A while back, my friend Jessica asked me to write about couples and sharing finances. I thought I would start out by writing about this from a personal perspective. Jordan and I do have a pretty good system for sharing finances that works well for us (IMHO). I thought I would share it with you here.
When we moved in together our finances (bank accounts, RSPs, debts, etc.) were 100% separate. We made the decision to keep it separate because we (but mostly Jordan) were and still are in a period of massive life uncertainty right now. Jordan moved in with me just before his last semester of university. He’s now finished his degree and is searching for his first engineering job. Jordan has no idea what job he will get, where he might have to move, etc. So we decided at the time he moved in to keep our finances separate because we might very well have to maintain separate households again in the near future. Keeping our finances separate at this point also just felt the most comfortable for both of us.
Now, over the last 6 months, we have really started saving up for our wedding in earnest. This is where I think our finances begin to get a little bit blended. We both have wedding savings in our separate TFSAs. Even though the accounts are separate and in our individual names, we still very much consider that our money, not separate money. So even though we don’t have shared access to those accounts, we do have shared money in those accounts. We have taken a first step towards blending some of our finances, the names on the accounts just don’t reflect that yet.
What we have 100% unequivocally shared over the last 6 months is our expenses and the spending decisions we make around them. When we decided that Jordan would move in with me, we sat down together and made up a budge. It included all the expenses we thought we were going to share (groceries, rent, gas, and so on) and how we would split them equitably. For example, Jordan pays 60% of our grocery bill because he eats more food than me but I pay 60% of the booze category because I’m the lush. We set up a spreadsheet to track every purchase for our shared expenses, calculate the total amount spent for each category, and then split up the bills according to the % we had agreed upon. We did this in Google docs so we could both see the spreadsheet and update it. We also got a joint credit card to put all of our joint purchases on. We’ve matched our budget cycle to the credit card cycle, so once the bill is due we know exactly what amount we each have to pay. (Mostly. There have definitely been a few accounting errors but we think we have it worked out now.) We also make time to review our budget every other month and check in with each other about our shared expenses. This allows us to make small tweaks before things become big problems and it means we stay on the same page financially.
I’m happy to report that this shared system is working really well for us so far. We haven’t had a single fight about money since Jordan moved in. Having it in a shared Google doc allows both of us to view what the other is up to when it comes to our shared expenses. At the same time, we still have separate accounts, so I have the privacy to buy what I want on my personal dime. It’s mostly Starbucks and expensive hair treatments for me; Jordan buys a lot of fast food and books (he clearly hasn’t read my post extolling the virtues of the library). These expenses are nothing extraordinary, but it keeps us from fighting about small financial decision that don’t affect each other (it also keeps gifts for each other somewhat of a surprise). I also really like how we put all of our expenses on the shared credit card. It means that when the bill is due, the discussion is about how much of the bill we each have to pay and not about how much one of us owes the other. It’s a subtle difference but I think it’s really important because it keeps the power equal. If one of us constantly had to pay the other, it would create resentment and an unequal power dynamic so fast. Neither of those would be good for our relationship. So I’m glad that we’ve avoided that trap and instead have found a solution that works well for us.
Looking to the future, I don’t think we’ll keep this system forever. Our plan once we are married is to start having shared accounts for things like bills and savings. I think we will both keep our own separate accounts for our individual “fun money” but the plan is to otherwise have our finances 100% shared at the end of the day. We view marriage as us being one family, a unit, and on the same team. Shared finances go hand-in-hand with that vision.
What about you readers? How are you sharing finances in your relationship? How is it working for you?