"The life of a blended family". Our Poly Life is written by any one of a poly-fi quad. Each month they will share with readers about issues they face as a blended and committed poly family with nine children still at home. You can read more about them at their website; Our Poly Life.

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Checks and Balances

Relationship experts tell us one of the top issues couples fight over is money. As much as people do not want to be classified as "materialistic", in our society there is really no way around it.

Gone are the days where Ma and Pa grow all their own food, milk their own cows, grind their own flour, and slaughter their own meats. Bygone is the necessity for the little woman to can and freeze and store for the winter in the root cellar. Sure, these activities still take place, but because people choose to, not because we are dependant on providing for ourselves with nothing but land and the elements to sustain us.

Today most people have a job. Those jobs pay a salary or an hourly wage. A few others may be self employed or have some commission driven compensation for the work they do. However, my assumption is the vast majority of Americans (and those in other thriving information & technology based countries) trade hours for dollars on some level.

All of that was merely a large lead in to where I’m heading here… our society is built around money, whether we like the way that sounds or not. Bartering is still used on the fringes, but mainstream America buys and sells goods and services with the almighty dollar. Our daily material needs (and wants) depend on what we do with what we earn.

So if it is common knowledge that finances are a sensitive subject between couples, then how much more so would it reason that it be a primary concern for people practicing a polyamorous lifestyle? This would be especially true with cohabitating poly tribes. I recently got an email from a poly friend considering a “trial” cohabitating experience with their other loves due to a temporary housing issue. She asked, “How does your quad handle the money?” So, before I answer that question for her and the rest of the world, I think the issue has some basic caveats that should be reviewed.

Communication is crucial. Of course this is essential for all aspects of polyamrous relationships, but when everyone’s hard earned dollar is what’s on the line, it can be slightly more touchy. We all have different backgrounds, come from different socio-economic histories, and have differing opinions about spending priorities (needs vs. wants).

The most important piece of advice I can give is to make sure BEFORE you begin cohabitating that you have a series of several honest conversations about your habits, styles, strengths, weaknesses, and desires where finances are concerned. Do you have any long term debts? Would you bring with you to the relationship any ongoing financial commitments such as alimony or child support? Are you accustomed to having the latest and greatest in cars, gadgets, or technology? Is your job’s compensation based on economy or market conditions, as in full commission structure or a seasonally heavy (or light) work load? Are the economic levels of expectation vastly different between the members of the tribe? This type of information can be crucial in determining everyone’s monetary values.

Divvy up responsibilities. Once everyone is “on the same page” or at the very least, agreeably understanding about each person’s positioning, it’s time to make choices about what role everyone will play in the handling of finances. Who makes the money? Who will be in charge of bill paying? Will there be a joint account or will everyone hold their own? Where does the checkbook live? Who will carry the debit/credit card(s)? How will cash be handled? How much money is slated for savings? Who will handle household expenditures? Who will make decisions about meal planning, grocery shopping, ordering in, or eating out? Who requires lunch money and who will be taking lunches? Who drives to work, takes the train, or has a car pool with co-workers? Who has the final say on where the money goes?

A main issue I see here is being candid about where our time and talents lie. If you are a numbers person, you’d be the natural choice for balancing the checkbook; however, if you are terrible with details and time management, perhaps someone else is the better choice for bill paying and timely payments. Similarly, it doesn’t make sense for someone who hates to cook to plan the meals, while the family chef is out mowing the grass. Use the best personal fit for any job, rather than merely splitting all the tasks evenly, or giving it over to the person most willing to do the job. The work within a household is rarely evenly distributed, just make sure everyone involved has a feeling of fairness so no one person becomes overwhelmed or overextended with the pressures of managing a large clan.

Now discuss liabilities. How much is your rent or mortgage? What do you do about child and pet care? Consider medical expenses, insurance, and taxes. How do you handle other compulsories like clothing, automobile expenditures, home maintenance, credit cards, investments and savings? And finally, (and probably the subject that has the most room for negotiation) you must decide what to do with any spendable income. By this I mean the “fun” things in life: furnishings, entertainment, hobbies, gadgets, donations, and gifts?

Analyze your assets. As much as I detest the word, I feel a basic budget is paramount for any family. Most families are in a position to be able to predict their monthly income and outgo. Whether you get paid weekly, bi-monthly, or less frequently, sit down with your family members and get a very good idea of what comes in each month and what must go out. Make a list. Write it down. USE PAPER. Then put this information in your bill paying files. As this information changes, make adjustments to your master plan. The key here is to live within your means, because living over it can be pleasurable for a while, but will eventually bring much stress and tension into your home. As one well known radio personality is fond of saying, “Act your wage!”

Putting your plan into action. The way I see it, there are two basic camps a poly family can fall into. Within each camp, there can be infinite variations. Neither is better than the other, and will depend solely on the circumstances and preferences of the persons involved.

Yours, Mine, and Ours: The Divide and Conquer camp. In this model, everyone keeps their finances generally separated and pitch together for common expenses such as rent, food, and utilities. Other types of expenses like childcare, insurance, and desirables fall back on the shoulders of each individual.

Mergers and Assimilation: The Melting Pot camp. In this model, all the income is thrown into one big socialistic pot and money is directed out based on priority to the family. All income is considered part of the family pockets and all expenses, whether need or want, are considered by the tribe based on value and urgency.

There are pluses and negatives for each model and into which one a tribe will finally settle has to do as much with personal tastes as it has with practicality. Some families will find themselves beholden to prior commitments or legalities such as student loans, debt load, or alimony/child support issues. Other families may come together with varying levels of financial assets and possessions. Still others may be positioned in such a way to try one camp, and then ultimately decide to move into the other.

Whichever your family chooses is best, keep in mind the circumstances are very different for others. Tolerance and understanding for the differences among our poly culture will take us much farther down the road to social acceptance if we are not fighting with each other from within our own community. There is no one “right” way to handle the dollars that flow through our hands each day. In the scope of togetherness, remember to keep finances, like all other aspects of life, in perspective.

Happy Budgeting!

~the Laundry Goddess, April 13, 2007

The Poly Quad are contributing writers as well as members of this online Community. They can be contacted via the email addresses listed in the Contact our Writers section, or through our message board Forums.


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