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My husband and I have been married only seven months, and already we’re arguing about $. He spends money on computer equipment. I spend money on household goods. He insists on paying the bills and then forgets to do it. I feel as if a gap has opened up between us.
You’re in good company. Building a shared financial life is a challenge. Most single adults have clear, even entrenched, financial housekeeping preferences -- some balance the bank statement every month, others balance it once a year or not at all. Some pay the bills as soon as they come in, others don’t mind being late. The challenge is in devising a plan that will work for both you and your partner....
First things first. No matter who pays the bills, it’s important that you both be familiar with everything about your finances. You should know the monthly costs of food, clothing, shelter, insurance. car loans, and more. If you have children together, you should have calculated how much their education is going to cost. You should each be aware of how much the other partner is spending each month on items in your joint budget, how much each of you are saving for retirement and what securities the other holds in investment accounts. This is the only way for you to be respectful of the money you have in common -- and respectful and protective of each other in your essential role as partners.
To answer the question, why not consider paying the bills together every month? If that doesn’t work for you or makes you crazy, one of you might do it one month and the other the next, or switch every six months. Ideally, you should both think about, touch, and manage your money.
What about spending money? That’s where my husband/wife and I have the biggest arguments.
Spending and bookkeeping go hand in hand. The best strategy is to sit down together and draft a spending plan, or budget. Together, decide how much of your joint income you will devote to discretionary spending after necessities have been paid for. Make policy decisions. How often will you get a new car? How many vacations will you take this year, and what will they cost? How much will you spend during the holiday season? What percentage of your income will you save for retirement or give to charity? Agree on or compromise over what you need, want, and can afford. Develop a shared vision for the future, and a means of getting there. Remember -- both of you, working with small sums of money over time, can create a great deal more wealth and security than either of you could alone. The key is to work together.