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Marriage and Money: Communication Is Key When It Comes to Managing Your Money Together

By Erik Folgate

My wife and I sat down today and mapped out our expenses for the next 6 weeks based on my pay periods.  We figured out which bills needed to be paid during which pay period, and took the remaining amount of money after all the bills were paid and figured out where that money needed to go.  We are going skiiing in a week, then the mayhem of Christmas, and then my best friend is getting married, so we will have a busy next three weeks.  Sitting down and communicating about where the money needs to go and how much we have to spend on each category will save about 10 or 12 arguments in the next three weeks.  We are both on the same page now, and there will be no surprises when we are spending our money.

If you have read this blog before, then you know that I am a strong proponent of joint bank accounts with married couples.  There is no excuse you can throw at me that will convince me that it is a good idea to have separate accounts in the long term.  The importance of communication is the main reason why I believe in joint accounts.  If I had my own little account and she had her own little account, there would be no reason for us to sit down together and budget out our money except for saying, “Okay, i’ll pay for this, if you pay for that”.  No, I don’t buy that.  Marriage is not a joint venture.  It’s the bringing together of two people and acting as one unit.

We have made strides in the past month with making our money behave.  We know exactly how much money is coming, and we know exactly where it is going.  We may not know penny-for-penny what we paid for, but at the end of the month we are 100% positive that we spent $170 on groceries, $110 on gas, and so on.  Freedom with your finances occurs when you start taking control of it.  If you communicate with your spouse about your budget, hold each other accountable for sticking to it, and encourage each other when you win with finances, then you’ll have a stronger relationship with your spouse and a much happier life.

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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  • http://stubborncapitalist.com SCapitalist

    I couldn’t agree more. Merging finances requires clear communication so that BOTH parites are functioning as one. Communication and finances are two major obstacles to a successful marriage. As disastrous as these subjects can be, if applied correctly they can make a marriage much stronger.

  • http://www.erikfolgate.com erik.folgate

    Yeah, I don’t think it’s some kind of new revelation to say that communication is key to a marriage, but I think the part that people forget about is that good communication with your spouse includes what you are spending and why you are spending it.

  • Jacquelyn Hart-McCoy

    I think you are right for the most part however Shawn and I do have separate accounts as well as a joint account and it works out for us very well. Shawn and I agree mostly on our priorities and spending however since I am the extra frugal one and he has a bit of a looser style we decided to keep some money separately. This decreased fighting about his purchases that he found quite necessary and I found unnecessary. (Like CD’s Movies Video Games) It also helped Shawn to learn to save for things. We deposit 100 bucks into each of our separate accounts every payday and the rest goes into our joint account. The joint account is used for everything in our budget (gas, food, mortgage, entrainment, all bills, gifts, ect.) The separate accounts are used however we see fit. Shawn spends his almost every month, and I save most of mine until I find something I really want or need that is not in our budget. (I most recently used my me money on a weekend trip to NYC with the girls to visit little marla!) I think it has been healthy for us. What are your thoughts?

  • http://www.erikfolgate.com erik.folgate

    Hey Jackie – great comment. Even though I take a hard stance against separate bank accounts with married couples, what you described is something that I think is definitely “okay”. You don’t need my permission for anything regarding money, but I know that people read this blog for my opinion, so that’s what I give you!

    Anyway, what you described is something that Lindzee and I do with cash. We call it our “mad money”. We give each other a certain amount of money with which we can do whatever we want without having to justify the purchase. The fact that you use separate bank accounts to hold this money away from your normal living expenses is fine. Some people do that and others just stash the cash away somewhere. You have obviously gone through your budget together at some point, and you are communicating that this $100 is for each of you to do whatever you want with it. That is what it is all about, so I think you are doing things perfectly.

    What I am strongly against is when YOUR payacheck goes into YOUR account and HIS paycheck goes into HIS account. Then he says, “Okay, here’s some money for the bills, and you say, “okay, here’s some money for the bills”. There is much less communication going on in this situation. His paycheck is your money and your paycheck is his money. The problem that I have is when money filters into your separate accounts first and then goes to a joint account. The fact that you keep separate accounts for “mad money” is perfectly fine.

  • Pingback: My Two Dollars - A place to discuss money issues…for the rest of us. » Linkfest Pre-Christmas 2006 - Some of my favorite posts from this week.

  • wendianne

    “There is no excuse you can throw at me that will convince me that it is a good idea to have separate accounts in the long term.”

    Before I was married I would have agreed with you, however, I married a financial abuser so now that statement is extremely scary to me. We’re still married, however– he will never ever go on an account with me again. I will not lose another account, another house, or give him any money from my income without explicit instructions on when, where, and how it’s to be used. Never. I would throw myself off a building first.

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