A few years ago, I had someone ask me a question about how they should handle money in their marriage and the question startled me a bit. The gist of the question was whether or not their spouse should get a certain amount of “allowance” each month when they weren’t working at all, and the spouse asking the question was the breadwinner. The longer we talked, the more this conversation worried me because this couple wasn’t tackling their finances as a team and it was causing a rift.
Last month, I was listening to a podcast that reminded me of this conversation and raised a red flag to me again. I wish I could remember which podcast it was, because it was really good, but I just remember the conversation. They quoted a percentage of couples who were divided on their finances, mostly in marriages where one spouse is the breadwinner and the other makes a lot less or no money at all. In a lot of these marriages, the spouse who makes more money is the decision maker when it comes to the budget and the other spouse is allotted money to use for the things they are in charge of, and their own personal spending.
I don’t have anything against each of you having an allowance or a set amount of fun money to spend as you please, as long as that amount has been agreed upon together and is the same for each of you, unless one spouse doesn’t want as much as the other. While I understand the thinking behind one spouse managing the money, I felt like I needed to address it, because in the marriages where I’ve seen this happen, money has become a way to control the other spouse and it becomes unintentionally abusive. If this sounds like your marriage, I would urge you to shift the way you handle your money so that you are a team in every aspect of your finances!
Some spouses are savers and some are spenders. Others don’t want to have to deal with the budget so in depth or pay the bills. I’m not saying that you have to hold hands through every aspect of your finances, because I know it makes sense to have one person managing the budget in most cases. Being a team means that you both are on the same page, you’re both in the know on what is going on, and you each have a say when a big purchase, potential debt or other big money conversation comes up in your marriage.
When Joe and I got married, we were both working full time and we each had a part time side hustle. We went back and forth during those first few years of marriage on who was making more, depending on hours worked and raises we were given. But we always viewed our income as “ours” rather than “mine” and “yours”. Now he works full time and I work very part time, while running my blogs on the side. He definitely makes more money than me, but that change in income didn’t change how we view our money, and if we’d gone into marriage in the work situation we are in now, I don’t think we would have treated it any differently. Knowing that we are in this together brings a new level of intimacy to our marriage, and I would encourage you to find that in your marriage as well!
How to Be a Better Team with Money in Your Marriage
Make all money decisions together
This is the umbrella piece of advice that will help you be a generally good team. If you don’t have a budget, or if you do have one but not both of you were involved in making it, sit down and create one. Talk about what your monthly bills look like, and how much you think is a reasonable amount to spend on those more flexible expenses each month (groceries, eating out, entertainment, etc.) And then don’t make any big decisions when it comes to money without discussing it together first. Don’t go into debt without talking to your spouse about it first, even if it’s just under your name. Don’t make a huge purchase without talking about how it will affect your financial goals and your budget. All moves that involve money need to be talked about before they happen, especially if it’s a change from your monthly budget that has been set.
Tip: I love this Financial Unity for Couples YouTube series from Pennies Into Pearls. It's a great resource for helping you to be a better team with finances in your marriage.
Get on the same page with your budget
This has been the biggest key to success with our financial goals in marriage. When we aren’t both in agreement on how much we’re spending each month, or what extras we’re paying for (ie streaming services), there are more disagreements between us. We sit down each time we get a paycheck and determine where that money needs to go, how much we have left to spend in specific areas of our budget, and if one or both of us feels like any changes need to be made.
Tip: We've been working through this Family Finance Rescue course from Pennies Into Pearls together. It has helped us to get on the same page with our financial goals, the attitude that we have toward money and what we want our budget to look like.
Tackle debt together
I’m not going to say a lot on this tip, but I’ll link you to a post that talks about it more. Whether you’re going into marriage with your own individual debts, or if you choose together to take out a loan after you’re married, treat those debts the same. Disclose your own debt before you get married and make sure that you are in agreement on how it will be paid off. Tackling that debt as a team will help you pay it off faster and bring you closer as a couple.
Combine your finances
We have a couple of different bank accounts, and each of our pay checks is deposited into a different account, but those accounts and that money is ours together. We don’t say “you pay for the bills and I’ll buy the groceries” or decide what our money is going to based on what we each want to spend our paycheck on individually. We work together! As soon as that money hits our accounts, it is both of our responsibility to use it in the way that we predetermined together. Both of our names are on the bank accounts, and even though one of those accounts was Joe’s personal account before we got married, now it’s our account as a couple.
Share “fun money" equally
Circling back to the original issue that prompted this post, make sure that the two of you have fun money you can spend on whatever you want, no questions asked. We put our fun money into our cash envelope system each month, but I know other couples who do have their own accounts for their fun money, so they can use it as they please without justifying it on the budget later on.
My only caution to you if you choose to have separate accounts for your fun money is to be transparent about those accounts. Don’t hide money, don’t start throwing funds into there that your spouse doesn’t know about. Maybe you have a side hustle, and the two of you decide together that all of the money you earn from that gets to go into your personal account for you to spend how you want. That’s great; just make sure that it’s a joint decision still and that you don’t start to use that money to create your own hidden fund for one thing or another. And then also, make sure that the two of you are in full agreement on how much you get to spend each month and that it’s equal, not dependent on how much you each make! If one of you doesn’t want/need as much to spend each month, then give that spouse less, but make sure you’re both on the same page about those amounts.
Whew! Thanks for letting me get on my soapbox for a minute. This is something that I feel strongly about and that I know can make or break a marriage. Finances are one of the most argued about topics of conversation in a marriage. By making sure that you are a team, and that you are in this together, you will eliminate a lot of those potential disagreements and grow stronger as a couple!
Photography by Sadie Banks Photography