Our Keys to Making Married Finances Work


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Financially Wedded Bliss

When Johnny and I celebrated our anniversary just a few short weeks ago, we took a few moments reminiscing on what we’d accomplished in the last seven years. And we also ate a bunch of sushi, but that’s beside the point. One of our biggest accomplishments in these seven years of wedded craziness has been having a unified financial mindset. It wasn’t always that way. No sirree. A few months into our marriage, I banned Johnny from going grocery shopping with me because we’d always start fighting mid-aisle. He wanted to analyze every cost per ounce on the price tag and fill our cart with 30-cent burritos, while I preferred to buy whatever sounded good, regardless of price. But thankfully we didn’t just decide to agree to disagree on finances — we decided to face it together. And that decision has affected our current lives and how we plan for the future more than almost anything else.

It didn’t happen overnight, but here’s what we’ve done to become financially unified:

Joint Banking

In case you didn’t know, Johnny and I are all about joint banking. Very soon after we got married, we closed our individual bank accounts and opened one joint account. It helped us to more easily keep track of our spending together, and it made each other’s spending habits more transparent. From day one, neither of us had any spending secrets we were keeping because a joint account makes that almost impossible (which is actually pretty awful around Christmastime). Separate accounts work great for some couples, too, of course. But for us, the joint account was the way to go.

Personal Spending

Despite having a joint account, we still like to keep some autonomy when it comes to what we decide to spend our money on. And so we each have our own Personal Spending category within our budget. We’ve agreed on a specific amount that each person can spend on whatever he or she pleases, as long as it stays within what we’ve budgeted. It’s nice to be able to splurge on a little something for myself from time to time without calling Johnny up and asking, “Should I buy this book/nail polish/lip stick/life-size Harry Potter poster, etc.?” And he likes being able to order himself little gadgets here and there without having to first come to me and geek out over why he needs it. (And I like that, too.)

Equality

As soon as we opened our joint accounts, we threw away all ownership of our money. There was no more yours or mine — it was all ours. Just because Johnny’s currently bringing in the majority of our income, he doesn’t get to spend more or dictate how we budget. And for those brief few months when I was the sugar momma of the family toward the end of our college days, I didn’t freeze all of Johnny’s spending just because he didn’t have a job. We both have equal ownership. This only works, of course, if we’re both willing to stick to the same financial rules — which we are, thankfully. It’s no longer fair if one person is overspending while the other person is saving.

Setting Goals Together and Compromising

Even though Johnny is most definitely the more financially savvy of the two of us, he’s not the one who sets our financial goals. We sit down and talk through what we want and what we’re both willing to do to get there. Not one person is coming up with a financial plan and then cracking the financial whip on the other person.

What it all comes down to is being willing to compromise. Johnny and I agree to disagree a lot. A LOT. But when it comes to big-picture financial stuff, we talk and talk and talk some more until we’re able to reach a compromise. Johnny probably still wishes we would just eat frozen burritos each night so we could have a $50 grocery budget each month. But we’ve compromised, and he lets me do my thang when it comes to grocery shopping. And I’ve compromised by being sure to stay within our grocery budget each month.

So those are our keys to a financially-happy marriage, seven years in. What would you add to this list? How do you and your S.O. make finances work?

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14 Comments

  • Reply Retired by 40 July 16, 2014 at 7:23 am

    I love how you are both on the same page, and acknowledge that it”s taken time to get there. Plus, I think many people put too little emphasis on the importance of being transparent and equal in the relationship. Too often there is some imbalance, and that makes it haaaard to be on the same page. Way to go, you guys!

    • Reply Joanna July 21, 2014 at 12:31 am

      Thanks! It’s definitely taken time! And it’s something we have to keep working at, of course! For instance, when Sally shattered by phone screen on Friday, I REALLY didn’t want to be transparent about the cost to get it fixed! 😉

  • Reply Aaryona July 16, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    I have been following your blog for quite some time now, but this is my first time to post! I have to tell you, it is so nice to read money tips from REAL people! Thanks for that!

