I once had a basketball coach who would loudly bellow, while making us do drills that only a POW in the jungles of Vietnam would know, “You can do anything for one minute! 60 more seconds!” She never had to endure a household budget conversation with my husband. Or tried to watch the portion of The Today Show that features Kathy Lee Gifford. I understand that every couple fights over money; It is the root of most problems. I’m pretty sure that Lorena Bobbit wasn’t actually abused by her husband; Truthfully, they had a nasty row over how much money was coming in versus going out. Being of entrepreneurial spirit, she figured there were surely some penis-less men out there willing to pay a bounty for a new one! The problem unique to G and my financial coexistence is that I’m a little squeamish about penile severing and he’s a tax attorney. This means every day is like April 15th in our house. If there were two words I could have stricken from the English language they would be ‘joint account’. And ‘Excel spreadsheet’.
We truly need some professional support in this area. Each time the mortgage is due or the car payment is deducted, a team of experts should be beamed in to moderate our conversations. Just as I hear, “Erin, what is this charge from ‘B Rep’,” and begin to answer with, “It’s our new pediatrician…(rather than Banana Republic),” I’d like the doorbell to ring. I would open the door to find our dream team of financial advisors ready to intervene with their abacuses. In this fantastical scenario, I see Suze Orman, Nancy Grace, that deranged man who yells constantly from Mad Money, and M.C. Hammer. Suze Orman is the obvious choice so that she can guide our hand in balancing budgets and making ends meet. Lesbians always have their shit together. Nancy Grace is necessary in the event things get heated and I require her as my eye witness testimony. Plus she claims to be really good at getting a warrant and who knows when a gal might need one. The Mad Money guy is really only there to diffuse G’s anger. One can only summon the will to chant the Hare Krishna and rub their temples after listening to that man. M.C. Hammer is on the team so that I have one person with spending habits far worse than my own. Any time G attempts to line-item my ‘frivolous expenditures’, I can point out that Hammer spent millions on parachute pants and sparkly sunglasses.
To be frank, I’m not sure where the money goes each month. I try to tabulate the debits as they arise. I scrutinize receipts. I keep a budget that I strive to comply with. I do spend a lot of money at Whole Foods, but I can’t avoid that. They seduce you with a few staples, like milk and eggs, that are found cheaper there than anywhere else. Next thing you know you’re loading Organic Dominican Cacao Plants and Unpasteurized Cheese from Nordic Scientologist Goats by the caseload in your cart and nodding in agreement with an employee insistent that ‘scooping your own finely milled flax seed is the only way to stave off a Thrombosis and prematurely graying hair.’ I’m really fucking worried about my gray hair.
Whole Foods and parachute pants aside, I’m not a spendthrift. My deceased grandmother would be very proud of that declaration as she said it every day of her life and then 18 times a day once dementia set in. No one had the heart to tell her that offering $70 for an ice cream cone didn’t constitute spendthrift-iness, Alzheimer’s or not. I am certainly not one for offering saving tips, but I prescribe to my own methods to cut costs. The kids wear hand-me-downs, sometimes regardless of intended gender. If they need new things, I shop outlets, careful to avoid the display racks meant to lure the wallet. I head right for the meekest looking clerk to inquire where they’re stockpiling the bed-bug infested apparel that even the Cambodian factory workers decided wasn’t worth their 11 cents. You can certainly count yourself frugal when you look up from the US Weekly you were too cheap to purchase to realize you’ve kept a line of handicapped people waiting in line at the market. I made significant sacrifices with the implosion of the economy, particularly in the realm of personal grooming. I began self-administering both bikini waxes and pedicures. Those Sally Hansen strips take a lot of epidermis and a little bit of my heart with each swipe. I even tried to learn some Mandarin that I could say aloud while laughing spontaneously to make the process feel a little more like a trip to the nail place.
While I wait for my panel of financial advisors to mobilize (we have to do a little fundraising for Hammer’s plane ticket first), I wonder if there is any secret to co-managing money harmoniously. Speaking of secrets, I wrote myself a check for the amount I’d like to have, as the book The Secret advises. I carry that check everywhere and look at it often, but I have yet to receive that one billion dollars. I’ve begun to suspect The Secret is total bullshit. But so is ripping out your own pubic hair and shopping clearance at Old Navy.