Nothing can throw a relationship into the doldrums like a nice, long, unsexy talk about money. For over a decade, my now-husband and I have passionately debated Who Overdrew the Checking Account for Real, Is Saving for a Child's College Our First Priority Right Now?, and Why Granola Bars Should Be a Joint Expense But Beer Shouldn't Be. These types of conversations are the necessary evil of living together, but the arguing was getting just plain evil.
When we expanded our family, these conversations also became impossible. Have you ever tried to discuss an APR on a home equity loan when a small chimpanzee-like being is pretending to be a flying robot kitty? Ever tried to breastfeed a sleep-deprived infant while making your case for a summer road trip budget that includes a completely awesome but totally expensive Eurovan camper? Right, so you know. Financial conversations can ambush a couple at any time and derail both sanity and intimacy.
One day, after slogging through a slew of boring budget work emails, I had an epiphany…
Email is for boring money stuff. Email is, like, budgeting's natural habitat. Emotionless, email had trained me to be professional, mature and responsive on anything money-related. Asynchronous, it also gave me time to reflect on the content, the emailer's purpose, and the best way to achieve my own goals. I knew my husband had been trained similarly from his email-obsessed job. And yet, we could not put these skills into practice at home.
Some couples might have decided to raise the bar and cultivate budget-discussion skills in the face-to-face arena. Us? We decided to lower it. We outsourced all our financial conversations to email and have never looked back. It's been four glorious years. And it was surprisingly easy to do because we kept it really simple.
Basically, any time someone would launch into something money-related out of either legitimate concern or just out of habit, the other person would catch it and say "Oh hey, cool… just email me?"
It was so liberating.
And our emails took off! They were hot and heavy at first as we scrambled to pull together some of the big pieces that had fallen apart — switching our accounts from the Big Bad Bank to the Friendly Community One, what kind of contributions we each needed to give and in what proportions, how we would pay our bills over the summer when I don't receive a paycheck as a teacher. And there were plenty of quickies too — notification that someone had a big payment due, transferring money, discussion of a holiday gift-giving budget. But not once did we get snarky or confused or upset. Email saved us from that.
There were some side benefits we didn't even anticipate. We had a complete record of all of our conversations. We could hyperlink to our shared budget spreadsheet. Hell, we'd felt inspired to create a shared budget spreadsheet! We had transparency. We had accountability. Though there were a few slip-ups, we were rocking as the CFOs of our tiny little financial unit.
More importantly, we had our precious family and couple time back. We were now free to crack open our beers (or unwrap our granola bars, paid for from the joint account, of course), and watch uninterrupted as our daughter became a flying robot kitty. She was magnificent.