    As for the topic at hand, I hope one day (sooner, rather than later) that my husband and I get on the same page! A year a go we graduated from college (May), got married (June), and bought a house (Aug) – it was quite a bit of “growing up” to do in a few short months! We have set up a budget along with a certain percentage of our paycheck that goes towards personal use. Right this moment we aren’t throwing every penny we have at debt, but instead to our emergency fund. Once that hits a certain dollar amount, then Debt – here we come! It has been a struggle getting on the same page but your post reminded me that it takes time (and many compromises!), and that’s OK!

    • Reply Joanna July 21, 2014 at 12:33 am

      Thanks, Aaryona. And you’re totally right… It is okay!! I don’t think a couple disagreed more than Johnny and I did our first year of marriage :). Each year gets easier with the compromising. Way to go on all you guys have already accomplished in your time together!!

  • Reply Newlyweds on a Budget July 16, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    I think I definitely need to put myself on a personal spending budget. WE have gone a little wild with our spending recently and definitely need to reign it in

    • Reply Joanna July 21, 2014 at 12:34 am

      That happens to us from time to time, too. I think if we were all perfect at budgeting, life would be a little dull :).

  • Reply Rob July 16, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    “How do you and your S.O. make finances work?”

    Simple – we just go out and print more money! :-)

    Naw – j/k – of course you guys know that you and me and my “better half” are all on the same page where finances are concerned. It’s just that we’ve had more married years over you to practice and try to get things right most of the time.

    • Reply Joanna July 21, 2014 at 12:35 am

      Tell me more about this money printing! We want in on that! 😉

      It’s always about time, isn’t it? I feel good having 7 years under our belts, so I can’t imagine how good it must feel to be where you guys are!

  • Reply Little House July 17, 2014 at 9:51 am

    It took us a while to get onto the same page. I’m the more financially savvy one and so I use the power of persuasion to get Mr. LH to agree with my views. 😉 However, it sometimes takes years! Now, we’re both pretty much on the same path and have common goals that we’re working on together. It feels great to share the same vision!

    • Reply Joanna July 21, 2014 at 12:35 am

      Having common goals is key! Once you have those, the compromising comes easily. Way to go!

  • Reply Miranda July 31, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Johnny, you’re very lucky to have Joanna keeping you from eating all those frozen burritos. If you think about it, she’s really saving money considering the triple by-pass she’s prevented in a few decades. 😉

    • Reply Johnny August 1, 2014 at 1:21 am

      She’s waging a war against my happiness, so let’s just hope all this heath mumbo-jumbo pays off. :)

  • Reply Ileana March 3, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    I’m getting married in January and I’ve always been a bit of a control freak. I’m the budgeter in the relationship, although I used to be kind of a shopaholic (a reformed one, but one nonetheless). Since getting engaged, however, I’ve drastically changed my habits and I’m working my way towards building my half of our 3-month emergency fund. I have to say, though, it’s daunting to think that I’m going to have to adjust to how my fiancé views money. He’s not a spendthrift, but I’m more of a tightwad with money since our engagement. I’m obsessively reading your blog to see if I can loosen up and be able to be comfortable with the idea of joining financial forces next year. Any additional advice???

    • Reply Joanna March 22, 2015 at 6:58 pm

      First, congrats on the engagement and impending marriage! How exciting. As you probably know, Johnny and I also approached money differently when we were first married. Here is what really helped us:

      First, make sure you have an open line of communication about money and spending. Think of it as “our” money, which will help make you guys accountable to each other. And if you guys are having a hard time getting on the same page, think of your long-term goals. Chances are good that you want the same things in the long run, which should help you be able to be on the same page in the day-to-day spending. It’s an ongoing process, but you guys will be able to figure it out! Good luck!

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