:::: MENU ::::

Steph’s Spouse Situation- Part Two


This morning I talked about how my husband and I differ on our reasons for getting out of debt.  In this post I want to talk about how we handle our finances.

Our money has always been just that, ours. I have no problem with people who split money responsibility, my brother and his wife do it and it seems to work for them just fine.  We, however, have always put all our money together and I am the gatekeeper of the bills. My husband tells me everything he spends and most of the time will call and ask me if a certain purchase would be a problem.  I understand that some men would feel like they make the money so they should be able to spend it how they see fit and again, that’s fine but this is what works for us.  We both view this as a partnership and he knows if I say “don’t spend $ right now” that there is a financial reason for it and he doesn’t take it personally.  Now, sometimes he will say I want <insert item here>, what would it take to make that happen?  We then figure out a budget together and he purchases what he wants when it’s financially possible.

**I do not mean to say that people who separate their money into mine and yours aren’t partners.  I am a firm believer that just because something works for me does not mean that it should work for you.  Also, my way is not the right way, it’s just what works for us. Moving on…..**

This is how it works:

Twice a month both of our paychecks get direct deposited into our bank account. A certain amount comes out of my husbands check and gets direct deposited into our credit union account. This pays the car note and the loan payment. The rest of the money gets divided up among our bills as I see fit.  Before we were making a concerted effort to get out of debt I would decide how much would be paid toward each debt.  I always paid more than the minimum but how much more varied from month to month. Now that our goal is getting out of debt, we discuss what needs to be paid off and in what order.   I let him know how much I’m paying toward what but again actual amounts are my decision.  Every two weeks I look at our bills (electricity, water, ect.) and I figure out how much to pay toward whatever it is we are trying to pay off.

There are down sides to this.  Sometimes he forgets to tell me that he’s gotten gas, or bought lunch for a coworker because they didn’t have their wallet.  This used to be a real problem but now I check our online account daily and if I see something that he didn’t mention I can ask about it to make sure its a legitimate charge and not a fraudulent one that I need to check into. Another con would be that all the money responsibility is a heavy weight for me to carry sometimes.  When we get into arguments about money it’s easy for me to feel like I’m the one with the burden and he is the one that gets to tiptoe through the tulips. For the most part though, I like it.  If I didn’t know exactly what was going on with our money I think I’d have some sort of breakdown and my husband is so easy going that the arrangement works for him too.

That’s it in a nutshell.  If there was anything that isn’t clear or if you have other questions, please let me know!






  • Reply Scooze |

    Please don’t take this too badly, but when I read the first part of your article, it would seem that you and your husband have an ideal system. But then in the second part you mention money arguments. I’m guessing that the description you crafted above is more aspirational and less achieved. In other words, I’ll bet you want to do those things, but it doesn’t really happen that way. What actually causes the money arguments? Which parts are the hardest and what do you really do vs. what do you want to do but wish you were better at?

    All in all, you seem to be getting on track.

    • Reply Stephannie |

      I understand what you’re saying. We rarely argue about money but it used to be something that came up fairly often. Now that I’m thinking about it, I think we are kind of in a sweet spot when it comes to money because we are trying to get out of debt and that puts us agreeing on where our money currently goes. Before we started this we argued a lot about how much to spend on something. For example, my husband wanted to buy an expensive lawn mower but I wanted to buy used. That was a major disagreement. These arguments may come up again after we are debt free but for now they don’t seem to be a problem.

  • Reply debtor |

    It would be really awesome if other married folks or unmarried combining money went into a little summary like this here in the comments. It would help the whole community learn I think and people like me see what options are out there. I don’t think this is discussd enough.

    • Reply Kristina |

      I agree with this. I am single and self sufficient, but I’m always curious about how married couples handle money.

  • Reply scarr |

    My husband and I almost never have money arguments. We have the same goal in mind so it is easy for us to agree on what to save and spend. Also, budgeting and paying bills is a great way for us to spend time together. We have always considered our money “ours” – it all goes into our accounts that we both have access to. When I want to buy something that is not budgeted, I say something and so does my husband (usually anything over $20). We do this because we respect each other. We keep our checking account at a separate bank than our emergency fund and we check the balances often. I understand each couple has their own way of managing family finances, but this works best for us and we are always on the same page about what is due and what has already been paid.

  • Reply Mary from SC |

    Your situation sounds very much like ours. We are in it together and working hard to get out of it together. We each get a certain amount each month to do with as we please…no questions asked. After that we discuss every purchase and are trying diligently to get out of debt together.

  • Reply Joe |

    This topic has come up a few other times and it’s always very informative to hear more thoughts.
    We do the “complete consolidation” approach where both paychecks go into one account, everything is a joint account, etc, etc. There are a few stray older accounts here and there that are in only one name, but the other has been added as a beneficiary.

