(source)I've read and heard, many times, that money is one of the biggest points of contention in relationships. I'm not sure how accurate that statement is, statistically, but I definitely don't disagree. Money is very personal. It can be difficult to discuss and incredibly stressful, especially if couples don't share the same spending (and saving) habits. Every person and every couple, though, has their own way of organizing and managing their finances. I'd like to share how the future mister and I organize our money because I remember trying to research similar information when we were preparing to move in together back in the spring of 2009. Again, this is not to say that our way is better than anyone else's, but rather it's what works for us.
Around the time that the future mister and I first started contemplating our move to Georgia, I began worrying about how we would deal with our money. I knew that I didn't want us to combine our finances completely, but I also wasn't a huge fan of keeping everything separate. It can get quite confusing when you have multiple bills and have to keep track of who owes who and how much. After some thought and deliberation (and research), I suggested to the future mister that we open up a joint bank account. Since we each earn different salaries and have different amounts of debt and/or personal bills to pay, I thought that contributing a percentage would be more fair than deciding on a flat amount. At the time that I presented this information, the future mister was not on board. Unfortunately, I can't recall the reasons why, but that's neither here nor there.
Eventually we moved and only a few weeks after that we were engaged. We had not been living in our apartment a full month when the future mister, out of the blue, told me that he had changed his mind (perhaps he just needed to warm up to the idea, or maybe he was waiting for the engagement - who knows). The process of setting up a joint checking account was fairly simple. We each have checks and a debit card, and can both access our account online. Once that was complete, we sat down and agreed on the parameters. Every pay period, we each contribute a certain percentage of our paycheck to the joint account. This money is used for rent, utilities, groceries (which includes cleaning supplies and basic toiletries), and joint gifts, in addition to food, entertainment and travel that we do as a couple. Any other bills (for instance, I have some student loans, a car payment, car insurance, a cell phone bill, and a fitness membership), gifts, hobbies, more expensive toiletries/beauty products (like makeup), and individual food, entertainment or travel is paid for separately. In addition to our joint checking account and separate checking accounts, we each have our own savings accounts with enough of a safety net for us to live for a few months if one or both of us were to lose our job/teaching assistantship. Someday, in the near future, we would like to set up a joint savings account as well.
So far, our system has worked out very well. We never have to worry about owing each other anything and neither one of us has to feel guilty or ask permission if we want to purchase something for ourselves or spend our personal money in some other form or fashion. I'm glad that we were able to discuss this openly and come up with a solution that meets our current needs.
What kind of financial arrangement do you and your significant other have? Do you have any advice?