Unbalanced March 4, 2013

Tonight I started on my 2012 taxes.  You might think I’m so responsible—after all I’m over a month ahead of deadline!  Butthis year, I’ve hit the natural consequences of not keeping on top of our finances—and I may be lucky to turn in our taxes on time.

For the first 8 years of our marriage, Scott took care of all the money—paid the bills, balanced our checkbook, took care of our taxes—and I was completely happy with that arrangement.  After all, I figured he was the one who majored in engineering.  I stopped taking math after my senior year in high school.  Surely divvying up tasks within each person’s giftedness was wise and prudent.

But after blissfully enjoying Scott’s money management for 8 years, he announced that it was my turn to take over the money.  He said I should manage the money because I care more about spending, I’m way more frugal, and given that the portion I contribute to our family income kept shrinking in proportion to his, he thought I would feel more empowered.

“There’s power if I control the spending—paying bills is just scut work,” I bitterly replied.

But despite all my arguments, somehow the money management landed on my shoulders anyway.  And I did pretty OK for many years.  I rarely forgot to pay a bill.  I got our taxes in on time and my pake Chinese nature eked out every dime in tax return it could find. (click here to read about what pake means and to also see an excellent recipe for mango lassis)

Then Microsoft discontinued supporting MS Money, and with the demise of that program which I had learned to master, came the steady erosion of my financial management skills.  I switched to Quicken but somehow never got our accounts to balance.  Then I switched to  But using 2 different money management programs just didn’t work very well.

So over a year ago, I kind of gave up.  I periodically downloaded information to both Quicken and Mint, but I stopped categorizing things, especially my checks.  Then to make matters worse, because I wasn’t keeping track of checks, I somehow re-ordered checks with the same numbers just used.  But because I didn’t make the time to figure out what got used and what didn’t, I now have months on end where checks with the same number have been written within months of each other.

Over the past year, I’ve had a gentle foreboding that this could be bad.  After all, responsible adults keep track of their finances–right?  But I just couldn’t face it so I didn’t.

We tell our kids how there are natural consequences for bad behavior.  Tonight I face those natural consequences.  Thank God online banking means I’ve paid most of our bills and given most of our charitable contributions away—although I did just realize I forgot to give our March and May gifts to our church.

So I’ve spent the last several hours going through check statements and updating them in both Quicken and Mint because I can’t decide which one I’ll ultimately use.  I’m up to February 2012.

Just a year to go. . .

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