Expenditure Twenty Pound Ought And Six

running down beach.Sovereign ingredient for a happy marriage: Pay cash or do without. Interest charges not only eat up a household budget; awareness of debt eats up domestic felicity.

Another ingredient for a happy marriage: Budget the luxuries first!

And another–In a family argument, if it turns out you are right–apologize at once!

From The Notebook of Lazarus Long by Robert A. Heinlein


I’ve reached that point in my life where my kids are old enough to start going through some of the more critical adjustments an adult faces. Marriage and long term relationships, and the art of compromise.

How to argue constructively and humanely, and leave no permanent damage behind.

Really grown up purchases like houses and life insurance…

I think being broke and/or strapped for cash is a permanent state when you’re younger. They’re slightly different conditions, but they deliver the same god-awful stresses.

You sigh when the monthly bills turn up, a nano second after you paid the last one. Upcoming birthdays, Christmas and any gift-giving occasion makes you slightly anxious and a little bit angry because what you can afford never matches what you would like to give. Charity requests make you writhe in guilt because there’s just no way it’s going to happen. And possibly the worst: an ever-growing credit card balance.

Financial difficulties can put so much strain on a relationship, that I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find that a deep analysis of every divorce and long-term relationship break-up would find that money was a major reason, if not the only reason.

I know that once Mark and I got debt free, the absence of stress was so profound it was like starting life over, fresh and sweet.

Debt seems to be endemic, these days, and I sometimes wonder how people live with the debt they’re building slowly but surely. I don’t know that there is a global solution to debt. Everyone has to find their own way to deal with money, but it is a learning curve, and it does affect your relationship, even subliminally.

That’s why Heinlein’s observation always strikes me as being right on the nose. You can put up with all sorts of deprivations if you’re doing it together and you’ve got each other. But debt is insidious, a cancer of the mind that kills happiness and eventually love, too.

By the way, the title of this post comes from another author, Charles Dickens, who commented on money and marriage in 1850, via David Copperfield:

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.” *

I guess he was on the money, too. Pun intended.

I’ll deal with the other two points Heinlein made in another post –they’re worthy of their own discussion.


[*Wanna read David Copperfield? Download a free, formatted copy from Project Gutenberg.]


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