Jeremy and I manage finances as a married couple maybe a little differently than some – at least differently from a lot of the couples that I know. And truthfully, it’s not all that different from how we’ve handled it from the very beginning. The cool thing is… we don’t fight about money. Like, ever.
That’s not meant to sound like I’m boasting so much as it’s me telling you that money doesn’t have to be such a pain point with your spouse. There’s 10 things we do differently that you can do as well to help keep you and your spouse on the same page and managing your finances as a married couple… without the drama.
1. Don’t share bank accounts
To be fair, the reason we’ve always done it this way stemmed from my personal insecurities about giving someone unlimited access to my earnings. We both have experience with abusive relationships where money was an issue of concern (someone taking and spending money frivolously and not adhering to a budget), so it was an easy decision for us to keep our income separate. Don’t get me wrong… I trust my husband completely, but I’ve done the same before in a marriage. I feel more comfortable knowing that at all times, I’m the only one who has full access to my bank account, and I can always be sure to plan accordingly.
But the real reason to not share bank accounts is because it holds you accountable… which you’ll understand more about in point #2. It’s just a lot easier for you to pay close attention to what’s coming in and going out of your account if you’re the only person spending the money from it.
On a personal note… I have an online business, several bank accounts, and money is constantly flowing in and out of my account. I’m not an Accountant (and frankly, mine should hate me). I think it’s enough to have to manage my own money without mixing Jeremy’s financial responsibilities into the mix. It’s a lot to expect anyone to know what the other person has spent, when, why, and how much.
Do we have access to each other’s money? Sure… in a way. For example: when we need to make an online purchase, I have access to Jeremy’s debit and credit cards. Do I use them without telling him first? Nope. I’m respectful of his bank account. Doesn’t seem to stop him from asking me “Hey, what did you buy from Amazon?” a week later. It was a water filter for the fridge, dear…
But that’s the big key to everything in marriage: Being respectful.
2. Assume responsibility for your own bills
Jeremy and I each have personal bills that we created prior to dating, let alone marriage. It’s bills like… his student loans, or my phone bill. We’re each responsible for taking care of our own bills. You should do the same.
Yeah yeah yeah… For Richer or Poorer… Blah Blah Blah. Let’s get real, okay? You married someone because you love them – but you probably don’t love their debt. Yes, you should be supportive (in whatever way that looks like) if something should happen that prevents your spouse from being able to pay for their debt, but unless / if that ever happens… both of you should be responsible for the bills you were already responsible for.
This has worked really well for us, because it’s bills we were already used to paying ourselves anyways. Instead of putting all of our income into a big pile and chipping away at it to pay all of the bills in our lives, it’s easier for us to focus on what bills we’ve made ourselves. By doing that, we always know what we can afford individually, and as a couple.
Because I’m not responsible for his bills and he’s not responsible for mine, neither of us end up feeling put out. And it’s made it okay if I decide that I want to buy myself a new pair of pants, or if he wants to buy a video game. No one ends up feeling screwed over because we’ve each already used our earnings to pay our own bills – rather than one of us worrying that the other is buying non-necessities while we need to pay the water bill.
3. Make personal financial goals
We each have personal goals we’d like to meet and separately, we work to make that happen. This might sound unusual for a married couple to look at finances that way – usually people talk about household income, rather than breaking the objective down into more manageable sounding goals.
Rather than say “We’d like to make $130,000 annually”, we break it down and focus on what it’s going to take to meet our income goals personally. The breakdown is easier to manage, and the goals don’t feel anywhere near as lofty. If you’re holding up your end of the deal and bringing your share to the table, the BIG goals get met.
4. Communicate… a lot
I mean, of course this is on the list. Communication is very important – especially if you can’t watch what your partner is doing with their money at all times (and we really think you should start off by having some faith – you married them afterall).
I’ll admit, it is a little scary knowing that Jeremy might not be paying the electric bill – after all, I experienced things like that with my first husband. But he hasn’t given me reason not to trust that he’ll pay it… and my lights are on right now as I type this.
