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Learning money- management skills adds up - Valerie Baldowski

In this economy, it's always wise to watch expenses, and not do any unnecessary spending. For those of us lucky enough to have a job, we tend to adopt the philosophy of "I work too hard for the money I get in my paycheck to fritter it away."

Another saying that comes to mind is, "A fool and his money are soon parted." Anyway, one of the drudgery chores facing me each week is the task of scrutinizing the family bank accounts, reviewing the past week's financial activities, and paying bills.

I used to do that the old-fashioned way, by looking at paper checking-account statements, writing out checks and mailing the payments. Now, I pay most bills online, and even get our monthly bank statements online. Saves paper, and it's more convenient.

But it's still something I hate to do, and I, sometimes, find myself fighting the tendency to procrastinate. I believe my other half feels the same way, so I understand why he leaves all that to me, and takes more of a "hands off" approach to money management.

As Dave Ramsey, the financial expert, would say, my spouse would be classified as a "free spirit" and I fall into the "nerd" category. Free spirits do not want to be encumbered by looking closely at credits and debits, reconciling checkbooks, and examining deposits and withdrawals. Actually, I don't either, but nerds are the ones who supposedly have more talents in that area, and are willing to take the time to account for each penny coming in and going out.

I use the Ramsey method of stuffing cash in an envelope to go shopping, to avoid using plastic. I'm the kind of person who saves handfuls of spare change in a coffee mug, then rolls up the coins in those little paper rolls, trucks all that heavy change to the bank, and deposits it in a savings account. I've even been known to pick up a single penny on the ground. My hubby, on the other hand, crumples up his dollar bills, tosses money casually on the car seat, and uses a baseball cap for a wallet.

Financially speaking, free spirits and nerds in a marriage balance each other out, like the Chinese Yin and Yang symbols. Free spirits think nothing of an impulse shopping spree, or going out to dinner and a movie on the spur of the moment, or hitting the ATM over and over again. Nerds keep their noses to the financial grindstone, watching every penny and spending money grudgingly. Free spirits need their nerds to keep their feet on the ground financially, so they won't float away into the clouds. Nerds need their free spirits to remind them to live a little, and have some fun once in a while.

My husband and I do not always see eye to eye on money, but I hear that's pretty normal in a marriage. When we first got married, the most difficult thing for me to get used to was how he handled money. His approach to handling the checkbook, I soon learned, was more laid back than mine. Once the initial shock wore off, I was able to settle down and effectively communicate about money. Even after being married awhile, that's still one of the biggest challenges.

Being the nerd that I am, I draw up the monthly budgets. I have started once again to call a five-minute budget meeting every month to go over the figures with my husband, with the assumption that he actually provides input, so as to facilitate fruitful communication over this all-important topic.

Maybe, if we do a good job budgeting our money and saving enough each month, we might find a few dollars to scrape together to go on a vacation next summer. I mean a real vacation, where you hop aboard a plane and actually fly somewhere. But when we do, we will use cash to pay our way. That's the nerd in me talking, of course, but that way we won't have to look at any nasty ole' credit card bill the following month.

Valerie Baldowski covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald. She can be reached via e-mail at vbaldowski@henryherald.com.