Separate Cars, Separate Checking Accounts


Last year, one of my best friends got married. At the reception, the dance floor was truly joyous- especially for me- I knew and loved almost everyone that was bopping around. My beloved parents were among the boppers. The DJ had braces- this is not important to the story, but it is a signature detail in my memory, so there you go.

Soon came time for the couples’ dance. “Couples who have been together more than a year,” said the DJ (with braces), “continue dancing. Everyone else take a seat.” “Couples who have been together for five years or more, continue dancing….ten years….15 years, etc etc” Soon, my parents were the only ones left on the dance floor.

The song finished and the DJ brought his cordless mike over to my mom. “Any words of wisdom for the Bride and Groom?,” he asked. My mom, without hesitating: “separate cars and separate checking accounts.” The rest of the dance floor chuckled- many knew my mom and this answer did not surprise them. The DJ was a little confused- I think he was expecting something a little more, oh I don’t know, romantic?

My mom had said versions of this to me before when I was much younger. I think we were at a bank? I was probably depositing checks from family members after a birthday. “If you ever get married, you have to keep your own checking account,” she said. Sure thing, I thought. I was an textbook overachiever as a kid, with no doubt in my mind that I would be able to take care of myself regardless of my romantic entanglements.

Hearing this advice again, at this beautiful wedding filled with all my loved ones, two (or three) glasses of wine deep, crushed me. You see I was  holding my three-month-old baby girl. I had been easing into my new role as a stay at home mom, and a week before, I had closed my checking account, transferring the remaining $50 balance to our joint account. I had originally insisted that we keep it open, telling my husband (and myself) that it would help me keep track of what I was spending. After the second month, when the balance was getting kind of low, my husband transferred some money immediately after getting paid. That was when I first realized that this might be a silly exercise.  Then I started to notice a minimum balance charge (go F yourself, BofA). This was not practical.  I was holding on to a piece of advice that didn’t make much sense for me in this new phase of my life. And the fact that it didn’t make much sense- that I wasn’t making my own money, that I was completely dependent upon my husband to feed and shelter me, that I was making no monetary contribution to the family- was terrifying. Hearing my mom’s words again, at the wedding, was hard.

Now my daughter is 19 months old. I started working part time. I can cover childcare costs plus a little more. This makes me feel a little better- though I wonder when my work outside the home will feel less like a vanity project and more like a real career that provides some financial stability for us as a family.  I don’t think money is everything, and of course I know how very lucky I am- and I truly love it and am grateful for the opportunity to do it. So many do not have the opportunity (including my husband, who has the happy misfortune of making way more money than I could in my own field). But it is still hard not having my own, separate checkbook. Thank god I have my own car.

This is inspired by writer’s workshop at Mama’s Losin It. I’ve tried to paste the code and believe that I’ve failed:

<center><a href=”; target=”_blank”><img src=”; alt=”Mama’s Losin’ It”/></a></center>


4 thoughts on “Separate Cars, Separate Checking Accounts

  1. carol

    Great advice from your mother! I’m a believer in her words, although I wasn’t at first. My first marriage… everything together. Joint. Then, the divorce. It was crushing. I didn’t even know how to proceed financially. I had always been a stay at home mom. Now I had 5 children and faced a new and uncertain future. I went back to college. Got my B.S. and M.S. degrees. I found independence. And it felt good. I married again. I have always maintained my own account and had my own car (that I paid for myself). I am not working outside the home right now, but I’m still independent as far as my own car and my own account. A store, my husband and I bought, was sold. We carried the contract. I made SURE I was the BANK on that one! Now, I get an income every single month! If I wouldn’t have been very, very assertive, my husband would have assumed that one for himself. Sometimes you have to insist! You never know what situation you will find yourself in and you need that independence. Oh no! I’m giving you motherly advice!

  2. momfeld

    I have been married for almost 22 years, have a 16 year old daughter and I have been a SAHM since she was born. I opened my own checking account about 9 years ago when I started a direct sales business (I have since ended that) and have never cancelled it. It’s a free checking account and don’t keep much in it. But it’s just nice to have something of my own. I know it’s silly, but it just makes me feel good. So, I love your mom’s advice. Advice I share. Good post!

  3. Liz B

    Very good advice from your mom. I think it is so very important to have something that is just yours. Many things are mixed together to make life easier, but nothing is set in stone. If you feel the need later, you can always open up another one! Best wishes on your job and your little one! And, thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving such kind words.


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