My mother- and father-in-law had an allowance, once. They each gave themselves $40 spending money for the week. Or maybe it was a month. $40 sure went a lot farther in the 80s than it does these day, that's for sure, but it was still pretty strict - especially given that both of them smoked, and they paid for their cigs out of this optional fund too.
But there was a method to their madness, you see. Back then they were paying off their home as speedily as they could. They didn't have these ridiculously good mortgage rates that we do these days. No, they were paying something way over 13%. So, coming from my own family's background and wars against credit card debt, this sort of allowance made perfect sense to me.
My in-laws were budgeting. TOGETHER.
It never once occurred to me that a joint bank account wouldn't be a thing in my marriage, even in spite of the fact that I witnessed the fallout from my own mom's divorce and frozen credit cards - all of hers were joint or a secondary card on my dad's accounts.
I moved to Canada in 1998. But I wasn't a landed immigrant until 1999. For an entire year, I couldn't work. I was almost completely dependent on the man I would eventually marry to feed, clothe, and shelter myself. But he knew this going in. Hell, he had to pledge to the Government of Canada when we applied for my paperwork that I wouldn't become a burden on Canadian society.
He would take care of me, should the worst happen, even if we separated.
And you know what? My not-yet-then husband was cool with that. Which was great, because moving away from everything and everyone I had ever known and throwing myself into a new country without any sort of life preserver was pretty terrifying on its own without worrying about things like "Am I going to be a prisoner in my own home or will my husband pay to let me see a movie?"
It just about melted my brain when I read about the Wife Bonuses in 2015. I thought that was a ludicrous thing then, but what I didn't realize was how common it was becoming to actually keep your finances apart, 100% of the time, except for paying shared expenses like the house.
Trust me, I learned from my mom's divorce that I would never fail to build my own credit score. Having my own career to fall back on should shit go south? That seemed like a smart idea, too. If I stayed at home and never had my own job, even if nothing ever went wrong between my husband and I, what if he got hit by a bus one day? What would happen to me then? Who would feed and clothe me?
I know there's a social stigma towards living as anything other than a nuclear family in North America. We have it stuck in our heads we should be our own unit, with our own cars, our own TVs, and our own piles of shit that consumerism suggests we need to buy. As I get older, I am beginning to think this model is a giant waste of money. Yeah, sometimes my family makes me crazy. But why should I move out and buy my own TV, and make my son move out and buy his own TV, and waste all these resources just because I don't know how to live with my own relatives as they do overseas? Why should I sweat to keep my own giant empty home clean and people fed, when I could do dishes while my mom cooks? Why should I never have grandma around to keep an eye on the kid so I could go out and have some me time (or even husband and me time) for free? Why the hell should we be paying for two, or even three mortgages - and three cable bills, and three hydro bills, and three home phone lines - when we could be living almost expense free in one? Why should we buy three living room couches, and three dining room tables, and three sets of dishes if we live in the same town?
Pooling resources - which includes manpower - is a fucking INGENIOUS idea. I'm starting to see through the layer of capitalist bullshit that is the nuclear family. But the trend that I'm seeing forming in the last 20 years? We're becoming divided units even within our own tiny family units.
Dependence to the point of inability to support oneself? That's scary AF. So trust me, I get it. You have to have the means and the knowledge to live without a man - if required. I understand wanting to have your own job and your own credit score. But never sharing income? I don't get this. At all.
Yes, I actually know people now who never share their money at all. They're not even getting the benefits of pooling the resources of two people. There's one name on a mortgage, and the other person pays rent. If one goes unemployed, well too bad for their discretionary funds. If one spouse is taking parental leave, MAYBE the other spouse might grudgingly give them an allowance. And these people I know who live like this, they're not the only ones.
What. The. Fuck.
If you don't trust each other with the money you need to eat, sleep, and live, what the fuck are you doing together? This unequal access to funds when you're on "good terms" with one another, that's not independence, my friends. That's bullshit. Dividing the pool means that you have smaller access to funds that might actually improve quality of life - like contributing to each other's retirement funds for a tax break, hiring extra help, or even making sure that there's no "too bad, so sad" that one spouse doesn't have to sit at home instead of going to a party cause his or her wages are limited.
If you're on the short end of the stick here, you're not being independent. You're being used. And if you're not on the short end of the stick? Doing that to your spouse? That's selfish as hell.
You got money angst? Sign a fucking pre-nup. Talk things out. But don't punish your spouse and say it's independence.