You should take home your salary in actual money for a while, and explain that it’s all you got for sweating like a dog for ten hours a day, through six long days, and that the cashier handed it out with an expression as if you were robbing the cash-drawer of an orphan asylum. Make her understand that while those that have gets, when they present a check, those that haven’t gets it in the neck. Explain that the benevolent old party is only on duty when papa’s daughter has a papa that Bradstreet rates AA, and that when papa’s daughter’s husband presents a five-dollar check with a ten-cent overdraft, he’s received by a low-browed old brute who calls for the bouncer to put him out. Tell her right at the start the worst about the butcher, and the grocer, and the iceman, and the milkman, and the plumber, and the gas-meter—that they want their money and that it has to come out of that little roll of bills. Then give her enough to pay them, even if you have to grab for your lunch from a high stool. I used to know an old Jew who said that the man who carved was always a fool or a hog, but you’ve got to learn not to divide your salary on either basis.
Make your wife pay cash. A woman never really understands money till she’s done that for a while. I’ve noticed that people rarely pay down the money for foolish purchases—they charge them. And it’s mighty seldom that a woman’s extravagant unless she or her husband pays the bills by check. There’s something about counting out the actual legal tender on the spot that keeps a woman from really wanting a lot of things which she thinks she wants.
When I married your ma, your grandpa was keeping eighteen niggers busy seeing that the family did nothing. She’d had a liberal education, which, so far as I’ve been able to find out, means teaching a woman everything except the real business that she’s going into—that is, if she marries. But when your ma swapped the big house and the eighteen niggers for me and an old mammy to do the rough work, she left the breakfast-in-bed, fine-lady business behind her and started right in to get the rest of the education that belonged to her. She did a mighty good job, too, all except making ends meet, and they were too elastic for her at first—sort of snapped back and left a deficit just when she thought she had them together.
She was mighty sorry about it, but she’d never heard of any way of getting money except asking papa for it, and she’d sort of supposed that every one asked papa when they wanted any, and, why didn’t I ask papa? I finally made her see that I couldn’t ask my papa, because I hadn’t any, and that I couldn’t ask hers, because it was against the rules of the game as I played it, and that was her first real lesson in high finance and low finances.
I gave her the second when she came to me about the twentieth of the month and kissed me on the ear and sent a tickly little whisper after it to the effect that the household appropriation for the month was exhausted and the pork-barrel and the meal-sack and the chicken-coop were in the same enfeebled condition.