Jul 10

Mom Manages the Money


Mom the “Money Manager”

Growing up my mother was always the designated money manager. I vividly recall watching her pull out the bill basket and sit at the kitchen table meticulously scrutinizing every statement and bill to make sure that each was correct. She laid out the calendar, pulled out her checkbook and carefully addressed each and every envelope (yes folks that those were the 90’s and people still paid their bills with actual paper checks via postal mail. Weird, right?).

My mother is naturally neurotic very organized when it comes to her finances (guess I come by that rightfully?), so she was always the person who handled the family’s bills. To this day, my step-dad basically hands his check over to her and she carefully and responsibly pays the bills and gives him his “allowance” spending money. It’s an arrangement they’ve had for years and it seems to suit them well. Neither of them are frivolous spenders, and even if they wanted to be, there’s not a lot of things to spend money on in rural Maine.

Learning By Example

From an early age, I was taught that credit cards were dangerous and you have to be very careful when (and if) you use them. My mom had one credit card when I was growing up and she paid off the balance in full each month (another good practice that I’m proud to have learned from her).

She taught me that you only borrow money for necessities and “big ticket” items that you can’t afford to pay for in cash. Mortgages and cars were the only things my parents borrowed money to purchase. These days their mortgage is paid in full and they’ll likely be purchasing good used cars with cash. They’ve lived a simple and responsible lifestyle and as a result they’re debt free and saving for retirement.

Joint Finances are Scary

Since I turned 18, I’ve been responsible for my own bills and expenses. After 10 years of deciding how to spend and save my money on my own, I’m now living with my boyfriend. We bought a condo together and we’re making important decisions about our future financial lives together. It’s all wonderful, well except for the adjustments I’ve had to make in regards to how I think about managing money.

“All the sudden”, we have mutual bills and we have to trust that each of us will pay his/her “share.” Admittedly this arrangement was a little nerve racking for me at first because I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to money. It’s not that I don’t trust that he’ll pay his bills. I know he will because he’s very financially responsible. It’s just that I grew up in a household where my mother was in control of the finances and it was my assumption that in my adult financial life, I’d do the same (so interesting how we emulate what we see as children, right?).

It’s taken me a little while to get used to, but I actually really like it that bf and I jointly discuss finances. It’s clearly not a good thing for one partner to have sole knowledge and control of a couples’ finances (for so many reasons). Plus I like it that bf and I sit down monthly to talk about how we’re spending and saving our money. I think it’s a good exercise in trust and responsibility and keeps us both on the same financial page.

Who the “money manager” in your household?

Do you share responsibly for budgeting and bills, or is one partner the designated “bill payer?”



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  1. Holly@ClubThrifty

    I write the budget and we sit down together and go over it. Then I pay bills according to the budget we’ve decided on. I am a control freak so my husband lets me take that role! =)

    1. KK

      Smart. It doesn’t really matter who pays them as long as you sit down together and you both agree. I hear you on being a control freak!

  2. Thomas

    I grew up the same way so you are not alone. For the longest I didn’t want to get married because I would have to depend on someone else to do the right or best things. Well the best/right things that I thought I guess but in the end the wifey and I worked it out and I am the money manager. I like numbers, having a budget and knowing what the heck is going on with the cash flow. We site down together and go over the finances but I tend to handle everything.

    1. KK

      I’m noticing a pattern of other pf blog commenters being control freaks about paying the bills (I guess that makes sense ;-)) As long as you have a plan and it works for both parties that’s all that matters. The discussion about how to pay is more important that who pays.

  3. Michelle

    I manage the money almost entirely. I wish he were more involved, but I know that I can do everything quicker and more precise!

    1. KK

      Kind of like cleaning in my household. He can do it, but it’s quicker and easier (and I get it done the way I want) if I just do it myself, but that’s another post 😉

  4. E.M.

    My mom always managed the money, too. Every week she would have her dedicated “bill paying time” where she sat at her desk, wrote the checks, balanced the checkbook, and checked it against her online account. I never saw my dad involved with it, but they do talk about their financial situation together.

    I, too, am a bit controlling of my finances, especially since I saw my mom handling all the accounts. My boyfriend and I don’t split bills yet, but I like to think of myself as the more responsible one. Plus, he likes to pay his student loans by check. I don’t have the patience for that!

    1. KK

      For a while I thought it might have been a generational thing (mom’s paying the bills). But I don’t think so, since it varies family to family (there are some men bill payers too). I’ve relaxed a little over the past year or two and I’m trying to not be as controlling, it’s not easy, but bf’s a good money manager so I need to relax some of my neurotic tendencies.

      Re: Paper checks, “Ain’t nobody got time for that” 😉

  5. Morgaine

    My Dad was the money manager in our house growing up and he did a horrible job! My parents were constantly in debt and had no savings. Even when my Mom found out about what was going on, she wouldn’t help or take over! He passed away in 2009 and left her with a big mess that she is still digging her way out of instead of saving for retirement which is now only 2 years away from but probably won’t be able to retire.

