Who Pays The Bills vs Who Spends The Money

Reader:  Athol, was wondering if you could write a blog about Beta men and their money. Women are attracted to men who can provide for their families, obviously. But what happens when they marry and then she takes over all the bill paying? I get that many guys see this as an obnoxious chore, and initially delegate the work to the wife. But does this backfire? He who controls the money controls the marriage is my experience. And if the wife married (mostly) for money, isn’t she less likely to have sex with her husband if she’s able to help herself to his fat direct deposit at any time? Wouldn’t it make sense for a beta-who-wants-to-be-alpha to open up his own bank account and have his paycheck directly deposited, then pay all the bills himself, simply giving his wife a biweekly allowance?
Athol:  There’s this thing where whoever does a chore for the first time in the marriage, gets branded with that particular chore for the rest of the marriage. So if during the first week of wedding bliss you take the trash out, you have de facto agreed to take the trash out for the remainder of the marriage. You cook a couple times in a row the first week of the marriage, you’re the chef.
Fairly often the wife is the one that pays the first couple of bills, and she becomes the traditional bill payer. So there’s really no delegation involved, it just kind of happens and suddenly she’s in charge of the money. Which is I agree an unfun task, but also a disproportionately powerful chore compared to say being responsible for scooping the litterbox. (Which I accidentally did the first week we had a cat. FML.)
So if she is the bill payer, that gives her the leverage to say “yes” or “no” to how the money is spent. That therefore gives her control in the relationship. Right?
What you need to make careful differentiation between is the task of being the money manager, and being the one that actually spends the disposable income how they please.
It’s quite possible that the money manager is also the disposable income spender. This is the ogre husband that feminists warn us about, where the wife doesn’t even know the number to the bank account, or how much is in there and receives a weekly half a pittance to buy food and cleaning supplies. Plus she better keep the house up nice or get yelled at like the help. Meanwhile he buys whatever he wants for himself.
Of course it can equally be the wife that controls all the purse strings and husband doesn’t even see his money ever. The direct deposit of his paycheck being more like a badly overpriced wishing well than anything else. There’s no money for a fishing rod, but she always has her hair and nails done twice a month and has what appears to be a plethora of shoes. 
It can also be one person desperately trying to manage the money, while the other is constantly buying stuff and basically hogging the disposable income by spending it before the money manager has a chance to spend it for themself in any way. Plus they can just be straight up spending money the couple doesn’t have.
All that being said, I’m not sure it truly matters who is the money manager, as long as both parties are responsible with the spending of the disposable income. There’s likely a balance of power in there as to who spends the most of that money.
Now as to… “Wouldn’t it make sense for a beta-who-wants-to-be-alpha to open up his own bank account and have his paycheck directly deposited, then pay all the bills himself, simply giving his wife a biweekly allowance?” the answer is probably no. This is going to be seen as a very aggressive move by the wife, and she will get very defensive about it, and generally assume that the express purpose for this is to take control of the money for the express purpose of hiding expenses… like hotel rooms. You think you got trouble now lol.
Very likely the person spending the disposable income is the one with the highest Sex Rank. So if that isn’t you, your opening move is far better to “take control” of enough money for a gym membership and start there. I’m pretty sure if you’re getting hit on by other women, your wife will think buying you the $500 fishing rod you’ve had your eye on is a great idea… “Surprise honey! You deserve it!” (Now go on a boat on the ocean far away from those bitches…)
As to Jennifer and myself…
Jennifer is the bill payer in our family, I really have to admit that I have no clue where we are with who needs to be paid for what and how much money we have, or why she calls her pen pal in Switzerland every second Friday. 
However in terms of the one that spends the disposable income, that’s really more me than her. For the most part my wants are pretty light, so it’s not really all that much I’m spending on myself all that often. As long as I have an Internet connection I’m happy. It’s typically me making the “lets eat out” decision, or actually telling Jennifer she needs to buy something for herself.
Jennifer is the coupon queen, though not to the “Extreme Couponing” level. We don’t have a spare bedroom with rolling filing cabinets of soup, toilet paper and a pallet of 53 bottles of salad dressing. She does save 40-50% every time to the grocery store though. Almost always when I see her with a great outfit I haven’t seen before she’s typically as excited by how much she got it for as the outfit itself. When she’s snapping up $150 jeans for our daughters from Savers for $12 I’m actually quite impressed with her.
For us the money management is part of Jennifer being the First Officer. We simply aren’t going to have a conversation about how much to spend at the supermarket because I know she’s on top of it. Most expenses are routine, there’s nothing to talk about when it comes to the power bill, the cable bill or putting money in the kids school lunch accounts. Routine expected purchases she just handles. This all helps free me up to write MMSL and not have one more thing in my head that I have to keep track of. Carry on Number One.  
However outside of routine expected purchases she has this mental threshold of $50-70 where she tends to seek permission from me. For the record I’ve never told her to think that way, it’s just something that she does that I figured out ages ago. Only about four years ago did the penny drop she was being submissive by doing it.  In actual fact doing exactly that frames the husband as the Captain quite nicely for those ladies looking for a way to lure the lurking potential dominance out of their husbands.
I’m the one that green lights buying bigger purchases…. but I have no clue how much money we have so I pretty much always have to check with Jennifer whether or not we can actually buy it. I’m not going to pillage the checking account down to $500 right before Jennifer needs to write $1500 worth of checks. I mean that might cause a break in my Internet service… plus Jennifer frowns on it.
So for us, we have a system of checks and balances and it’s working pretty well. Or at least it’s working pretty well now that I went all Captainy and started MMSL and it’s pulling in a helpful income. We’ve made a couple of serious missteps with finances along the way and the economy has been tough all over. We’re on target to have all the credit cards paid off by July which will be an awesome feeling.
Oh and my $1200 laptop is on it’s way, the first splurge of any sort with the book money. It’s 80% work tool, 20% toy. Jennifer was very supportive about keeping her golden goose happy lol. Yay me! 
Jennifer:  LOL at “Captainy” being an adjective. You only need an “allowance” for someone that has a spending problem that must be controlled or it will seriously mess up the finances. This is different than a “budget” amount as in, “we only have $200 until payday, this is what there is.” 


