To refresh our readers out there, the two of us every week or every other week choose a topic that affects us both and then we write about it. We write completely independent of each other. Only until after we have both finished the entry, do we read the other’s musings. We just want you to remember this before you begin reading on. The similarity of our blogs is merely a coincidence. Or maybe it means we’re actually learning to become a loving couple…Yea, you’re right. It’s probably just a coincidence.
There are few things more challenging in a marriage than managing finances. For me, I’d rank the level of annoyingness right up there with remote hogging, public finger nail clipping, and farting under the sheets. It’s a downright pain in the ass to come up with a logical and unfailing technique where both husband and wife feel they have equal control over the money, without over-controlling the other persons spending.
For the first few years of marriage, we opted to have separate accounts for our own individual spending with a joint account for which our mortgage payment and utility bills would be used for. It was good.
Then, the move to Salt Lake changed our situation slightly, where my new apartment and additional expenses piled atop our financial responsibilities on the West Coast while the husband stayed there to finish law school. Then I left my job and – as the husband would say – “conveniently” suggested we merge accounts. Fast forward to today, and here we are with 90% of our finances under the same accounts. Sharing.
Now, this might not seem so bad. In fact, I know a ton of people who share accounts with no problem. I, on the other hand, struggle day to day with this ‘sharing’ thing because I like to be able to spend whatever I want, when I want, no questions asked. I cringe when I come home from work to hear “So I was online looking at the checking account today …” which is usually followed up by “is it necessary to spend $14 at lunch?” or “why didn’t you tell me you stopped by Nordstrom last week.”
And I believe my other half may feel as equally suffocated sometimes. As football season approaches in particular, I prepare myself for the hints of “So I was looking into NFL Sunday Ticket costs the other day … and you know it would save us a ton watching from home instead of going to a bar…” or “I was thinking of flying back to Minnesota to catch a Gophers game with the family…”
I question. Should it really make a difference that we inquire what each other spends money on? Is it really that bad that there is a certain level of permission needed to spend money we make as a family unit? And furthermore, doesn’t it open the lines of communication with regards to prioritizing where money is spent? In each of these cases, I would agree that sharing bank accounts and financial responsibility is important.
However, I also wonder if there is a certain amount of independence taken when your paycheck is no longer just yours. And aren’t we depriving ourselves of the fun of spending money on ourselves on a day when we feel it’s well deserved? And even more so, a would be surprise for a spouse is no longer a surprise when he or she sees you’ve booked that trip they’ve always wanted to go on or purchased that autographed Vikings jersey they’ve had their eye on for months.
So what’s the ultimate solution that prevents fights over money, allows each person on the account to feel its theirs, and still provides financial freedom?
Any one out there? Holler. I’d like to have some insight.
The missus and I had separate bank accounts for the first six years that we were together. We’ve been together for seven and a half. Most of those years we were dating, so it was natural to have separate accounts. But we didn’t get joint accounts until we were two years into our marriage. That’s a long time to have two accounts I think. You know what finally triggered the need for a joint account? Well, my wonderful wife decided it was time she quit her job and take an eight month break from work. It was at this moment that she deemed it was necessary for us to finally have joint accounts. Sorta strange that those years I was in law school working at the law library, consulting for a patent firm, driving law books in the afternoons to firms in downtown Portland, and assisting the campus events committee with setup and take down of school gatherings, she didn’t find it valuable to share an account, don’t you think? But the moment she is no longer working and I’m finally out of school and using my law degree, my beautiful other half finds it to be the right moment to jump into the dreaded world of sharing all of our moneys. Must be coincidental right?
Of course I jest, but that’s only because I have to be kidding or else next week you’ll be reading only Buri on the Couch. In all seriousness, however, joining our accounts was one of the most rewarding decisions in our relationship. And one of the most difficult. There’s a reason financial difficulty is one of the top ten reasons for divorce. Dealing with money problems, sharing funds, making decisions about where both of your hard earned cash goes, it’s difficult. You learn a lot about each other, though. You learn what wants the other has because you’re learning where she really wants to spend her money. You also learn what purchases you thought were needs, when in fact they are things you are able to live without. Don’t be fooled, these discussions are not easy.
For instance, my wife loves shoes. No seriously, she loves them. I remember a few years back my uncle, who has three teenage daughters, was asking me about my wife’s infatuation with shoes. We were talking up at the bar at a wedding reception of a family member and he asked me, “Like how many? 20!??!” I stared at him mouth agape. 20? Are you kidding me? 20?!?! That would be a travesty to my wife. On our honeymoon in Greece, we walked by a high-end shoe store that had a front window display with an elegant staircase littered with shoes as far as you could see. Let’s just say that was the best memory she has of our honeymoon. No, when I say she loves shoes, I mean she owns exponentially more than twenty. And if you know anything about math, you can start to figure out the numbers in your head. When we began sharing accounts, we had countless conversations about the how much she loved shoes and how much I didn’t think they were important. I mean seriously, I still wear a pair of shoes that one of my best friends got tired of in 9th grade and gave to his brother, who got tired of them and gave them to my brother, who got tired of them and gave them to me. I’m not making this up. I still wear a pair of fourth generation hand-me-downs from fourteen years ago. Why throw out something that durable right?
These conversations have been extremely good for us, though. And to my wonderful partner’s credit, she has been extremely prudent in her shoe purchases in recent years as we made decisions together that we wanted to move forward with owning a home and other financial choices. Now lest you think I am saint, I am not. I have had my share frivolous purchase decisions as well. (Cue my wife—“Frivolous?!!? My shoes are NOT frivolous!!!!” I love you baby). We have had to have many discussions about my love of sports. I really do enjoy them. I love playing them; I love reading about them; I love analyzing the stats from them; I love watching them; I love listening to how the contests have changed individuals for the better. I especially love Minnesota sports. Living away from home, I have invested in my fair share of ESPN, MLB and NFL packages, not to mention visits to the local watering hole and even flights back home to see the games live in person. I never wanted to talk about my spending in these areas. This is what I love! Don’t make me evaluate the necessity or importance of it! But that’s what we did. And it was good for us. It was good for me.
Ultimately, every couple has needs and every individual has wants. The important part is to distinguish between the two and then decide together which wants are affordable and reasonable, and which wants need to be sacrificed. Yes, some of them will need to be sacrificed. Very few of us get to satisfy every wanting desire we have. Ignoring whether that would even be healthy, it simply is not fiscally possible for most of us. So we need to seriously think about these things. As a couple, you need to discuss what you would like to do with your money and what is important to each of you. You’ll learn about each other, but be sure to allow each other to speak openly about where they want to spend. It won’t be easy. In fact, you will most likely seriously question why you began the discussion in the first place, but it may just be what keeps you out of financial trouble. And financial difficulty is one of the top ten reasons for divorce, not disagreements over the use of shared finances. At least not to my knowledge. This discussion may save your relationship. And if not, well, you just openly and willingly walked into what is sure to be a big argument. Sorry about that.