Monday, May 4, 2009

Bills, bills, bills - Who should pay which bills in a husband/wife scenario?

Hello everyone! Afrobabe received the following question, and the African Women and you, our dear readers, are here to help.
Who really should foot what bills in the home: husband/wife etc?
The question was asked generally, so I decided to focus on the scenario where both people in the couple work full time and earn a salary (not necessarily equal to each other). I thought a fun way to tackle this question would be to ask some of the African Women who they think should pay which bill, and why (if they feel like going into detail). Here are their responses:
►Mortgage/rent/payment for raw materials/labour to build the house
9ja Wordsmith: The man , because we all know who is going to end up devoting her energy making the house look lovely...

Temite: Husband

Tigeress: Husband

Buttercup: Husband

Heating/air conditioning/water/electricity (also known as utilities)
9ja Wordsmith: Doesn't matter - I would say the man but it depends on who can get to it first. Maybe out of the 'soup money'?

Temite: Husband

Tigeress: Either

Buttercup: Husband

9ja Wordsmith: Man. I'm assuming the woman is going to labour over the preparation so its only fair he makes some sort of contribution.

Temite: Wife

Tigeress: Either

Buttercup: Wife

Mobile or cellular/landline phone(s) and things like cable tv and internet
9ja Wordsmith: It depends on the earning power. But generally for cell phones, jek'onikaluku yanju ti ara won: let erryone look their own side. Cable and internet depends: In my house my mom pays for cable because my dad does not watch tv at all so he doesnt know when the money has run out lol. But i would say the man because its under utilites too and he is the head. But I wouldn't mind paying.

Temite: Husband

Tigeress: Both - should pay their own bill.

Buttercup: Wife

Clothing - his, her, the child(ren)'s (if applicable)
9ja Wordsmith: Hmm What usually happens is that the wife pays for this because she notices such things. Perhaps it can partially come out of soup money, but I know that it is Yoruba culture for the wife to take care of her clothing and her children's. This is why you rarely hear one of us say "when my husband bought my gold".

Temite: Wife/Husband

Tigeress: Either/ both

Buttercup: Either

Some years ago, I had a flash of "insight", no doubt a combination of what I had read somewhere and what sounded "fair" to me at the time. I had devised a way for couples to share the bills "equally". First, the man and woman should contribute equal percentages rather than amounts to the bills. If the woman is earning $100,000 per year to her husband's $75,000, it didn't seem fair to ask both to contribute $50,000 (for example) to bills, as that would be half of the wife's salary, yet two thirds of the husband's salary.
I thought it was important for both the husband and wife to have a joint bank account where whatever percentage of their salary they decide on goes to pay the "main bills" from. By this token, both the husband and wife would be responsible for those "main bills": the mortgage, utilities, and food. For the other things (mobile phones, cable, internet, clothing, etc), I thought the couple could decide how to divide up the bills (or whether to pay them from the same joint account).

In addition to the joint account for bills, a joint savings account (with the same percentages idea) would be wise and each couple should also have their own personal bank account that they can spend money from as they see fit.

I thought having a system like this would minimize money-related hassles between the couple, and give both parties freedom, while also allowing both to feel like they are making a tangible contribution to their livelihood. However, this formula doesn't take into consideration the often unequal distribution of housework in the home: the women generally do the majority of the cooking, shopping for food and clothing for the children, and cleaning, often in addition to working full time. Is it really fair, given that, to expect her to also pay half of each and every bill? I don't think so! If the system I described does appeal to a couple, I think they would need to look carefully at the divide of labour and work on equalizing that too.

What I learned from the questionnaire that I sent to the African Women is that we have a definite idea of who in the relationship should pay which bills, and in the end, it will likely come down to a discussion with your significant other about what makes sense to you as a couple. Also, it made me question whether my "no hassle" plan would actually work that way in practice, or if it would fall apart if implemented as described.

Here are some parting comments from some of the African Women:

Temite's comment: I just think if I am going to be "submitting" I will need him to pay the majority of stuff. Nothing is free jooo.

Tigeress's comment: Over all I feel the husband should be responsible for majority of the expenses. At least the mortgage and basic utilities. Expenses incurred by individuals should paid by that person. e.g. if I run up my mobile- it should be my responsibility to pay. But if husband wants to pay- no problem. Answers to these questions also depend on what each person is earning.

