When we started telling people that we were FINALLY getting married after six year of dating, we got a lot of unsolicited advice. It spanned all the usual stuff – home buying, wedding costs, taxes and credit – but one topic came up the most for sure; to share or not to share our money. It’s a touchy subject for sure on both sides. Most of the women I knew and my father advised me to keep a separate (secret) account that my husband wouldn’t know about “just in case” because marriage is great but “money always complicates things”. Some of The Man’s friends and coworkers warned that sharing money with his new wife would possible mean that I’d spend it all, on “shopping for stuff”, and other stereotypical woman activities. We didn’t give it much thought either way. Planning a big wedding in 10 months was really all I could think about. And my husband has always admitted that I’m better with money than he is so he wasn’t too concerned with keeping his cash away from me.
We didn’t actually discuss how we’d handle money in our marriage until we were on our honeymoon sharing an over-sized margarita and a blissful moment on a beautiful peach sand beach in Maui. It was then that we decided that very little changes actually needed to be made. Prior to getting married, we each had our own personal checking accounts, savings, and credit cards – and our own individual piles of debt. We looked at what we each owed, what we brought in, and how we’d been splitting the bills all the years that we had lived together to date. We agreed on two things: It was important to make sure the money for our rent, utilities, and groceries went into one account we both control and that we start saving together for the little unexpected things to come (like car problems, last minute travel, or perhaps even the inevitable arrival of a little human one day) separately from any savings we already have. (Not much on either side, for the record.) It seemed like a simple enough decision to make. Especially given all the fuss we heard about it from any and everyone who heard we were getting hitched.
And so when we returned from our honeymoon we opened up joint checking and saving account, agreed on how much we each needed to deposit into it each payday and who would pay what bill. It was a similar formula to what we’d always done, but this time it was all about visibility. We also decided on an amount we’d each plan to stash into our savings every chance we could. Sounded great at the time but it hasn’t been working for us quite as well as we’d hoped. Although some months are better than ever, we’re still haven’t gotten the hang of openly sharing our money. When we dreamed up this “separate but equal” money plan we didn’t factor in two things; personal history and human nature.
Now we alternate overspending and rarely save as much as we planned to, or pay the bills the way we said we would. What’s gone wrong, you ask? Well, it’s easy to spend a few dollars more than you should when you can see extra money in an account that you normally wouldn’t have seen before — never mind the fact that it already belongs to the gas or cable company. If it’s there and you need it is human nature sometimes to spend it, and then borrow on tomorrow hoping it will all just work out. We fight about it quite often too. Nothing we can’t recover from, of course, but it’s still no walk in the park sometimes. Part of the issue is that although we share accounts for daily use, neither of us likes to come totally clean about how much we’ve got stacked up on the side for a rainy day. The good news is that we’d both gladly go into that secret stash to help the other, but the bad news is I think this technically counts as keeping secrets, right?
In a marriage, is it okay to keep them when it’s money that’s up for discussion? Although I’m convinced this dilemma and it’s growing pains are supposed to be part of the whole newlywed adjustment phase, I think we both wish we could just get it right already! How do you handle the money in your marriage?