  1. I've been with my current wife for 8 years now, married around 18 months ago. And our situation is completely different so I would like to know your take on it: we have separate finances.

    I'm the top earner so I take care of rent, insurances and utilities and she takes care of all the rest (groceries, supermarket, clothing). When we got married we also agreed to start saving for a house and we do it independently from the other. But I have no need nor desire as to how much money she has and same with her about me.

    Then again, both of us know a ballpark figure of how much the other one makes but not an exact figure. We are not shy about talking about numbers either; when the matters or situations justify it we both mention figures on income or saved amounts (we both have a base salary with variable monthly income).

    The only thing that has changed in the last months since I started applying what I've read in your blog is another -related – thing I'd like to know what you think. Who pays for things when going out? Lately, I stopped paying every time. I don't just tell her she must pay when the bill comes, we both know who is paying before we go out. I think I'm balancing both very well though historically lean very heavily on the Beta side of things. Is having her pay a Beta or Alpha action? To me it is Alpha as I'm changing a very long status quo and stand my ground about her not taking for granted that if she wants to go out I'll agree and foot the bill. But maybe it is just me wanting it to be Alpha to compensate for all my Beta.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Neither of us had much when we got married 20+ years ago. Now we both break 6K. She pays the bills. I can buy my toys. She doesn't mind. Seperate joint accounts means I can spend without overdrawing. She takes what she needs for the bills and tells me. No problem that she is a joint account holder. It just worked out better for us. She hates grocery shopping. I love to cook, and like to grocery shop. The high end store down here always has good things to look at. ;)

  3. Anonymous says:

    Although in her defense she is the best natural cook I have ever known. In our long state of Matrimony, Her disasters have only been a couple of times.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I'd seriously advise everyone to have a strategic financial plan and know where their money is going. Even a responsible spouse may spend money in ways you don't like and by the time you find out, it can be too late or almost too late.

    Nothing ends respect and affection like undeserved poverty.

    My "responsible" ex cheerfully spent the quite consideratble earnings of my best working years on fine food, helping out people and all sorts of junk, leaving me without retirement insurance and a house deteriorating around me. He just thought the money would keep on rolling in! Of course it does not! One gets old and tired.

