Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Discussion: How Do You Handle Finances in Your Relationship?

Although I'm a little embarassed to admit it, The Real Housewives of Orange County is among one of my favorite shows. I'm just so intrigued by these women - how they raise their families, what kind of cars they drive, how they spend their money. I definitely don't agree with most things they do, but that makes for more entertaining TV, right?

Anyway, last week's episode was totally up my alley - personal finance! It had one of the housewives, Lynne, getting served an eviction notice because her husband had not paid a deposit on their new rental house (because they were having trouble in the house they owned...eeeekkk...). Basically, Lynne's husband was in charge of all the finances in the house, so Lynne had no idea that they had no money. Not only did he keep all of it from her so she "wouldn't worry", but he said there was no deposit when in fact it was a $10,000 deposit. Obviously, Lynne was furious and they went their seperate ways after an intense discussion. Oh, then she went to San Francisco and spent $1200 on a leather jacket. But I digress....

This is so interesting to me. Money is a HUGE source of conflict in most marriages, and because it's often such a hard subject to talk about, many couples would rather not until it's too late. People have such different ideas of how to spend - there are some who have a very hard time parting with money and save, save, save. Some people spend money all too easily - you can't take it with you, right? Some people fall in between. Ultimately, this indicates your values and how you want to spend your life, and the more you know about your own relationship to money and your partner's idea of how to spend, the better off you'll be in the long run.

So how does money play into your relationship? Here are some questions (feel free to answer any and all in the comment section below).

1) Do you and your partner have the same idea of what money means? If not, how do you find that balance to make both your relationship and your bank account work?

My husband and I have a pretty similar style - we fall somewhere closer to the "saving" side of the spectrum rather than the "spending" side. I would say that he used to be more interested in saving than I did, but now I really enjoy finding creative ways to save a few bucks here and there. And nothing makes me happier than seeing my saving account increase every other week.

2) Do you have a joint spending account for expenses like housing and groceries? Do you split things 50/50 or do you have another strategy that works for you?

Before we got married, we lived together for 4 years and thought it would be really convenient to set up a joint checking account. We each contributed the same amount, which really got to me because my husband was making significantly more money than I was. We agreed that it made more sense for us to contribute the same percentage of our salary for joint expenses. Now that we're married, most of our money is joint, but we each still think it's important to keep our own individual accounts.

3) Who pays the bills? Do each of you have a basic understanding of what goes in and what goes out of your accounts?

I pay all but 2 bills - cable and cell phone. Since I am the primary bill payer, I think I have a better idea of what's going in and coming out than my husband does, but he can easily log on to our accounts to see. We'll talk about it too, for instance, if we had a really expensive water bill, and how to lower our costs for next month.

4) How frequently do you and your partner talk about money? Can you talk about it without arguing?

I think my husband and I talk about money at least once a week. We don't talk much about the day-to-day spending, but more of future goals - how much are we going to spend on furniture in our new house? How much do we need to have saved for a baby? And we talk about priorities - do we want to go on a weekend vacation in May or would we rather save that for a bigger trip at the end of the summer? I wouldn't say we argue about money all that often. After he got laid off, I think it gave us a great perspective on our priorities and we just learned to make more with less. Now that he has a job and things are good, we still make more with less and just keep building that cushion in our savings and retirement accounts.

Overall, I think we have a pretty good grasp on our joint finances. How do you and your sweetie measure up?


  1. Good questions!

    I'm interested to know if the finances change once the kiddos come?

  2. We share 100% of our money. That's what both of our parents did so it just seemed natural.

    1) Pretty much. We're both decently frugal but like to save for big trips or purchases and splurge there.

    2) Joint account for everything

    3) I manage all of the bills, expense tracking, etc. becaues I like to be in control! :) But I give him updates on the accounts and we talk about how much we spent each month.

    4) We talk about money once or twice a week. We rarely argue about money (we save the arguing for chores, ha!)

  3. Baby - I'm with you on finding out how finances change when a little one enters the picture, particularly when a) there are far more costs with no added income and b) maybe one parent is staying home. Any parents out there who want to chime in?

    Newlywed - I am also a little bit of a control freak and like to know how the money is being spent - that's why I "volunteered". :)