Couples combining finances, when marrying or even cohabitating long term, can feel like turbulent waters to be navigated. It may lead to arguments about fairness, equity and balance. Luckily, some education and communication can make the transition to combined finances much smoother sailing.
Both partners should do their own research on methods for combining finances and take into consideration their own financial situation as a single person. Some couples will choose to keep finances separate and have a joint account for household bills, contributing their part. They may agree to contribute proportionally. For example, if Partner A makes $5,000 per month and Partner B makes $3,000 per month, they both contribute an agreed upon percentage of their income to the joint account, generally with the higher earner taking on a higher proportion of the financial burden. The advantage here is that neither partner feels pressured to keep up or budget down. The drawback would be that the higher earning partner may feel resentful over time, or like they are being penalized for earning more.
Other couples may split all bills 50/50 regardless of how much either partner earns. Advantages are that neither partner feels taken advantage of or like they’re being subsidized, there is no power imbalance. The drawbacks include potential differences of lifestyle and feeling like a roommate rather than a partner.
And still, other couples may combine all finances, with all income put into joint accounts. This allows for easier book-keeping, and a more “we” spirit rather than a “you” and “me. Drawbacks can include resentment over spending habits, resentment over contributions to the joint fund.
No matter which method of combining finances you and your partner choose, communication must be open and honest. Discuss lifestyle expectations, money management styles and financial goals.
Keep purchases out in the open. If one partner overspends one month and will be short on a bill, it must be communicated. Mistakes happen. Unexpected purchases and unplanned for expenses occur. Talk about it, make a plan and handle it, together.
If you’ve completely combined finances, set a rule that if one partner wants to make a purchase over an agreed upon dollar amount, they must check in the other partner. This dollar amount will vary with your household income, saving goals, debts, and other concerns. Some couples will have a $100 limit, others will have a $30 limit, and still some may have a $1000 limit. If a partner wants to purchase something “extra”, like a big-ticket hobby item, it is best to run it by the other partner. Money spent on “extras” should be balanced between both partners so as not to breed resentment.
Keep lines of communication open, keep educating yourselves and be flexible when life throws curve balls. Careers change, layoffs happen so make a plan with your partner now to avoid arguing when stress is high from financial issues and you’ll be thanking yourselves for it later.