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:
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.
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.)
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?