In relationships, discussions about money typically equal stress. But if you and your partner communicate openly about your finances, money talks don’t have to be stressful. As I mentioned in Part One, How to Start the Money Talk, before you combine finances with your partner it is important to have a detailed discussion about your individual financial situations.
Once you have a clear picture, it will be easier to set a plan for managing your expenses. The best way to deal with your money each month is to have a method in place that you both agree on. Here are a few suggestions for how to manage money as a couple.
After you have thoroughly discussed your finances with your partner, the first thing to do is open a joint account. That doesn’t mean close your individual accounts, because they may still be necessary, but having a joint account will be an important tool in helping you manage your money as a couple.
Now that you have this account, how do you fund it?
Most couples don’t earn the same amount of money, yet they both may contribute to the monthly living expenses. One way for each person to feel as though they are fairly contributing is to put equal amounts of money into the joint account each month. This is my preferred method, especially when each person has a sizable salary.
The couple can then use this money to cover all the monthly household bills, evenings out, and large purchases for the home. Any money left over can be transferred to a joint savings account or just carried over to the next month. The remainder of each person’s salary that is not transferred into the joint account can be then used at his/her personal discretion. I tend to end up buying shoes!
If there is a sizable difference between what you and your partner earn, consider the percentage method to fund your account. In this method, each spouse deposits an equal proportion of his/her take-home pay into the joint account. This can be 30, 40, or even 75%; you and your partner decide what will work best for you and your household expenses.
As with the equal amount method, funds in the joint account can be used to cover household expenditures, and all monies not transferred each month can be spent or saved at the individual’s discretion.
Go All In
The all-in method is an option, but it’s rather delicate. Under this option, you and your partner agree to have the total amount of your paychecks deposited into your joint account. You would then pay all of your household bills and personal expenses from the same account.
All-in requires excellent money management skills and constant financial communication. Because you are both spending money from the same pot, shopping trips, entertainment, and all other discretionary spending needs are regularly discussed so you can budget accordingly.
If the whole idea of combining your finances doesn’t sound appealing, consider the allocation method. With this choice, you and your partner are each responsible for specific bills.
For example, one spouse may pay for rent and utilities while the other covers groceries, insurance, and transportation costs. With this method, the couple maintains independent monthly budgets to cover their allocated expenses and each partner pays for his/her personal expenses as well.
Be Open to Adjustments
No matter which method you and your partner choose to manage your money, the bottom line is to make sure that both of you are comfortable with the arrangement. If you find that your choice is not working, adjust your plan so money does not get in the way of your happiness with each other.