Thursday, August 16, 2007

Married Money

I've officially been married for over a year now, and I'm finally getting this joint money thing under control. It hasn't been easy, and we've had our share of unexpected fights about it (it's amazing when I talk to my single and engaged friends and they tell me that they have never fought with their significant others, how I always want to point, laugh, and loudly yell "Bah!"), but we're finally getting into a place where we have a plan and a system.

The technical

We have a joint checking account. Rather than hashing out whose checking account we were going to keep, we dumped both of ours and opened a new one. It made more sense to us because we were moving to a new town anyway, and it helped to diminish the "mine" feelings.

On the other hand, we each kept our own oldest credit card. We simply added each other as authorized users. We did this because of the conventional wisdom about credit score and length of credit history. However, after a few months of trying to balance "yours, mine, ours" credit, we decided on a single card to use for all of our regular needs. We use the other when only when a promotion or offer makes the cash back better than the primary card.

We set up our investments to automatically deduct from our checking account, so that we don't have to think about it.

The practical

I am a budgeting nerd, and my husband is not. Therefore, it makes sense for me to write up the budgets every month. However, if I made the budget by myself, my husband just ignored it and there went our savings goal for the month. So, we developed the system of me making the budget and my husband having the right to review and edit it. This way he doesn't need to worry about the technical stuff that bores him, but he gets to assert his own priorities in the process by adjusting things up or down.

I physically pay the bills and balance the checkbook because again, that's my personal orientation. We discussed it and it makes the most sense.

Hubby on the other hand gets a real kick out of researching investments, so he is in charge of our portfolio. He chose our mutual fund, and he checks the balance every day. Personally, I'd rather not see it.

The emotional

Unfortunately, we do not always agree on how money should be spent. He really likes having toys, whereas I really really want to rid myself of clutter. I'm committed to getting out of debt, but that's not something he cares about nearly as much. We agreed never to spend more than $100 on something without asking each other first, but it's difficult for me to always say no.

We've argued and cried and hashed it out again and again. Sometimes we can come to a compromise, sometimes we just have to accept each other's decisions (and remind ourselves how much we love each other). I'm sure we need to work on this part even more as we go on, but we're getting to a better place, and that's necessary if we ever want to grow our money.


Riggings said...

This sounds exactly like me and my wife except the other way around so if you have any success please share it with me! I'm the one that creates the budget that she doesn't care about. The only difference is I'm also the one that cares about the investments. We joined accounts earlier this year and are still fighting over money as you said mine, yours or ours. Maybe we should seek group counseling lol :)

Stephanie said...

I was thinking about joint accounts the other day, and perhaps it's because I'm nowhere near marriage, but I'm having trouble wanting to do a joint account. I feel like I'd like to spend what I make and let my future husband spend what he makes, and also I think have a joint account for rent/mortgage, utilities, etc.

I think this probably is related to my habitual saving plan, and my understanding that others can do what they want.

Well, hopefully by the time I get married, I'll have the mindset that you guys have (I want that, I just have to change! Fingers crossed!)

Sarah said...

Wow...I totally resonate with this. I got married in January and I'm the one who cares about the actual balance in the checkbook, etc. My husband and we also owed close to $100,000 when we started out (I think it's sitting at about $93,000 right now). And that's just crazy. I'm enjoying reading about your money and your life.
-Sarah from Wisebread

My New Choice said...

My wife and I have had a joint account from the very beginning and never even really thought about having separate accounts.

One thing we struggled with was that my wife became a SAHM when we had kids and she had the feeling that she had to ask to spend "my" money. She lost the feeling that the money was ours as she wasn't earning an income.

The thing that helped us through that was we decided on an amount of spending money we would each get for the week to do with as we pleased. It was almost like a blast to the past with an allowance as a kid but it really helped.

After 8 years of marriage, I think the key for us is open communication. Never assume that the other knows what we are thinking or what we want to do. It has been difficult as my wife has no interest in finances or investments but we have learned to discuss our finances on a regular basis.

story girl said...

