When my mom got married, my grandmother warned her that a woman shouldn’t marry a man until she can fill up an entire closet with shoes and hats that she bought herself. I love this little piece of advice because my grandmother did not come from a time when women were expected to do for themselves, yet she saw the value in financial independence.
I’m not a huge shoe fanatic. I’d call myself more of a collector. I like them, but they aren’t the end-all for me. However, they represent a choice in the way I might want to spend my money.
For many of us, our partners spend their extra cash in ways that we just can’t wrap our minds around. I’d rather buy a dress, new curtains, organic yogurt (that’s extra expensive), and my trainer at the gym, while my partner prefers a new iPhone, a Wii, iPod, etc. You can see the electronics pattern. I just don’t really get it. Although, his iPhone has come in handy with something we do agree spending money on–traveling. So, we have our similarities and differences when it comes to purchases. Here’s how we’ve decided to handle our finances, and so far, it’s really worked.
1. We divide our household expenses (mortgage, utilities, etc.) by the percentage of what our income brings into the home. For instance, if you make 65,000 a year, while your partner makes 50,000 a year, you would split the household expenses 57% and 43%. This way, if you aren’t leaving beyond your means, no one feels completely stretched. It seems fair.
2. The money we have leftover is basically our own. However, we our going to start, hopefully this Friday, a savings account together, so we can have some money tucked away for unexpected household expenses like the toilet flooding or air conditioner going on the fritz.
3. Even though the money after bills is technically our own, we’ve decided that any purchase over $200 we’ll discuss with each other. However, if I just have to have this Anthropologie dress, I don’t have to ask, and he’ll only think about how good I look in it. If one of us wanted to buy a moped, for some reason, we’d need to talk it over. For some of you, the amount might be smaller or larger ($100 or $500), just depends. No worries as long as you decide on the number together.
4. Talk about the money you owe. We’ve been open about our debt for quite some time. I knew that he had a little credit card debt to pay down, and he knows that I have a moderate amount of student loan debt. Don’t drop these bombs too late in the game. It’s important for your partner to know what your financial situation looks like.
5. We both use Mint.com to help us budget our money. It is an amazing site that sends you e-mails when you’ve exceeded certain parts of your budget, breaks down your spending into categories (food, car, etc.), and even sends you alerts on big purchases or deposits. I don’t know how I lived without it. The knowledge that we are both connected and in-the-know about our money through this site also helps.
So, I don’t have the hats to fill up my closet yet, but I do have the shoes. The most important thing that I have is an open-line of communication with my partner about finances. He also loves spreadsheets and that helps!
P.S. I realize that these rules may have to change drastically when we have kids. I’d love to hear some of your advice on how you handle expenses at that stage in life.