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...
►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'?
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.
►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.
Tigeress: Both - should pay their own bill.
►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".
Tigeress: Either/ both
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?