I know readers have been eagerly awaiting this update, so I won't keep you hanging. The electricity-saving experiment I described last month has worked, cutting my household bill about $50 the first month and $70 the second.
As you may recall, this entailed reducing the water flow in the shower and using a kitchen timer to hold the family's showers to five minutes.
This is one of those happy household-finance stories. Many, of course, are not so happy. Financial friction, experts tell us, is one of the chief causes of divorce.
With the spring wedding season arriving, I'm getting lots of news releases with tips for couples to assess their financial compatibility. The unspoken message is that those who are not compatible should call it off.
Which doesn't happen. Love is blind to the balance sheet. We ought to pepper one another with financial questions on the first date.
Are you a saver or a spender? How do you react to a stock market downturn? At what age do you plan to retire? Do you buy new cars or used?
We don't ask - that's taboo. In fact, spending predilections that may drive us crazy in marriage can seem charming while courting.
As a fiancée: "He goes to the gym five times a week! He's soooo fit!"
As a spouse: "Can't you just buy a dumbbell?"
The fiancé: "She's so stylish!"
The spouse: "What do you do with those pointy shoes? Kill cockroaches in corners?"
So if you and your intended are not financially simpatico, what do you do?
Find ways to reduce the financial points of contact, where friction occurs.
In our early years, my wife and I had an awful, friction-inducing bill-paying system of my own design. We each paid certain bills, then settled up every so often to keep even.
Then we adopted our current system: separate checking accounts for him, her and us. The joint account is for the mortgage, utilities, car costs, groceries - all the things we split down the middle.
We try to avoid face-to-face communications. For a while we sent e-mails with the subject line "Please match my $xxx deposit to joint account."
Now we don't even do that, thanks to day-by-day online monitoring. One of us will take the initiative when the account needs money, then the other will see the deposit and ante up an equal sum.
With a joint account for mutual expenses, you can each maintain individual accounts to keep a little personal space. This way, I don't ask my wife how much she spends on tennis, and she doesn't ask what I spend on my airplane. (Less than other guys spend on golf, I will say, if it ever comes up.)
Preparing tax returns, unfortunately, does not lend itself to such a joint system. So I do them because I'm more of a computer geek. Since our incomes aren't the same and we have separate investment gains, the tax bill isn't split evenly the way the mortgage is.
So after doing a joint return on TurboTax, I figure our shares of the tax bill by doing two individual returns. It only takes about an hour, and it eliminates unpleasant debate.
Investments are another matter. In our case, we agree on the broad strokes - favor low-cost index funds, put lots in and leave it alone. So we operate comfortably with separate accounts, each making decisions without consultation.
But for people whose financial knowledge is not so equal, it's harder. The person who takes charge is subject to second-guessing.
If this is a problem, try life-cycle funds, offered by most fund companies. These routinely adjust the mix of stocks, bonds and cash to suit the investor's age and tolerance for risk. Set it up so money is invested every month with automatic withdrawals from your checking accounts.
That way you don't need to talk about it. By eliminating a lot of the decision-making, these fire-and-forget funds can reduce friction between him and her.