Getting Married: Do We Really Have To Combine Our Finances?

Getting Married: Do We Really Have To Combine Our Finances?

“So after we get married,” my husband asked me about two weeks before the wedding, “whose bank are we going to use?”

Whose bank are we going to use? Not only did Kyle and I have two separate checking accounts, we also had two separate banks. For now. Word on the street is that “married people” have this saying- “It’s not MY money, it’s OUR money.” 

Right. But, technically, it is still my money, right?

“Uh…” To say that I hadn’t thought about it would be a lie. Of course I’d thought about it. Every time I dropped $100 at Victoria’s Secret on yoga pants, or $75 on moisturizer at Sephora. Moisturizer. Do you know what my husband would say if he knew that I spent almost $80 on – what is basically – overpriced face lotion?

It’s the by the brand Drunk Elephant and the website says that it “delivers younger, revived-looking skin”. This is not a sponsored post for Drunk Elephant – but I believe them so much when they say that “lines, wrinkles and signs of sun damage will appear reduced” that I somehow manage to convince myself that “I’m not buying a moisturizer, I’m buying a magic cream!” (Yes, even with a college education and a background in marketing, I’m still desperate enough to believe that by spending $75 and putting this stuff on my face every night, I’m going to look twenty-five again. Who wouldn’t pay $75 to look twenty-five again? If you think about it, that’s cheaper than Botox!)

But try explaining that to my husband. Imagine the two of us sharing a bank account. Every time I’ve imagined it – I imagine us arguing and trying to tell the other person how they’re “allowed” to spend “our” money. “Seriously?” he’ll ask. “You spent HOW much at Express?” and “Didn’t you JUST buy new clothes a few months ago?”

Look. There are two schools of thought here – 1) as long as the bills are paid, we’re not in debt, and I have the extra money laying around, why not buy a new purse? and 2) as long as the bills are paid, we’re not in debt, and you have the extra money laying around – why not USE ONE OF THE TWELVE PURSES YOU ALREADY HAVE and put the money into savings?

I’m not saying he’s wrong, I’m just saying…. alright, I don’t know what I’m saying – but it’s not like I’m taking the money directly out of his pocket and buying a purse with it.

As I write this, it’s dawning on me that our biggest issue is that I’m struggling hard to let go of this concept of “my money” versus “our money”. My money is “fun” money – it allows me to buy things at Sephora, and shop the big annual sale at Victoria’s Secret. Our money is boring, married people money – it’s supposed to be saved for “emergencies” and bills and car insurance. .

I already pay bills and car insurance – but now, as married people, I guess Kyle and I are supposed to combine them and pay them together. Which, in my mind, means switching around a whole bunch of routing numbers once we open up this joint new account.

So, the million dollar question is – do we have to combine our finances? Really? Like, what if we’re paying our fair share of the bills and we’re happy with the way things are? Just because we’re married, does that mean we HAVE to share EVERYTHING?

Answer – no. When it comes to sharing money as a married couple – it’s ultimately your decision to make as a married couple. No one can tell you what’s right or what’s wrong. There are couples who have joint accounts and can see everything the other person does, but there are also couples who still have separate accounts and manage just fine (this route may get harder when and if you have children, but for couples without children it can be done fairly smoothly). Some couples keeps their accounts separate but open up a single joint account that they each put money into every week, and that’s what they use for groceries, household bills, etc. Again – there’s not a right or wrong way to do it (even though people will try to shame you for doing it either way – honestly, as long as you and your spouse can make it work and are mutually happy with the set-up, then you’re doing just fine.)

But in order to get to that point – figuring out what works best for both of you, you’re going to have to have “the talk”. The big “money” talk. And it’s going to be uncomfortable, because talking about money always is, but as long as you time it right and have an open mind, you can do it and come out the other side as a stronger couple. Here are some tips to help you get started –

#1 – Start with your common values
Alright, so you think it’s fair that both of you contribute to the house payment, right? And the electric bill? What about the groceries? Is it fair that one of you isn’t forced to pay for dinner every night? Okay, great. Now what about things like, the $75 moisturizer and trips to the hair salon and that new stereo that he wants for his car? No? You don’t both want the new car stereo? Okay. Then just cross that off the list as a “shared expense”, because it’s not shared and you’ll come back to it later. Moving on to tip #2.

#2 – Be honest about your individual spending
Like, actually honest. Really honest. This is not the time for the kind of honest where you tell him you spent “I don’t know, like a hundred dollars” on a pair of shoes when they were actually closer to $150. This is the time when you need to be up front about what you actually spend money on – “Okay, this is the moisturizer that I buy. It’s $75 and I buy it every six months. I go to the hair salon every six weeks and it’s $200. I get my nails done every three weeks, and it’s $45.” He’s going to see it anyway if you guys merge your finances together, so you might as well break it to him now. Which brings me to #3 –

#3 – This is not the time for judgement
Set the intention up front that this exercise is to clear the air and open the door to talk about your spending habits – this is not the time to judge each other. Which means he’s not allowed to judge you for how often you want to get your nails done, and you’re not allowed to judge him for the amount of money that he spends on stuff-that-he-doesn’t-need for his car.

#5 – Talk about what you would be willing to compromise on
He wants to save money, and you want to get your nails done every three weeks. I can sense an argument coming on, can’t you? But don’t give in to that. Remember that the two of you are having this conversation so that you can reach a common goal. You’re married now, and whether or not your bank accounts have each others names on them – the fact is, you still share a life together, which means you have to share money. At least to a certain degree, and it’s up to the two of you to find out what that is. If his main goal is to save money together, consider what you would be willing to compromise on to make that happen – at least to contribute something, even if it’s small. (Keep in mind that he needs to figure out what he’s willing to compromise on too).

#6 – Don’t think of this as “telling the other person what to do with their money”
Are you straight up telling him how to spend his money? Probably not, which mean he probably isn’t doing that to you either. Try not to take things personally. Think of yourselves like a couple of business managers trying to manage a business together – your house and your lives are your business. Now, how are you going to budget that with the money that both of you are bringing to the table?

Overall, just be patient with one another and remember that you have a common goal – being married and building a life together. It takes money to do that. If you love each other – regardless of how you decide to manage your finances – you will be able to make it work.

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