Money in middle-income Anglo-Celtic marriage is joint and nebulous, whereas money in cohabiting heterosexual relationships is separate and calculable. The move from cohabitation to marriage is accompanied by greater jointness in the management of money. As the nature of the couple's commitment becomes more explicit in marriage, money becomes more nebulous and less calculable. However, in both marriage and cohabitation, the questions of equality, power and control are blocked so that the reality of women's lower income does not challenge the popular discourse of marriage and cohabitation being equal partnerships. The secular rituals of the marital joint account and purposive pooling in cohabitation channel information to reduce the gap between ideology and experience on the one hand, and the contradictions between coexisting ideologies on the other. These conclusions are based on two separate qualitative studies of 16 married couples and 15 cohabiting couples in Mel bourne, between 1991 and 1994.