    This works very well for us, but I would emphasize a few factors that I believe help in this regard:
    1. We have similar incomes.
    2. We are debt-free. (except for mortgage)
    3. We are both generally reasonably frugal (my wife more so than me).

    In terms of spending, we talk through major purchases (like cars), but trust each other’s judgment for 99% of the rest. I think this would be MUCH more difficult if not for #1-3 above.

  • Reply Morgan |

    Our situation is a little different, but like you said, its about what works for each couple, not what is “right”. I stay home with our kids, and my husband works full time, at the job he started at 5 days after we graduated high school (this suddenly makes me feel old!).

    I am the family accountant, and I am responsible for all our financial choices. Sometimes it feels like a lot of pressure to do all the right things, like contribute enough to retirement, keep the grocery budget under control, and manage unexpected expenses. I don’t share details of day to day choices about money, because he prefers it that way. He of course has access to all this info, but he chooses to let me handle things. While not a perfect system, it is free of arguments. We have yet to argue about money, even once.

    We don’t have any debt, but one of my budget short comings is that I don’t plan well enough for random expenses, like him needing a new tool for work. I usually have to ask how much it will be, and get back to him, and I think this leads him to think we are broke, but really I just haven’t anticipated his needs well enough. This is a problem that I think happens when one person does all the books alone. Like I said, there is a certain amount of pressure to make all the right choices. I know how hard he works, and I feel like my job is make each penny earned work hard for us.

    • Reply debtor |

      Hi Morgan,

      In your situation how does it work when you spend on wants? Like say buying lunch at work or going to target and seeing something that catches your eye? Does he have to report it to you? Do you let him know when you do the same? How do you make sure you don’t overdraw?

    • Reply Morgan |

      Hi Debtor,

      That is an easy one, my husband rarely wants anything! I’m wracking my brain for his last “want” purchase….perhaps some fancy beers to drink at home now that weather is nice enough to be outside on the deck. So probably $30 worth? We do each have a budget for frivolous stuff, but its only about $30-40 each. It helps that he would be happy to go the rest of his life without ever stepping into a store! He is very diligent about communicating with me what he spends, and I’m so thankful for that.

      Funny that you mention Target, that place is my weakness, so much so that I’ve gone cold turkey all month, but will be making a planned trip on Saturday for hair color and a baby shower gift, and THAT’S IT! I was spending way too much money there, so much that impacted my ability to be flexible and receptive to the things he needs (real needs! ). It didn’t feel good to ask him to wait on needed items because I bought stupid stuff. I won’t go back to feeling like that, so I’m looking for ways to change my behavior to be more respectful of his needs.

      Good question, thanks! It felt good to “admit” that my spending was having a negative impact, no matter how small it was. I think its easy to fall into a false sense of security by saying “well at least we don’t have debt” rather than looking at my own actions and making changes to improve.

    • Reply Stephannie |

      Well said, Morgan! It is a lot of pressure to make sure you are making the best choices. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Jocelyn |

    When we got married we each had one credit card account, and a few checking and savings accounts. Pretty soon after we got married I closed all of my checking & savings accounts and we moved all the money over to his accounts at his credit union (they had better rates) and made them joint accounts. We kept the credit cards as they were because we didn’t want to mess with our credit by opening/closing different credit lines. So as it stands now we each have one credit card account, and then everything else is combined in joint accounts. It works for us. 🙂

  • Reply Meghan |

    We have two checking accounts that we both have access to, but we consider a “his” and “hers” more because of our spending habits than anything else. Also, I am the one who does all our bills. My husband has never been one to budget and has no desire to, and before we were together he used to let his fairly well-off parents bail him out pretty regularly if he found himself having “too much month at the end of the money” (once we were married I put stop to that, I was raised to be self-sufficient).

    Back to our spending, we both get paid once a month (at the beginning) and when that happens I pay all our bills and allot everything to its appropriate place. After this is done I take all that is left, minus his agreed upon monthly spending money, and transfer it to my account. The main reason for this is my husband will not pay attention to his account, he is very much of the mindset that if there is money in the account it is available to spend. So, for example, when we kept both our monthly spending money in the account we would get to the end of the month and all of that money would be gone yet the only thing I bought was a coffee! At the end of every month his account balance only has change in it, while I often prefer to roll over my spending money and save up for bigger things. Plus, this way he knows that if he wants something and he is out of money then he needs to find another way to get it (say trading in video games to get a new game if he doesn’t want to wait till the next month). He will also let me know if he wants to save for something big that would fall under the category of coming out of that money and I will help him save for that as well.

    I know it sounds like a very parent-child relationship as far as money is concerned, and it probably is, but my husband never grew up watching his parents struggle with money, if he wanted something he was always able to have it, so he is very willing to let me be responsible for all of this stuff. We do confer pretty regularly on where we are on things (he does like to hear, for example, how much our 401k has grown), but as far as the day-to-day stuff, well, once a year I make him sit down and see everything so that if anything were to happen to me he would know where to find things.