Buttercup: I personally feel that they can both pay any of the bills they feel they can afford, it really shouldn't matter who pays what.

And that is what we have to say on the matter...what do you think?


  1. I really was first?? yayyyyy... I totally agree with the distribution of duties..I'm all for the men with tuition and women taking care of the grocery. I know my parents do that. And it fits like a puzzle! I agree, we African Women know to play our roles and that what I appreciate most about us!


  2. In my parents marriage, my mom paid 4 everything & she hated it. In my marriage, my husband is seen 2 pay everything, but he knows dat when he needs money he can count on me 2 give him all i have saved while he was doing the spending all along.

    That said, i would have to stress something. And that is that this is one conversation about-to-weds MUST TALK ABOUT. Assumption definitely doesn't work here. One party might feel, this is what i feel it should be done, when d other feels it's something totally different. When d couple about it & then come to an agreement, it really doesn't matter who pays for what & in what percentage it is shared. The only thing they must do is TALK ABOUT IT & AGREE TO MAKE COMPROMISES TO WHATEVER IDEAS EACH HAS IN THEIR HEADS. Cos believe me, u can have all d ideas u want in ur head, if it don't translate to workable reality, u have nothing!

  3. One more thing, I just started a new blog, BAMBINA ( It’s more like a baby/mom blog & I eagerly need contributors. So, if you have any story u want to share or know anyone who does, please send me a mail. Details are at d blog: Thanks a bunch.

  4. i have always subscribed to the idea of % going to a joint account for 'family expenses' including mortgage, bill, holidays and what not. If i earn more than him then i really wouldn't mind paying more, my mum did all the bill paying so i sort of don't mind really.

  5. Did u guyz read my mind or what? Was in a heated argument just days ago with a very good male friend of mine who insisted he had to pay certain bills in his marriage Period! non negotiable. that's how he's been brought up. E.g School Fees. I thought that was ridiculous. So was he saying that maybe if his wife earns more than him, he would send his children to a lower quality school so long as his wife doesn't pay that bill? I don't care who pays what? Couples should work out their own finances and how they want to share stuff. But there shouldn't be anything like men are supposed to pay certain bills while women look on like wall paper. My personal philosophy is if you want to be treated with respect then you should earn it and not when it suits you too. For me joint accounts make sense, quota distributed according to percentage income.

    Having said that if distributing the bills 'traditionally' works for the couple and everyone is happy then why on earth not?

  6. hunn... good one! I am of d opinion dat responsibilities in d home shd be jointly shared especially if d parties involved have a "regular" income at the end of the mth, but if one of the parties involved does nt have a regular income, it might be unsafe to jointly share such.

    Using hubby and I as an example (parties involved have a regular income):

    Mortgage/rent etc: hubby:- he earns more, and its capital intensive! I no fit;

    utilities: hubby and I, I can still afford dat. though there's a joint acct for this, its really not an issue anyway.

    food/groceries: foodstuffs is hubby ooo! he's the man of the house now???; groceries/beddings/decorations dats for moi

    mobile/cable tv- for cable tv either of us(frm joint acct), personal mobile phones every man for himself be dat!,
    landline; its either; anybody can recharge d phone

    clothing: I doubt if hubby can keep up with my clothes buying,i won't want to boda him wit dat except he's on a trip and wants to shop for me; Personally I will prefer not to wait for him before I clothe myself, if he offers- fine; but I take no offence when he does nt likewise for the children(when they come).

    House-Helps,Drivers etc: either, frm joint acct; but when its getting too expensive na bros be dat!

    School Fees: My father was responsible! so dat goes to hubby, except....

    If its abt getting the home fixed, I am very flexible, if I have d cash y not????

  7. I think most of the bills can be split between the couple, especially if both have good income.

    a woman doesnt have to cook, clean, shop etc anymore, she can use their money to get hands for all those, so no one's overworked!

