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.
Finances is the #2 reason why couples get divorced nowadays (second to poor communication, which I’m sure results in financial problems) and needing the services of a divorce lawyer (click here for more info). 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.
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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.