JENKINS: How to be a guy: Money management for married men

One of the best things you and your wife can do to ensure domestic tranquility is agree upon a budget, which is an itemized list of what you would spend in a given month if you had any sense.

Don't panic, though: remember the budget has nothing to do with what you actually spend.

In this regard, we can take inspiration from our glorious leaders in the nation's capital, who have created a concept so brilliant as to make the theory of relativity seem like the ravings of an imbecile. This concept is known as "off-budget."

Simply put, it means any money you spend that you don't want to count against your projected expenses can conveniently be listed under "off-budget," a wonderful catch-all category that can include anything from extra groceries and household goods to big-screen TVs and sport utility vehicles.

You can even use this concept -- again taking a page from Congress -- to convince yourself that you are, in fact, quite thrifty. For instance, if you budget $500 for food, and one month you spend only $480, you can claim to have saved $20, even though you spent $2,000 that same month -- off budget, of course -- on a Kleenex once sneezed into by Tim Tebow.

Another issue that you and your wife need to discuss is your collective use of credit cards. As a rule, credit cards should be used only in case of emergency, such as when you really want to buy something and don't have enough money to pay for it.

Actually, credit cards do have their benefits. Experts advise that you carry cards instead of cash when you travel, since stolen cards can easily be replaced, and most credit card companies have built-in safeguards to protect you from having to pay for items bought with your stolen card.

That someone used your card to order $2,000 worth of leather underwear should be no more than an inconvenience. No doubt you'll enjoy the catalogs and phone solicitations for months to come!

And speaking of shopping online, you definitely can't do that with cash. In fact, these days you can't even rent a car with cash, even if you have enough cash on you to buy the darned car. Thus credit cards are clearly a necessary evil of modern life, like personal injury lawyers and text messaging.

If you don't want credit card debt to ruin your marriage, however, you'll need to take steps to curb your spending. One recommendation is that you avoid using credit cards to pay for routine expenses, such as groceries, gasoline and full body waxes.

Another suggestion is to make a rule that both of you must agree before putting any major purchase on a credit card. If your wife won't let you charge your pro wrestling season tickets, you can always pay cash and give them to her for her birthday.

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and the author of "Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility," available at Books for Less in Buford. Email him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com or visit www.familymanthebook.com.