    • Reply Zebbie |

      This is along the same lines that my husband and I handle our money, and also more due to varying spending habits then anything else. Yes, sometimes I feel like the “mom” but I have realized this is preferable to not being able to cover the bills.

      • Reply Stephannie |

        I agree, Zebbie. There is always a trade off and I would prefer to feel a little burdened sometimes rather than be panicking because I don’t know exactly what’s going on with our finances.

  • Reply Jen |

    I am really interested in hearing how others work with separate accounts. I just wouldn’t be happy in that situation, but am very curious how it works for others.

    My husband and I handle money in a very similar manor as you Stephannie. What is ours is ours. No his and hers.

    When my husband and I got together, we had both come from previous long-term relationships. His ex-fiancé left him in considerable debt because of her money hiding issues. She had control over the bill paying and she let him know what was “left over” for groceries and free spending. When I finally tabulated it later (by combing through his old credit card and bank statements) there was somewhere in the neighborhood of $40,000 unaccounted for. We were literally finding bills for years after she moved out; she tucked them into closets, drawers, under the basement stairs, under beds, etc. It was a very strange relationship she had with money. Anyway, even with that fact my husband was very easily able to co-mingle his money with mine within six months of us moving in together. He still prefers to have a hands off approach.

    It really works out well for me because I am sort of a control freak about money. My mother and grandmothers all managed the family finances and it has just been my natural duty. Even in my previous relationship, I controlled all of the major aspects of our money management. In fact, I found it very strange when I first learned that money was the leading cause of conflict and divorce. It really seemed absurd to me because we argued about everything BUT money in my previous relationship.

    So this is how it works for us: We are each paid bi-weekly on opposite weeks, meaning that we have a paycheck deposited every week. It is all directly deposited into our joint account. We have no separate personal accounts. I have our savings automatically withdrawn on that day into a joint account at another bank. For bills, I have a 2-year monthly calendar where I write down when each bill is due on its due date. On the date of payday, I make a list of all of the bills that will be paid out of that check. On that payday, I go through and make all of the payments for that week. I then cross out the bills that have been paid on their respective dates and cross out the payday list.

    If he needs or wants something, he will generally call or text me to find out if there is enough to cover it. He knows that if I say not right now, it just means that there are other more pressing things to be taken care of at the moment. I hear people saying that they would hate to have to “ask for permission” but that is not the case here. He isn’t asking permission at all, he is merely checking to verify the status of the accounts before he makes purchases. He trusts that I have the family’s financial situation at heart and am doing what is best for us all, not just denying him the pleasure of spending.

    As far as passwords and important documentation, I make sure we have a list of everything in a safe location he has access to…just in case. I have printouts of insurance policy information in there as well so that he will have a bit of direction if something should happen to me. I actually learned this the hard way from my previous relationship; I had to teach him how to take care of his bills because I did all of it before we broke up. Talk about an awkward situation.

    • Reply Stephannie |

      Whoa, that does sound awkward! I’m so glad you mentioned printouts of policies and passwords! I haven’t done that and I really need to so that he will have access to what he needs in case something happens to me. Thanks for that reminder!

  • Reply hannah |

    I am just wondering if anyone has tried the month ahead plan?

    The way it works is that you have all the money you need at the start of the month, for all the bills that month.
    So, June 1st I automatically have money taken out of the main account for the bills that are due around the first of the month, plus savings for different categories such as food, fuel, insurance etc.
    Then around the 15th, the rest of the money comes out for the bills due toward the end of the month. This way everything is as automated as possible, except for bills I need to input a varying amount.
    Also, I don’t have to wait for the money to arrive, since we are living off last month’s paycheck.
    It is simple, works really well, and I like the idea of essentially having a month’s extra savings in our checking account.
    In our house all the money goes in one main account and is then split off to different categories and accounts. I handle all the finances, as hubby isn’t interested in a hands on approach to finances, but he is always being updated on our current stats.
    We have a set amount of spending money every month, and if it is something over that he will ask if we have the room for it right now. We also trust each other for small purchases, and NEVER have money fights.
    I really like what a commenter said above about having her husband’s account only have a set $$ of spending money, while she handles the surplus. They both handle money very differently, and rather than fight over his ‘waste’ of it, they came up with a solution that keeps their financial house in order, and doesn’t leave him feeling deprived or restricted. Of course this requires both parties to agree to an arrangement – but isn’t that what marriage is all about? Compromising, communicating, and agreeing to work together. 🙂

    • Reply Stephannie |

      That sounds like a pretty good system! You hit it right on with your last sentence!

So, what do you think ?