    People still turn up to thank him for feeding them when they were hungry etc. Meanwhile I need to fix up years of neglect, see off vermin and live frugally while other people my age are starting on the "good" years of their lives. This has even limited my dating opportunities because I cannot afford to pay half of recurring reasonably priced outings. I'm a harder worker and smart, but being less well off than my peers limits my social life.

    So in summary – learn about budgeting and financial planning, think ahead until retirement and plan for old age. Help the hungry and homeless by all means, but don't waste money. :-)

  5. Stargate Girl says:

    "It can also be one person desperately trying to manage the money, while the other is constantly buying stuff and basically hogging the disposable income by spending it before the money manager has a chance to spend it for themself in any way."

    Sadly, that was OTC and I. I was the spender. I paid the bills and then would spend disposable before he had a chance to blink. Not good. Much fighting, me crying. BLCECK!

    We took Dave ramsey's Financial Peace University. I learned a lot, he learned a lot. We use a 0balance budget now. Beginning of each month, we create ot budget. Every dollar brought in gets allotted to bills, spending, kids, etc. This gives us a great visual as to where our $ is being spent.

    I also have an envelope system. We withdraw the cash for me to have for groceries, dining& entertainment, shopping. We have set amounts of cash we both get each week we can spend wherever we want, no questions. Having the cash makes one really pay attention. If I only have 260 for groceries, I can't spend more than that. I have become a better spender.

    I really endorse taking this class. Probably one of the best things hubby and I have ever done. Money was our biggest tension area. It's pretty unusual for us to fight over money now.

  6. Ponyboy says:

    Ahh money. I have often wanted to do a blog post about this myself but I don't think it would really fit on my blog. So I was happy to see this post.

    Here's the thing for me. This is all part of choosing a good partner. I would never marry someone who is shitty with money or who doesn't share the same values as me when it comes to money.

    My wife and I have the same values, and she is very good with money. We have everything in a joint account, I make more money than her but I don't care bceause we share everything so I don't think of it as "my" money, I think of it as "our" money.

    The only thing we keep seperate are our investments because we have different strategies and doing it seperate adds diversity to what we are doing.

    In the end, she does a lot of the grocery shopping, buying clothes for the kids etc…

    I'm more of the manager in that I watch our monthly cash flow, make cut backs where I see good places to cut back etc… But we always discuss together any major purchase that are deemed frivolous.

    For example, if I want to buy a new record player we will discuss it. But if I want to buy a new router because our connections in the house suck, we don't talk about I just buy it cause it's a need.

    Everyone has different values when it comes to money it can certainly make a marriage or LTR more complicated if the two people have different values about how money should be spent and managed.

  7. Anonymous says:

    My husband and I had a joint account even before we got married-there is no "hers" or "his" money, it's ours. I take care of the household stuff-clothing, supplies, kids stuff. He pays the bills, and keeps on top of the account. He negotiates all the big ticket purchases-all, but I do the research before. I take out a small amount of weekly discretionary money for small purchases. I would never buy a big household item on my own because he always gets better deals, and he likes to be in control of that-which is fine with me.

  8. Ian Ironwood says:

    Since Mrs. Ironwood and I have both day jobs and part-time work (she runs a consultant business on the side, I write freelance) we both have individual accounts for work plus our joint household account. As Athol says, at the beginning of our relationship we sat down and divided up our responsibilities, once we realized that the one-night-stand had gone horribly awry and we were in a relationship.

    It's a matter of responsibility. I'm responsible for mortgage and household utilities, including groceries and child care. She's responsible for insurance (I hate insurance, she used to be an agent), medical bills (we have a lot) and bureaucratic issues like licenses and fees. There is enough money, theoretically, to cover it all. And when there isn't, we negotiate and figure out a way.

    We're were both slack enough once to miss important dates and get the gas cut off/insurance lapse every now and then, but with Google and Android phones, it's all pretty clockwork now. If we have a particular personal expense (like a big date night: http://theredpillroom.blogspot.com/2012/02/anatomy-of-perfect-red-pill-date.html) then that money comes out of our individual business accounts, unless previously negotiated.

    We also have one other great thing going for us, no need to worry about retirement. Mrs. Ironwood has a rich uncle. For reals. And I'm worth MILLIONS in intellectual property rights.

    (How's that for Alpha confidence?)

