Q: My husband is terrible at handling the finances because he hates paperwork. I like to take care of the bills, but he thinks this is “the man’s” job. How can I convince him to let me handle the bills?
A: There’s something going on here behind the scenes. It’s not really about the checkbook; it’s about control. It’s about some deep-seated belief that the man has to do the finances or he isn’t the man of the house.
That said, it is important for the husband to realize that he and his wife are a unit. She completes him; he completes her. It could very well be that a paperwork-oriented wife would do very well at making sure the checks get written, the bills get paid on time, and the checkbook gets balanced. Just because he’s the man of the house doesn’t mean that the husband is the best suited to handle this job. We’re all for sharing that responsibility and using your giftedness in different areas of your marriage. The stereotypes only get in the way.
It might be wise for you to bring in a third party to sit with the two of you and give you objective analysis and advice. That person can ask the hard questions and help you develop a battle plan. He or she will probably advise that whichever of you is predisposed to enjoying handling the finances should be the one to do it.
Reassure your husband that you’re not trying to take over his role as man of the house. Instead, you want to remove a burden from him by doing something he hates that you enjoy. If he just needs to have money to spend, then with that professional financial counselor, come up with an amount of money that he can have each month that he can spend any way he chooses. That way he doesn’t have to be accountable to you for every penny—yet the spending is curbed at a certain dollar amount depending on what you can afford.
If your husband simply won’t let go, there are ways you could work with him. For example, let him write up all the checks for all the bills, but you be in charge of making sure they get in the mail at the right time. Perhaps you could say, “Let me help with this by going through the bills and highlighting the due dates.” Then put the due dates on your calendar—backing them up about five days to provide for mail time. Even if you do all your bill paying on line, you still will need some lead time. This way, instead of trying to take over the job of bill paying, you’re simply helping to make it less stressful for your husband. Point out how much late fees have cost you over the last year, and tell him that with your help, you could save X number of dollars a year.
*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It’s available in our online bookstore!