How to Manage Money as a Couple

I was talking to a young married couple who was fighting over money. What fascinated me the most was that they just got back from their honeymoon. The ink is not even dry on their wedding certificate and they are already screaming divorce. They then came to me for advice. As l listened, it sounded like my husband and myself during our first year or marriage and I shared some of the lessons learned in how to manage money as a couple, especially when you are very different people.

I am disciplined by nature. When you had a job involving grenades, you naturally develop a tendency to think ahead about possible problems. This spilled over into every area of my life.

I also do not like to spend money. Some use the word cheap. I consider it being fiscally cautious with how I choose to part with friends like Mr. Franklin, Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Washington.

My husband on the other hand used to treat money like a one night stand:  hunt it down, use and discard. There was no love for Franklin, Lincoln nor Washington. He also is much more spontaneous. He considered planning to be for the boring.

We learned that we saw money through very different lenses and those lenses conflicted. It took some time but we finally came up with some ground rules that brought peace to our lives and made Mr. Franklin, Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Washington and all of their friends permanent instead of temporary residents in our bank accounts. Now my husband actually leads the meeting.

Here is the lowdown of the best information I stole from couples that were married for decades with different philosophies regarding money. There are no original ideas just repackaged ones:

1. We agreed to have a budget meeting every week to review the spending. It made the most sense that I did the budget but I had to learn to frankly shut up as he reviewed it, leave out any commentary (so hard), and (sigh) be willing to make changes. My husband had to agree to be present (both his body and mind) and actually look at the budget.I found that after a few minutes of talking about the budget, it was like his spirit left his body so we keep the meetings short. I also learned to never schedule the budget meeting on any evening with sports games.

2. We both had to compromise. I had to bend and create what some call a “free money” category in our budget. This is a part of the budget that can be used for anything. Initially, it was a very small amount. It gave my husband the spontaneity he wanted but with confines that did not make me panic every time I heard, “Hey, I have an idea.”

3. We have a joint account for family bills and two separate personal spending accounts. I realized that my husband felt that I was the household Financial CSI – determined to trace every penny to its source, wanting full accountability. He said he almost expected to be searched at every meeting. We then realized that we needed separate accounts for spending and whatever is spent in those accounts is not to be discussed.

4. We also came up with some family rules. The top ones were that any spending above a certain amount we had to discuss as a family and we decided on an amount monthly that we agree to randomly give. For instance, one Christmas eve we were all in a restaurant and had a wonderful conversation with a young single mom who was trying to go to school and had to work Christmas eve and Christmas morning. With delight, my children said that we should give her the money and we gave her a much larger than average tip. Much to my delight, my husband and kids are very protective of the random giving amount – to the point where they will delay gratification to make sure we can always give.

With a few simple rules and a shared family vision for where you see yourself and your family, it is possible to get on the same page about money. How about you? Does your family have any money rules? If so, share them in the comments section below.


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