    In our house we share the responsibility very much like you stated above. We pay a share of each bill and share the responisibility of paying them. With most bills being electronically debited now its more just making sure the money is in the respective person’s account but there is still a lot of responsibility and accountability involved. Its working for us so far 🙂

    1. KK

      Oh man, that’s a bad situation, but a perfect example of why it’s so important to talk about finances and budget together. I’m sorry that happened to your mom. At least it sounds like you learned some important lessons from their tough financial situation. If what your doing is working for your, keep doing it. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it right?

  6. Kurt @ Money Counselor

    I’m the money manager in our household. When we were first married, my wife took a more active role. The more time goes on, the less involved she wants to be. She’s to the point now that she won’t go to the ATM to get cash–instead she takes it from my wallet when she needs some currency. It’s all good with me.

    1. KK

      If that works for you, I don’t see anything wrong with it. As long as she knows how to handle the finances if you had to go somewhere for an extended period of time or god forbid something happened to you.

  7. Debt Blag

    My Mom is an accountant, so it’s always made sense for her to be anyway. I’m nowhere near married, but in past relationships where joint expenses popped up (say for trips or something) , I was always tasked as the one who would be it… not sure why, but that’s just how it happened.

    1. KK

      Cause you’re the personal finance nerd 😉 If you’re a personal finance blogger you basically have to be the money manager. Unless you’re married to another personal finance blogger, and then you’d just have to jockey for the bill payer position.

  8. John S @ Frugal Rules

    We handle it jointly. I make out the budget/handle our investments and we review them together. My wife does the actual paying of the bills – setting them up for autopay and such. It allows us to be on the same page and involved so if something were to happen to the other then the surviving spouse could easily pick up and hopefully not miss a beat.

    1. KK

      Which is so important. I listen to the Dave Ramsey show podcast and often hear callers who say that their sig other passed away and they have no idea where there money is or how to access it. Those calls always make me so sad.

  9. Nick @ ayoungpro.com

    We are very united in what we do. We talk about everything and decide on the budget together. As for the physical paying of the bills, my wife does that. 🙂

    1. KK

      I think the bill paying itself isn’t nearly as important as the planning process. It sounds like you guys have a good system.

  10. JW_Umbrella Treasury

    My husband and I discuss finances frequently. I do most of the day-to-day stuff, like tweaking the budget, paying bills, and tracking our expenditures. So far, it seems to be working for us. I did have to get used to allowing someone else to share control, such as trusting that he’ll make his car payment each month. 😉

    1. KK

      Trust and communication are huge when it comes to budgeting. I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggled a little sharing financial decisions.

  11. Marie at Family Money Values

    people still paid their bills with actual paper checks via postal mail. Weird, right?). Not weird at all!!

    Over our 40+ years of married life we have traded back and forth. At the moment, he pays most of the personal bills, but I handle the 2 companies and all of the investments except the bonds.

    1. KK

      Lol, I think for younger generations paper checks and postal mail are a thing of the past. My mom still uses checks to this day (and I do to pay my condo fee and dog walker).

      It’s nice to have someone that you can share the responsibility of bill paying with. I think bf and I do a good job of sharing the responsibility of paying the bills. It’s taken time to figure out a system that works, but I think we’re on a roll now.

  12. krantcents

    I started out as the money manager. It made sense because of my financial background then my wife took over. I took it over when we had our first child to relieve her. We always talk over any large purchase and I thought it was a good idea to involve her in the day to day money management so she would know how to do it.

    1. KK

      I like it that you guys have shared the responsibility over time to help each other out. I don’t think it matters who pays the bills as long as both partners know how to pay them if they need to (and know where the money is and how to access it if there’s an emergency).

  13. pauline

    I manage the day to day stuff, he takes care of long term investments, negotiated the price on our last property, manages the workers on the development, etc. And when I spend too little, finds a way to splurge and bust the budget haha!

    1. KK

      lol I hear you. I could be completely under my grocery budget all month and one trip with bf and we’d be over budget. Somehow cookies and treats always make it into my cart 😉

  14. anna

    Oh funny, I actually have a half-written post about the process of moving towards joint accounts, and I can relate to the nerve-wracking feeling (even despite the fact that he’s more financially responsible than me, but I think it’s giving up that control in a way). We mostly just split the bills and each pay for one, so either will stick with that or figure out a combined way of handling things (though it works well now, so not sure if change is even needed). Monthly financial sit downs are a great idea!

    1. KK

      I’d imagine joint accounts would be pretty scary, bf and I still have our own independent accounts. Once we get married we might consider joint accounts but like you said, what we’re doing seems to be working so we mightnot change anything.