  8. I don't have much more to add because you said exactly what I think is the best..Both contributing the same amount percentage to a joint account. Peronal luxuries should be left for personal account.
    Hubby and I have had some problems regarding this, because he is so bad to keep his money and I am not. I am the saver and he is the spender. But I think we've done very well because so far he's given me the majority of his money for me to spread around on the different bills. So we do put in the same percentage. I believe in a 50/50 household when it comes to both money and housework. When I'm sick, he'll step in and cook for me and the other way around. Sometimes he cooks for us, sometimes I cook for us. He does certain chores that he enjoys more than others and I end up doing the ones he doesn't like, like laundry. Lol. IF he didn't contribute anything in the house I'd expect him to put more money into the pot definitely.

    But then again, whatever floats your boat. Whatever people are happy with is what they should go for. But generally I'd say your go is the best :)

  9. I love the idea of equal % and the joint account..

  10. My thots on family finances: Ideally, we would have 4 accounts everything percentage based. One joint family account [for all bills and every family oriented stuff], One joint savings account [to include but not limited to IRA's, mutual funds, investment accounts etc...we can have more than one saving but the idea is it is family owned.], One personal account for hubby [in which an agreed percentage of his income will go and from which he can have a separate saving account], and One personal account for me [in which an agreed percentage of my income will go and from which i can have a separate saving account]

  11. well I can agree to this at most times...but I think that the man and woman should equally divide the bills...

    hmm, (looking around) well last relationship I had...he paid all the bills and my money went into all the fun shopping and more shopping. Well it was still divided...haha

  12. Your blog is really nice and cool...

  13. I think the man shld pay the basic things like mortgage,the childrens fees and all while the woman shld take care of the day to day things like clothing for the kids and groceries.But then in the case where the husband dsnt earn as much then they shld split everything 50 50

  14. I think that if the woman agrees to do most of the housework then she shouldn't be expected to also foot half the bill. Either the man agrees to do exactly half of everything that needs to be done in the house and also pay for half of everything, or he agrees to pay for most things if the women does most of the work.

    Personally, I'd rather we got a full service staff and each pay for their salaries and all other bills based on a direct ratio of our salaries. That way noone pays a larger proportion than they can afford to sacrifice.

  15. Isn't it amazing how this was never an issue for our parents and now we have to concern ourselves with who does what!

    I might be wrong

    It was a given that my dad had more money and therefore paid for practically

  16. Who should pay the bills? In this day and age, it must be a topic for discussion (and agreement)...

    My husband and I both work full time. My basic salary is more than his. However, we agreed that we will manage our lives based on one income - his income. He takes care of everything and so far has not complained.

    Does that mean I do not help financially? Not at all. Because of his decision, I made it clear to him that my money is his money and he should do with it as he pleases. And though my income is like the savings, I most often touch it in the course of my job as homemaker and helpmeet.

    I really agree with FFF that money/financial issues must be discussed before marriage and there should be mutual agreement. No method is the perfect method for handling finances. The only thing that works is mutual agreement on who is to pay and how it will be paid.

    The Bible also teaches that "...But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever...[1 Tim 5:8]" I hope I have not misconstrued this passage :-)

    Very Stimulating topic, by the way

  17. The man pays the mortgage and utilities). If i as the woman pays this know that you will be making the gari and soup from scratch every night including weekends and bank holidays! Its only fair.

    Food and groceries i can manage, no probs

    Clothing for him me and the kids will be a joint contribution, we will both pool in.

  18. I will never pay for mortgage or rent. Unless he loses his job somewhere along the line or so.

  19. Absolutely agree with Rita. Will not take or add anything.

  20. i think they can both split the bills, but the guy has to have a upper hand of the bills

  21. hmmmmm

    well me and Baale both work...we have an expense account where we both contribute to. we have set up direct debits such that the rent, utilities etc are taking out of there every month...we have not had any issues with this. we also have an expense account towards when our children come...

    he helps in the me i am very comfortable with our financial and domestic arrangement. it is all about give and take

    like FFF said an upfront discussion on money before marriage is important

    i personally expect women to help their husbands..things have changed from the days of our parents...most fathers then earned more than our mothers, a number of mothers were housewives or teachers. if we say the man should do every thing, what are we doing with our money...buying chewing gum, clothes, shoes make up etc?? lol..i hope not o

  22. I think the man should give the wife the money to pay for the bills and school fees but for groceries that should be her own contribution and maybe telephone and cable bills .

  23. ►bob-ij
    Congrats on your first status!

