Money Management When You’re Married

When two people become one… Or do they?

Many people, and a lot of financial gurus, believe once married, or dating for even a significant amount of time, the only option is to combine finances.  I am here today to report that that simply just doesn’t have to be the case!

After awhile of dating and/or (hopefully) before marriage, finances eventually get brought up one way or the other in relationships.   For us, it came up fairly quickly as I am honestly an open book in all areas of my life.  Politics? Yep, first phone conversation. You know, just making sure I wasn’t talking to the wrong side 😉

When I began dating my husband, he had just been promoted in his career and obviously excited to share that news with me so salaries came up quick.  Well his salary I should say.  I was working part-time at an hourly job, obtaining my Masters Degree, and working an externship for free. So my income covered my very cheap rent, Netflix, and a couple nights at the bar! My husband was farther along in his career before mine even got started so he has always been the breadwinner in this house.  By significantly a lot more than me.  Keep in mind, I was a social worker for part of our relationship.  Like a 30K a year social worker.

How We Split the Bills

It is common for people to split everything 50/50.  But that just can’t work with us as our salaries aren’t even in the same ballpark. I’d ultimately be saving 0% of my income if I contributed to 50% of the bills, so we do what works for us.  And by that I mean we combine nothing.  Gasssppppp!

Jay, the husband, and I have a very clear understanding of who pays for what in our relationship and what do ya know? We’ve never had a money fight! Up until recently, we didn’t even have access to each others accounts.  More on that later.

Jay honestly covers every large expense, including rent, internet, dinners out, vacations, taxes, etc.  While I cover my car insurance, renters insurance, my cell phone, and groceries.  (I should note, Jay’s company covers the cost of his cell phone, car, and car insurance, and gas.  We are very lucky when it comes to eliminating those expenses!)  It may not appear that I cover a lot, but behind the scenes I am able to max out my 401K to help support our financial future.  And he is too, plus still cover all the large expenses.  So it’s safe to say our salaries are not equal, so our covered expenses shouldn’t be either.

We keep our money management conversation open, ongoing, and ever changing

And that is why I believe it works.  When I began earning a higher salary we discussed what bills I could take over.  Also with the higher salary, we immediately talked about how I can make changes to my retirement accounts in order to support our financial future together.  When we move again, or have another career change, the fluctuation of how our household bills are managed, will again continue to change. I like that we have the flexibility in our money. We each have our own savings accounts and each our own checking accounts.  Together we think of our money as one, but they are in fact in  separate accounts.  As in all areas of your relationship, communication is key!

If you find yourself hiding purchases, debt, or opening credit cards behind each others backs, then those are all red flags something has GOT TO CHANGE! And the time is NOW. Admit to your faults.  Bring it all to the forefront and regroup from there.  It’s always mind boggling to me when shopping bags or online orders are hidden from spouses.  Open up the communication.  Align your budget and future financial goals and I promise you, a more successful financial future will follow.

7 Years Later, We’ve Officially Joined Banks

It was just recently we joined the same bank and now have access to each others accounts.  Still the spending is separate.  The main reason behind this was the fear of having an account be closed due to fraud and me fearing I wouldn’t have access to pay for something.  As we don’t have credit cards, should my card be declined due to unknown fraud in let’s say the grocery line, I would have had no other way of paying for said groceries, so we discussed each of us carrying cards to access each others accounts in an unlikely situation as this.  This is our safety net. Our backup plan.  Our Doomsday Prepper Plan.

But fraud is real, ya’ll and I’m not trying to have to put back all my groceries when I know there is money to be spent!

My Final Thoughts

This is all to say, money does not have to be combined because there is a legal document that now states you’re one.  I know many people whose money is combined, in fact the majority of people we know, but that is just not ideal for either of us.  And as all of us who are on this journey to Financial Independence know, personal finance is personal.

While writing this, it also got me thinking, this situation likely works for us because neither of us are big spenders.  I don’t have to worry about him randomly blowing money as his most frequented expenses are Starbucks and UberEats.  Although I wish both of those expenses would decrease, I can’t fault him for those as he literally spends money in no other areas of life! So you go boy, enjoy that coffee and overpriced delivery food!

Before combining forces immediately after the wedding just because that’s “the norm,”  evaluate and discuss very openly with your partner what will work for you and your situation alone.  Not what works best for your siblings, your parents, or your co-workers, but YOU AND YOUR SPOUSE! I am certainly not against joining bank accounts. I very much think it can work and does work in some situations, but I want you to know there are other options out there!

“It’s important to do what’s best for you, whether people approve it or not.

This is your life.” – Uknown

Go on now, live your life, Free As A Weed.