Marriage and Money

A few weeks ago, Mrs. Pancakes asked me whether J and I were on the same page about money before marriage. Short answer: yes. Long answer: see below.

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Finances is the #2 reason why couples get divorced nowadays (second to poor communication, which I’m sure results in financial problems). And I believe that. I mean, when you take two single individuals with two single individual spending habits, it’s bound to be a little shaky once you combine them. That’s the same with J and me. Aside from the innocent fight about who has to get out of bed to turn on our ceiling fan at night, most of our married arguments involve our finances.

J and I both agreed that when we got married, we wanted to very married (like the Audrey Hepburn quote above), and that included joining everything, even our finances.

My advice to engaged or serious-dating couples: start talking about money now. Over-communicate on how you spend your money and it will benefit you in the end. J and I talked about money a lot when we got engaged. We got in the habit of reporting any time we spent money and began helping each other in practice for joining our accounts. I saved for the wedding, he paid off his student loans, I bought any groceries when we had dinner at home, and he would buy all of our dinners out.

So when we got married, we had a pretty good idea of our spending habits and were aligned on our financial goals. I care more about finances than him, so he let me plan the structure of our budget, then would give his feedback on certain items. Our first month’s budget was very generic to give us the flexibility to change as needed.

Almost five months later, we are fairly aligned in our financial goals. We both are serious about saving and paying off debt, and have a pretty good system about how to pay for everyday things and keeping it under budget. It helps that we talk a lot about what we spend, down to a fast-food lunch at work. Communicating in the beginning certainly has helped us be accountable to each other and stick to our goals.

So when do we fight about money, you ask? Most of our arguments stream out of our spending philosophies—and the simple fact that I’m a girl and he’s a boy. We are just two different people that spend our (very little) discretionary money differently. He likes to spend money on tangible things—like buying movies, or video games, or the latest gadget for his computer. I, on the other hand, would rather spend money on experiences—like taking a trip, or going out to fun restaurants, or accessories that I can wear to said trips and restaurants.

That’s where communication, trust and love come into play. I may not have the same interests or philosophies, but I need to trust that he will stick to our budget, and accept his discretionary purchases make him happy. And the same goes for me–he needs to realize that while he is fine owning just five pairs of shoes, I like owning more than I need and want the freedom to buy a cute pair, if it’s in our budget. It’s definitely a balancing act and we both have to make sacrifices for our ultimate mutual goals.

We are far from mastering our budget and sometimes I wonder if we’ll ever have just a “normal month” where we don’t have to replace one (or both!) of our cars, chip in for a trip, buy birthday gifts or fix a flat tire. But I suppose that is life and the best we can do is go through it together and stay aligned on our little and large purchases.

What about you? If you are married, do you have joint accounts with your spouse? What spending habits differ from your significant other? I’d love to know!

PS- Also, let me know if you have any questions about our budget! I won’t share any specific numbers, but can give you a rough idea of what we spend each month, if you are interest.

(photo credit)

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  • I’m in a similar boat with my partner – down to the shoe purchases! I have a shelf that holds my shoes, and the deal is that when I buy a new pair of shoes, I have to donate the pair they’re meant to replace on the shoes shelf. Keeping a finite space available for my shoes cuts down on how many I buy and makes me think about the utility of the pairs I currently own!

  • First off, I love that photo. Very cute. I have been dating my BF for almost 5 years and we talk about finances. I am more open about mine, however. He does have some issues and will not let me see his bank account…which I am okay with because I have no reason to see it. We have also discussed the combining of finances and would want to contribute a percentage of the salary to a joint bank account and keep the rest. This may still change but I think that for now this a good starting point.

  • Every account is a joint account in our house. He works outside the home and I work inside the home, so I’d have no money if we didn’t have it all together (or I guess another way to look at it is that HE would be broke if he paid me for my work…hehehe). As far as our spending habits go, we’re completely opposite. I am a saver, and I splurge on big things that provide an experience or memory, typically vacations or outings and such. My dear LT Wonderful, on the other hand, is a nickel and dime splurger. He’ll stop for a coffee or something on the way to/home from work, etc. We’ve really worked to be on the same page and we’re getting there. One way we combat the nickel and dimming is that we each have an allowance every month and he’s not accountable to me for how he spends it. If he wants a coke on the way home from work, he can use his allowance. In order to allow me my big splurges without going over the top, we plan our our trips or parties, etc and both save for them so they are a planned expense instead of a last minute, expensive trip. This is all going to change soon, though, because we’re moving to Nicaragua on support. This will at least minimize my desire to always be traveling to visit there :)

  • Great post G! And the advice for couples to start talking about money is important because it transitions into other areas! And it’s cute that you do the budget for the family. Also I think money and marriage gets better the longer you are married:-)

  • love this post! Eric and I have joint accounts. We used to fight about money all the time, but after a year and a half of marriage, i really feel like we’re finally starting to get the hang of it. And basically that involved my husband making a lot of changes and not spending us into the ground.
    I do have one question because I can never seem to figure out how couples with joint accounts do this–how do you buy each other gifts? like for birthdays and christmas?

  • This is a great post! Makes me want to sit down with my “Boyfriend Bill” and figure a few things out before we take the next step. First things first, a budget! Any pointers on what works best in making them, keeping them updated and of course, holding yourself to them??

  • My husband and I have all joint accounts, then we each have our own “personal” accounts that we fund with our allowance. This is the account where we buy presents for each other from. Our allowance each week is pretty large ($125 each) because he wanted to help his two daughters in college with grocery money. Even though the money is technically “spending” money, mine just usually goes in and never comes out! Except for this year; I went on a cruise with my sister in June, to our hometown for a long weekend in August and to Germany in October. Those things pretty much obliterated my account and I had to build it back up.

  • I love that you talk about money on your blog. It seems like it’s such a taboo subject these days, which is dumb.

    My husband and I combined everything when we got married 5 years ago. We each have our own IRA’s, but obviously the other is the beneficiary on them and we both have access to them to check the balances. Overall though, I am very much a spender and my husband is a saver by nature. I’ve reigned in quite a bit since we’ve been married and I ask him before I make any big purchases, or we make them together. Luckily though, we both love to travel, which is good since we live in Italy, so there’s never really any discussion on what we spend money on. We want to travel as much as we can while we live in Europe. Oh, and I’m a SAHM so I don’t have my own income right now. =)

  • My wife and I have had a long history of financial complications, disagreements, fights, tifts, discussions, etc…

    After many years of “If you spend this”, “I am buying this”…
    “you didnt tell me about that”, “We already have 5 of those why would you buy another” and many more just like this; we decided to go with a complete cash system that consists of envelopes and an excel sheet that tracks all our spending down to the penny.

    We had to do this once my wife stopped working to take care of the family.

    I would say to any couple out there who is struggling to get on track as a couple. Talk with each other, communication is HUGE. A basic envelope system can work, when the envelope is empty there is no money left, debit & credt cards can be very dangerous when your trying to manage a monthly budget and track spending.

    Good article!

  • I think you hit the nail on the head, over communicating is key, and then just be transparent. Talk about how you feel when the other spends on something you don’t think they should have. If I get upset about a financial transaction, I try to dig deep within myself and see what the “real” issue is here. And often, I find that I got upset because I accidentally slipped into a “lack” or poverty mindset. I know that’s not from God, so I combat those thoughts with scripture like Philippians 4:19 or John 10:10…that’s what has always helped me.