  9. Anonymous says:

    No one even mentioned the wife that opens up a few credit cards and runs up all the balances without telling the husband. Sometimes he won't know until the Past Due Notices arrive in the mail and the bill collection agencies start calling. Husband could have a similar problem, like gambling.

    I've never heard of Debt Stress putting anyone in the mood for sex. So now you have two problems in the marriage, and a whole lot of blame.

    At this point, it won't even seem like a Captain vs. First Officer problem; it's more like a Parent vs. Teenager who needs to be grounded and have all money priviledges removed. But, like Athol pointed out, this is going to cause a huge argument. Still, IMO, drastic times are cause for drastic measures. She may be relieved to no longer have this responsibility.

    And that relief may translate into sex.


  10. Anonymous says:

    You do need to know how much she makes — you're signing those tax returns.

    My ex-husband and I had separate accounts, pooled the money for bills, and were free to save or spend the leftovers on anything we desired. Our marriage failed, but not because of money. We never once argued about finances. Not even during the divorce.

    That said, he always paid for dates and vacations/holidays. He would pocket my I.D. and lipgloss and insist that I not carry a purse. Despite the fact that I am incredibly modern/feminist, I LOVED being treated like a lady and having my husband demonstrate to everyone that I was a princess that should be spoiled — and that he had the income to "afford" me.

    Verrrrrry Alpha, and verrrrry much a sexual turn-on. We were having sex 7-14x/week. (Okay, the fact that he was very good at oral may have contributed to that total).

    So, if your sex life is eh, reconsider the date paying situation.


  11. I should have mentioned that I don't live in the US. No such thing as "tax returns" to worry about.

    On the other hand, sex was so-so when I paid for everything out of my own pocket (including the whole wedding, honeymoon and at least one weekly date out after getting married). I do like to spoil her and treat her like a princess, just don't want her to take that for granted. I would say that I still pay most of the time but do "score one for her" if she offers to pay and take her up every now and then (so that she doesn't just offer to look good). Our sex situation has not changed.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I hate to say this, but the Ex and i NEVER fought about money. Not once. We shared everything and were always on the same page about priorities and how to handle money. But we did keep separate bank accounts…and that make it REALLY easy to get divorced. Too easy…everything was already divided up. We'd both sort of managed our own money for the entire relationship, so we both were fully confident that we could leave and be just fine. I don't think that is neccessarily a good thing. I think to some degree it was kind of not beeing FULLY comitted to the relationship. It kept some autonomy. I also didn't change my name – made the divorce really easy..number two, I'm in it COMPLETELY — name change, fully merged finances. Don't make it too easy for the other person to leave.

  13. I was thinking as I read the post and the comments that a lot of people are living more like roommates than a married couple when it comes to their finances. I agree that it is a mentality that leads yo divorce. Also most women like to feel as it their man is taking care of them even when she works too. It is hard to feel that way when you have to pay half the bills from your personal checking account.

  14. Anonymous says:

    God forbid a divorce not leave people financially devastated. Oh, the horror!

    No, it simply means that if the marriage fails, it is because of something else besides money management. How many couples do you know that are in hideous marriages, sleeping in separate bedrooms, only together because they can't afford a divorce (usually because of debts)?

    So you'd rather financially trap a man by unneccesarily entwining finances than focus on the real problems in the marriage?

    Your husband should WANT to be married to you, not be monetarily STUCK with you. Following this line of thinking is why women coerce men into weddings by getting pregnant…


  15. Unless you have a prenup, in most states simply marrying combined your finances. If you can't maintaIn your married lifestyle and pay all the bills on your own then you are financially dependent upon each other. SePerate bank accts won't keep her from getting half in a community property state. The only real difference between separate and together is the mentality in most cases.

  16. We have something similar. I have an account for our household budget plus an amount I can spend above and beyond that.

    I didn't bring in an income for years, since I had lots of littles, but we both didn't want me having to ask for money all the time. It felt demeaning, plus I could buy something nice for the house, kids, or hubby without asking.

    Hubby does take care of the main finances. I do the taxes. We both know what is going on financially.

    However, things I have wanted for the kids I now pay from my own part-time business. I don't make a ton, but I have one in private school (with a scholarship as well), and I really want to help oldest son with university costs.

    So much of money issues and marriage is trusting that the other has your best interest at heart.