Still, we talk about the bills. We keep tabs on how much the electric bill was month to month, remind each other that the mortgage is due, talk about how much we’re spending on the pest control people (too dang much), how much it will cost to get the house pressure washed, etc. Openly communicating and not being afraid to talk about money is key.
If you aren’t talking about it, now’s the time to start. We like the book Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money with Your Honey because it aids you in accurately interpret your financial situation to your partner, and find common ground to prevent arguments about it.
Get Financially Naked
You may think that marital bliss means money doesn’t matter, but in today’s troubled economic times, that’s simply false hope. And with layoffs galore and debt mounting, financial stress is through the roof. Think keeping afloat and affectionate is impossible? Think again.
GET THE BOOK
5. Decide together when you’ve spent too much
It happens… nobody’s perfect. Sometimes there’s just more money on the credit card that we’d like to see. Maybe we ate out more this month, or splurged on something. Again, the whole communication thing comes into play – we talk about it and agree to ease off the spending. TOGETHER.
That means not spending money on stuff you don’t need. It means not making a suggestion for going out for dinner when there’s plenty of food to be cooked at home, or picking up random things at Target that you have no need for – no matter how cute those fuzzy socks are, or how badly you want a new video game.
Take a little spending break and stick to your needs and regular monthly responsibilities. You can’t get through this without you both cooperating.
6. Acknowledge and accept that your income maybe isn’t equal
Let’s be real… Jeremy makes more money than I do. Like, way more money. Just as I’ve accepted that as a reality, he’s accepted that he’s financially better able to provide for our family and afford certain bills.
When I moved in with Jeremy back in 2014, he continued paying the rent and the utilities himself. You might be thinking that it seems unfair – after all, don’t I take up half of the space? But for him, it made sense to just keep being responsible for that which he already knew that he could afford (which totally points back at point #1).
This helps relieve stress. Since I’m not responsible for larger bills that are out of my reach due to my income level, I don’t have to worry about them. I stick to paying my own bills and I contribute other ways financially to our home. You can do the same thing. Each of you should pay your fair share based on what makes sense for your income level.
7. Talk about your debt, and how you’d like to manage it
This is a pretty big one for us, because truth is… we’ve got debt. We built/bought a new house in 2016. Granted, a house is arguably a necessity (and where we live, cheaper than renting an apartment) so it’s a debt we’re willing to accept. But we also have 2 car payments, credit cards, his student loans, my computer… all financed. It’s likely that you have a similar list.
A few months back, we started talking more about how to pay it down faster, because while we were still living comfortably, it felt like all we ever did was pay and pay – without ever finishing any of these bills.
I started looking into learning how to manage the debt better and to figure out what we could be doing to speed things along. If you’re interested in learning how to do that, I totally recommend a website called Debt Roundup, written by Grayson Bell. I actually met him as a fellow online entrepreneur… and then stumbled onto his financial blog. He clued us into the snowball debt payoff method, and we love it.
But before you try a method, talk about what debt you have and what makes the most sense for you – because it’s different for everyone.
8. Chose together what your large purchases should be and when
It’s really all in the planning. Our first major purchase of 2019 was gutters for our house… since our new house never came with any, and it’s been an annoying problem. That choice was put before other home improvements and things that we want to buy. It’s something we agreed on and will stick to.
Talking about your needs and wants is important. It’s helps you be more mindful of what you need to be doing with your money, while remembering still to do nice things for one another.
9. Help each other out
I have a fluctuating income, and truth be told… Jeremy has helped me out a few times financially over the years. And during months where I’ve managed to out-earn him (rare as they are), I’ve put that money towards home improvements we needed. So really, we help each other and find the best way to work it out so it feels fair.
There may come a time where you need to step in and help your spouse. Open and honest communication (regularly!) will make you aware of any time you need to give or receive some help. Stuff happens, and you should always support your spouse for the greater good.
10. We always keep it about us, and you should too
It’s never about Jeremy… never about Kimi… We work together to financially strengthen and benefit us as a couple.
Never forget that even if you choose to separate your finances as we do, that everything you do affects your partner. Being respectful of each other’s financial contributions – even if one person is able to afford more than the other – is important.
Do you argue about debt?
What have been some of the major pain points in your marriage about finances?
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