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Cataloging marital money attitudes

Whoa! If the hubby pulled the trick that MP Dunleavy's did, there would be hell to pay in our house.

In her latest Cost of Living column, The Conflict That Came in the Mail, New York Times' writer Dunleavy reports:

"My happy little financial harmony bubble went pop the other day … when my husband acknowledged that for the last couple of months, when he picked up our mail, he had been chucking all my catalogs in the trash."

It wasn't so much that her husband was tossing her catalogs without her knowledge. It was his attitude that he was protecting her, and by implication their, finances by taking away any temptation to spend.

Talk about fiscal paternalism run amok.

Dunleavy goes on to examine how money affects relationships, fiscally and emotionally. She has interesting conversations with Amanda Clayman, a financial therapist and author of the blog The Good, the Bad and the Money, and Judith Stern Peck, director of the Money and Family Life project at the Ackerman Institute for the Family in New York and author of the book "Money and Meaning."

The upshot of those discussions is that marital money conflicts often come not just from the actual spending, but rather from the values and expectations of each partner regarding their goals and expectations, for themselves and their life together.

I tackled this topic a couple of years ago in His, Hers and Theirs: How Couples Manage Their Money. Apparently, things are still pretty much the same.

Catalog tagging: In our house, the hubby is in charge of clearing out our continually growing collection of print publications. And he does a fine job.

With magazines, he's conscientious about tearing out articles that he thinks I might have missed -- OK, never got around to reading in the first place -- and stacking them in a pile in my office.

Catalogs_stacked_2 As for catalogs, when that stack gets too precariously tall, he culls them. Where there are duplicates, he keeps the most recent one. Really, how many NapaStyle -- which, by the way, is having a sale right now! -- catalogs do you need?

I try to do my part, too. Sometimes I pull out just the pages that have items of interest. At the bottom there's always either the company's toll-free phone number or Web site.

And when one catalog contains a lot of things I find appealing, I jot the page numbers on the cover. The hubby hangs onto to those, even if we have a newer edition.

There's even a bonus to the note taking. If the annotated items haven't been purchased by the time a birthday or anniversary or Christmas rolls around, he doesn't have to waste time figuring out what I might like. It's right there on the front of the catalog!

Cutting out your catalogs: If you want help reducing your catalog clutter before it starts, check out CatalogChoice.org.

The group, endorsed by major environmental organizations, offers a free way to decide what gets in your snail-mail box.

The service is available to both consumers and companies. You and I can indicate which catalogs we no longer want jamming our curbside mailboxes, and businesses can receive a list of consumers no longer wanting to get their catalogs.


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