  17. Athol Kay says:

    I feel like this post opened up a whole other can of worms that I've barely touched on before. Thanks for all the comments.

    I think debt is a real sexual killer. Don't advise that at all.

    Marriage typically joins you into a finanical unit, so all the money is "our money" anyway. You can arrange things how you want, but ultimately it's all shared.

    Never understood the thing where couples have two completely separate systems of money. Isn't one of the reasons to get married to join up as a team?

  18. Anonymous says:

    "Never understood the thing where couples have two completely separate systems of money. Isn't one of the reasons to get married to join up as a team?"

    Every marriage works differently. As you can see, those who kept finances separate don't have arguements about money. Perhaps the reason the finances are traditionally combined is because (long ago) wives didn't have jobs.

    Talk to the guys whose wives drain the joint bank accounts and max out all the credit cards right before they serve them the divorce papers, and you'll see why keeping your own line of credit is just common sense.

  19. Anacaona says:

    Heh Jennifer and I share the same "I'm spending too much in superfluous things!!!!" fear. I also call me husband to ask him to tell me to buy something I really really want because is "pricey" of course he jokes that for me a pricey is a 20 dollar dress at Ross Dress for Less, he is exaggerating of course it was a 40 dollar dress.:p

  20. "Every marriage works differently. As you can see, those who kept finances separate don't have arguements about money. "

    I agree. There isn't just one right way to have a marriage. There is no magic formula someone can give you. It all needs to be altered and refit to the relationship.

    We'd be miserable here if we followed someone else's idea of a good marriage.

  21. "Working as a team" doesn't mean sharing *everything*, it means working together on shared goals. Sometimes it makes sense to share resources, others it is not needed.

    What is needed, though, is that the decision to share those resources or not comes from the team as a whole.

  22. Anonymous says:

    (I'm the anon above). I don't want to "trap" a guy, nor to I want to be "trapped." It's more of a statement of how comitted you are I suppose? And it's just one more (very large) tie.

    When I look at my own failed marriage, now in the context of the MSL stuff. I wonder it might have been saved honestly. I'm currently the happiest I've ever been (engaged for the last time I hope), but I do think there were things I should have done differently.

    For the record, I left him. No kids, together 11 years.

    By most measures of success I can't find any fault with him. Made good money, took care of all husbandly duties around the house, tall and good looking, nice body. well liked by everyone.

    When it came to values and lifestyles, we couldnt have been more on the same page. I consider my marriage a happy one, and I consider my divorce an easy one.

    What we lacked was passion and emotion of really any kind. We made a killer team, but it was more like business partners. We wanted the same things and as a pair we could accomplish so much more than alone.

    He was the perfect husband in every way and WANTED to be in love with him. I really did want that, I just didn't feel it. I was a case of "I love you, but I'm not in love with you." I really did care about him and want the best for him (and continued to help support him after the separation, remaining legally married so that he could remain on my health insurance, providing cash when he was in a period of flux etc). We remain friendly with one another.

    A long time AFTER the marriage ended, I start to wonder if perhaps we could have created some attraction or passion? I mean, we hadn't had a fight in over 3 years in the end. And no that wasn't a bottling things up, cold war, type thing. It was honestly that we were both SOOO practical that we alwasy AGREED on what the logical thing to do was. We agreed on LITERALLY everything.

    The guy I ended up with is extremely passionate. Extremely emotional about everything.

    But anyway, my point was, that I think the separate accounts – i think that was a symbol of how we were sooooo logical about everything. To the detriment of creating any strong emotions between us. Just one symptom of that. Also my coment regarding making things hard to leave – I think if it would have been a little harder to leave, maybe we would have found some ways to create that. We did try. Therapy and such. But by the time we realized something was wrong. There wasn't really a reason to stay…we didn't feel much when we split, except maybe sadness at the failure itself….

  23. my husband works 6 days a week 12 hours a day. i work 5 days a week 8 hours a day. we have a 4 year and i do most of the caring for him but we split all the bills in half is this fair? how can i make him understand that i culd be making extra money but i cant because i have a child to take care of and its not fair?

  24. My husband makes all the money, but we have a joint account, and I can spend what I like on myself and the children within reasonNeither of us have paid any bills in years. The bank does it all by direct debit. It’s what banks are for.

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