  15. Rachel@Mobilligy

    My parents always kept their finances totally separate, so that’s what I knew growing up. When my husband and I got married, though, we combined everything and I became the money manager. I manage every aspect of our financial lives; I pay all the bills, manage all our savings, handle all the budgeting – everything.

    My husband always knows what’s going on, we make all of our financial decisions together, and we have periodic discussions to make sure our financial goals are still aligned – then it’s my job to implement those things.

    This works really well for us, because it stresses me out to rely on another person to pay the bills (even though he has always paid his bills on-time), and it stresses him out to go through bills each month. I really like knowing all the ins and outs of our finances, but he doesn’t, so I keep him up to date on what he needs to know but don’t bother him with the daily task of paying bills.

    1. KK

      What you and your husband do sounds like my parents. My stepdad doesn’t pay the bills but he does know how they’re spending and saving because they talk about it. But the day to day, he doesn’t really want to know about. It’s all about finding a system that works for you, and it sounds like you and hubby have done just that. 🙂

  16. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer

    I’ve always insisted handling the money, b/c when my parents divorced, it left their finances in the crapper due to my dad’s mishandling of money. He handled everything, and when the (mutual) divorce happened, my mom was left with nothing and forced to go on welfare to feed us until she learned how to drive, type and get a job. It scared the crap out of me, so I insisted on handling all money. Rick for years was scared of the responsibility aspect of managing the money, so he was ok with me doing it even if I didn’t do it well. Now things have changed. Rick’s more confident now and so he’s wants to know about our money, and I am finally responsible with the money, so he trusts me more and things are finally improving. Funny how your parents influence your money handling situation, isn’t it? Great post, KK.

    1. KK

      Sadly, we often learn bigger lessons about what not to do, as opposed to what *to* do from our parents. The way my mom handled money was completely different than the way my dad did and as a result I definitely was a little hesitant to let the bf pay some of the bills. Not because of who he was, but because I saw the way my dad handled money and it scared me that my future partner might be irresponsible with money. I love my dad so much but “back in the day” he wasn’t very financially responsible. Thankfully I’ve gotten over that and haven’t “put” that on the bf.

  17. Canadianbudgetbinder

    Both Mrs.CBB and I take care of the finances together. We have everything organized and we work on it as a team and we take turns entering in figures into our budget. We know exactly what is going on and how to find and get the information we need in the event something would happen. Many couples who do find themselves in a situation that the partner who does the finances is away or something happens and the other has no idea what to do.

    1. KK

      Even if one partner does all the bill paying I think it’s really important both partners know how to pay the bills and access the money if there’s an emergency. Sounds like you guys are doing everything right.

  18. CF

    Brian and I manage different aspects of our money – he pays for some bills and I pay for others. We depend on each other to deposit mortgage money in a timely manner however.

    1. KK

      Sounds like we do something similar. We both have bills we pay separately too. It’s all about trust and teamwork.

  19. Jon @ MoneySmartGuides

    Growing up my house was the same way – my Mom took care of all of the banking and bills. She is now out of state helping my sister with her baby and my Dad is home taking care of the house. He was talking about paying bills and I laughed to myself wondering how he knows what to do since he’s never done it before!

    1. KK

      lol, my stepdad would probably feel the same way. I know they talk about money, but the actual act of bill paying has always been done by my mom. I guess it’s time they learn, right? 😉

  20. DC @ Young Adult Money

    I would say I’m they money manager in our household, yet my wife wants to know what we are spending on what, how much is in our accounts, etc., so it’s much more “joint” management than it could be. I know my Mom was not always fully aware of the financial situation, and that could cause issues, so I make sure my wife knows what we are paying for, how much, etc.

    1. KK

      I know some people don’t have any interest in budgeting or knowing how or where the money is spent, but I still think it’s important they talk with their partner about money. You never know when you’re going to do need to take over the finances and it would be a disaster if you’d never even logged into the accounts (or didn’t know where they were).

  21. Girl Meets Debt

    J and I aren’t married so we don’t have any combined finances. He does trust that I will pay my half of the rent and utilities at the end of each month though. To be honest, if we ever got married, I’m not too sure if too much would change with our finances right away since I am focused on paying off my debt and he wants to pay off as much of the mortgage as possible…but who knows 🙂

    1. KK

      Hoping your half of the rent soon turns to your half of the mortgage! Just saw your post 😉

  22. Demaish @ Borrowed Cents

    I manage our money but she also has access to everything in case she wants to take a peak on how the budgeting is going. However, while dating, we never really discussed finances and so we have been experimenting different ways of managing,

    1. KK

      As long as there’s good communication and both parties are knowledgeable about the finances that’s all that matters. I wouldn’t mind if bf paid our bills as long as I had access to all the accounts so I knew what was going on.

  23. Debt and the Girl

    I for the most part handle all the money in the household. I am just better at keeping up with numbers like that. We both share expenses and have one bank account. It just works for us.

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