One of my newly married friends, who is a student, said to me once "He parks his car in the garage because he's the one who pays the mortgage." Oh no, no, no! When you're married, you both pay the mortgate, with your money. It doesn't matter who's the actual income earner.

Stephanie, besides the emotional, there are very practical reasons not to live that way. Who buys the sheets? The ice cream? Do you itemize the phone bill? Do you split rent/mortgage equally or according to earning? It would become impossible to manage.

Fabulously Broke in the City said...

This sounds JUST like my Husband and I.

I've slowly started to get him to start caring about the budget, but he keeps wanting to spend it on his project hobby truck (we travel all the time, NOT feasible)... and I feel so bad sometimes for being so strict on him. But I desperately want us out of debt by March 2009...

He on the other hand, keeps feeling like we have "no money", but I don't think he really knows what it's like to truly have "no money", considering he doesn't work (is "retired" for now), we have no bills whatsoever except for his cellphone bill (everything is reimbursed by my company if I'm on a project), and it's just frustrating when he monkey wrenches our debt plan by going out and blowing money....


I know we can afford it, but that's not the point - the point is to live frugally for the next 3 years or less (if possible), take a break, and begin saving for a down payment on a mortgage.. but I feel like sometimes we aren't on the same schedule - I'm an aggressive debt reducer whereas he wants to take it slow and shoot the breeze.

Maine Mama said...

My husband tells everyone that our financial agreement is simple. He earns it and I spend it. That's pretty much true. I'm a SAHM so I don't bring in the bucks. I do all the budgeting, investment planning, and I pay all the bills. It works well for us because I am a details person and my husband hates to plan anything!

Anonymous said...

My girlfriend and I recently joined accounts and it has been pretty smooth sailing for the most part. We do not suffer fro the "yours, mine, ours" since everything is OURS. She came home after being gone for 6 months of military training, and with her not having a job right away, I took care of both of our finances. Both of us come from heavy spending habits, but were able to nip it in the butt and get our priorities in order. No I am not set financially, we were actually pretty damn tight in the beginning. However, once her checks started kicking in we were able to get the ball rolling to have debts under $1000 paid off in lump sums and pay off all bills for the month on the 1st of the month. The savings cushion is not where we would like it to be since we rewarded our selves to a little splurge whenever one debt was cleared. I am the one who sets our budgets up, so the next budget plan i set up will be count for more money into savings since all debts minus our car payments have been taken care of and also to focus on the repair of our credit histories so that we can purchase a house. I pay the bills, she does the shopping (for both of us) and we report all expenses to one another to keep tabs on the account. One more thing that has helped us is that we only use our debit card for groceries and major expenses. Bills are paid online, and we take out $100 each a week to pay for gas, tolls, and personal misc personal expenses under $100. If she wants a candy bar or some new shade of make up, she can buy it cash and its ok. Not everything works for everyone and nothing will work if you arent ready to make it work. My girlfriend and I were ready to change our habits and are slowly reaping the benefits. One more tip, check out "" It has been a very resourceful site in getting our finances in order.

plonkee said...

I'm not sure that I see what the problem is with 'yours, mine and ours' in money. If it doesn't work for you, fine, but if it does work, then why not. IMHO, its not about philosophy, its about solutions. Workable solutions.

story girl said...

I would say my biggest problem with it, plonkee, has to do with the issue of child rearing. I feel "yours, mine, ours" puts a value on wage earning that it doesn't put on other household tasks. In families where the division of labor is such that both parties cannot work full time outside the home, it doesn't seem fair for the one who does the bulk of the unpaid work to get a lesser share of the household income.

story girl said...

I wanted to add to my last comment that, while it is a philosophical thing for me, I totally understand that it's not for everyone. This is just MY money and MY life. . . certainly not anyone else's, and I would never want to sound like my way was the only way.

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Guides to Investments for Beginners said...

Sounds interesting. This is a fact. When you get married, you get married also to money. Because of unending bills. ^_^