    I agree fully with you: money is one of those topics that a husband and wife should discuss fully prior to marriage. This is not a matter where either party should make assumptions about the other.

    The logical part of my mind likes the idea of using the %age system too, let me not lie.

    Wow, this person you describe would be doing what we call "biting off your nose to spite your face" by denying them the best education money can buy because he feels it is his responsibility to pay for school fees. Like you said, it's up to to couple to work out the finances but it's my hope that both the man and the woman will look at it as OUR money rather than "his" or "hers", so that issues like this won't happen.

    lol your comments made me laugh, but I can see your system works for you and to me that's what's key. clearly you and hubby discussed and it worked it out.

    lol "Personally I will prefer not to wait for him before I clothe myself"! Preach, girlfriend!

    Ooooooh, that's an interesting point about paying for those household chores. Perhaps a couple that decides to split everything 50/50 or using the %age system will consider hiring someone to do the cleaning, as a way of justifying this more equal division of labour and money into the joint account!

    A man who helps around the house...sounds like a keeper! You know, I know a few couples where it's the man who gives his wife his paycheque to divide up as needed and ensure all the essential bills get paid. Like you said, it's really whatever floats your boat.

    Me too! What does Chari think? ;)

    ►Repressed One
    You have given this some serious thought — that's great! Investing is key too...great way to save for the distant future.

    lol! I don't think anyone here would mind that least for a while! Imagine being able to spend your money as you wish, without those pesky "responsibilities"? Heavenly!

    ►The Bookaholic
    Thank you very much!

    I think you'll find it easy to find a guy who'll agree with your proposed sharing of the costs.

    Thank you o. Nice job to you too!

    You're the second person to mention this idea of having staff do those less desirable tasks and I like that as a way of truly justifying an equal splitting of the financial contributions. I don't see myself (personally) as someone hiring help though; I'd rather let my husband know from the first that there will be division of the housework, and he'll be expected to cook from time to time (maybe not as much as I do/will) in addition to doing laundry when needed, taking out the garbage, minor home maintenance and other things. It'll be more about each of us feeling like we contribute significantly to the upkeep to the home, than splitting each chore down the middle, if that makes sense.

    You're right, and I think in a lot of our families the father was the main breadwinner so he did foot the majority of the bills. The women were the caretakers of the home, which was certainly a full time job in our family!

    "I made it clear to him that my money is his money and he should do with it as he pleases"

    Great attitude, and that's how it should be. No one person in a marriage should feel like money (especially money to cover the necessities) belongs to "him" or "her".

    You're very right about discussion about money talks and an agreement on the topic are key.

    lol! I see where you're coming from though re: the man paying the mortgage and utilities!

    ►Nice Anon
    I think that's why it's so important to know where you and your spouse stand on this issue. There might be some guys who would be shocked if their wife offered to help pay for utilities and the mortgage, while some would be surprised she didn't!

    She's a smart one, isn't she?

    I think a lot of guys would expect to pay more of the bills, so you wouldn't have any problem finding a guy who'd agree with your opinion.

    You're one of the people I see coming to with marriage-related questions so thanks for sharing.

    Yes, times have changed, and I think it's probably more expected for women to contribute financially towards the running of the house than it was in our parents' time. I do think that a husband who is not afraid to help around the house will be key to my personal happiness.

    lol "what are we doing with our money...buying chewing gum, clothes, shoes make up etc??" You know some girls like their ijekuje right? ;)

    Ah, so you see the woman as the one doing the actual paying of the bills, but the money can come from the husband. That could work for sure...again, open communication with your spouse regarding how you mean to carry on will be important. Thanks for your contribution!


    Thank you all for your contribution to this very interesting topic!

  24. i love all of Nja Wordsmiths answers

    tight blog
    will be back

  25. This makes me very, very worried. I think the dynamic is determined by the couple and not by the society. No one knows if they like alternative sex or oral or throw in a goat in the mix. And personally, sex comes in after money, so they will decide what is the best dynamic. As for me, I will get what I can get so long as I can get it. We support each other. We make love together. we cook and eat together (yes, I like to cook).
    Splitting it into sections and ...shiiit! If they don't know what they want to do about it before they join or make room for sudden adjustments...sha.


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