Note to my mother, who has just had a heart attack upon reading the title of this post: this does not in any way imply that I'm getting married. You'll see where I'm going with this in a minute. Relationships + money = weird.
When the boy and I started dating, he wanted to pay for everything. Naturally, this drove me crazy, especially because he'd been open enough that I not only knew that I made more money than he does, I knew exactly what percentage of his weekly discretionary budget (money allocated for groceries, household needs, gasoline, and miscellany as well as recreation) that first sushi lunch ate up. He was adamant about not going Dutch on dates so we squabbled quite a bit as we tried to work out a system that seemed fair. We're both stubborn people. We could quite possibly have spent several minutes at the end of each evening out for the rest of our lives bickering over who got to pick up the check.
Fortunately, his wonderful mother, of all people, proposed a solution. We now have an envelope for joint entertainment expenses and contribute equal amounts. I'm still not altogether sure why this is more acceptable to him, but it is, especially since he gets to be the keeper of the envelope. It's drama free. It's nice. It's also apparently hilarious.
A couple of weeks ago, we met up with a friend of the boy's for lunch. When it came time to pay, the boy took our share out of the envelope, and his friend was curious about why he carries his cash in a paper envelope. He found the explanation somewhat amusing. (See title.) I hardly think that joint custody of fifty dollars is the same thing as agreeing to merge our entire lives.
We haven't been slavish about using the envelope system. When the boy was unemployed, I worked hard to inveigle my way into paying for darn near everything, over his vociferous protests. This weekend at his parents', he asked to treat me to dinner. I agreed but figured we'd use the envelope for everything else. Then he forgot it in his duffel bag when we went gallivanting around town. I'm pretty sure he ended up paying for more than I did, but that's ok. Someday, I'll be the one to foot the bulk of the bills. We're gradually working out an ebb and flow with which were both comfortable, but I think that more diligent adherence to the envelope would do us good.
For now, we just throw some money in the envelope when our entertainment fund runs dry, but we've talked about the possibility of trying to decide on some fixed amount to contribute weekly or monthly this summer when we'll be around each other a lot more. From there, it's just a short hop to trying to work together on budgeting our joint savings, talking through whether we want to go out to dinner tonight or buy groceries to eat in and save up for a splurge a couple of weeks down the road. Perhaps someday there will be real joint finances, with shared goals and struggles, but for now, the envelope seems like an interesting dry run.