food or does not have to come to him and beg
him for a dollar for some personal item or other. Within their
income, of course, both should have a little personal expense
account as part of their over-all budget.
Another method of caring for family finances is for the husband to
hand over his check to his wife. She returns him an amount
necessary for his daily expenses such as carfare, lunch money,
and cigarettes. She does the banking and takes care of all the
family expenses and sees to the regular saving of some money.
This system has many successful adherents. However, it has
several latent dangers which must be pointed out.
Even though they have come to an accord on the above mentioned
system, too many husbands lose a big part of their responsibility.
They develop a lazy sort of "let the little lady take care of it"
attitude. Also, some husbands who are met at the door on pay day
with an out stretched hand of an efficient wife begin to feel just a
There is another weakness in this method which has caused all
sorts of mischief. Many husbands who hand over their checks and
then do not bother their heads over the family finances have a
tendency to think that their wives are spendthrifts or at least
rather wasteful. Otherwise, why does she not have any money
saved up at the end of the month? Where did it all go? All sorts of
wild ideas enter their minds. Is she buying groceries for that no
good brother of hers? In some cases they even become pantry
detectives. They keep secret count on the canned goods.
The wise wife will begin her married life by keeping an itemized
account of absolutely every purchase, even if she is taking care of
expenses only for food. If she spends five cents, she lists it. After
several months of this it becomes obvious where the money is
going. A good deal of it is going right down his gullet.
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