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My recipe for $800 cupcakes

by Marian Schembari on September 18, 2015

My husband and I don’t share money. We don’t even have a joint bank account. This means our life involves a lot of sending money back and forth through various apps. We have a weirdly convoluted spreadsheet and many conversations sound like this:

“Okay, so the bill is $20.”

“Yeah, but remember, you got the taxi here.”

“Right. Okay.”

“Oh shit, sorry, I only have $5 in cash.”

“Why don’t I just pay for this and you take out money later and give me a $20?”

Sounds fun, right?

recipe for $800 cupcakes

So why do we do it?

Three reasons.

1.) Money is the biggest reason couples fight. I’ve seen it firsthand and am terrified of turning into one of Those Couples. Sure, our way is a hassle, but as long as we keep our money separate, he can’t complain if I buy $200 shoes and I can’t get mad if he wants a new car. Since we know we can’t rely on the other person for rent or travel, we’re responsible for holding our own.

2.) I have feminist guilt. Logically, I understand and respect that feminists of both sexes can be supported by a spouse. But with a bra-burning mom and a major in  Gender Studies, I can’t help feeling yucky inside at the thought of relying on my husband for anything involving cash. Sometimes it feels silly. We live in a smaller apartment than we can afford together because I’m unwilling to let Elliot pay more than half the rent. But most of the time I feel more secure as a human (and a little smug) when everything is equal.

3.) I’m weird about money. I’ve always had a hard time taking money from anyone, never mind a partner. My first boyfriend and I fought all the time because I insisted on going Dutch during every date (he was also a bit of chauvinist pig). I immediately whip out Venmo if a friend paid for dinner because I’m terrified she may think – even for a second – that I might not pay her back. So I do it immediately. I keep a checkbook on me at all times just in case my phone dies.

This all said, last week I made my husband cupcakes in exchange for my half of a $1600 anniversary trip.

marian and elliot wedding cake

Our one year wedding anniversary is next month (HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!) and Elliot suggested we drive through Southern Germany, Austria and Northern Italy to celebrate.

“I’ll plan it,” he said. “Don’t worry about a thing.”

A week later we had our flights, itinerary, rental car and accommodation booked. He added the trip costs to our spreadsheet and sent me the link. My heart dropped.

“Shit babe,” I said. “Yeah. I’m going to have to pay you back in installments.”

“Oh no, I’m so sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I shouldn’t have planned this without running the costs by you first, I wanted it to be a surprise.”

(Only my husband would apologize for planning a romantic getaway. And there goes my whole argument about not-sharing-money as a strategy for not-dealing-with-money.)

“Why don’t you just let me get this one?” he offered. “It will be my gift to you!”

“Come on, you know I can’t say yes to that. I’m probably just getting you a ream of paper as your present, so this is too much.”

“But I want to!”

God bless my husband’s enormous and mushy heart.

Note: First world problems, obviously. And of course I want him to pay for the damn trip. The expenses came to $800 each and my newbie freelance salary (plus German moving expenses), doesn’t allow for a ton of wiggle room right now. But I felt sick to my stomach at the thought of saying yes. Of letting him take care of me in a way I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to reciprocate. I’m embarrassed that I’ve never been good at saving. That I chose a career that pays more in joy than paychecks.

I told Elliot all of this. That I wanted to take him up on his offer but felt shame in doing so. So he said, “What if you did something for me in return?”

“Go on…”

“I want treats for my fishing trip this weekend. Make me cupcakes? Then we’re even.”

I’m surprised the staunch feminist in me wasn’t more averse to this arrangement. I’m literally “getting in the kitchen” in exchange for money, provided by my husband. It’s the oldest of professions, I suppose (or second oldest, but that’s a blog post for another day). But instead I feel like that, in some way, we’re back on equal footing.

Thankfully, they were delicious cupcakes.

If you’re comfortable, I want to hear from you. How do you and your partner handle money? Do you like your arrangement? What works? What doesn’t?

{Photo credit}


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