Tales from the Wallet: Who Manages the Money In Your House?

Kate Spade New York Glitterball Coin PurseWho manages the money in your house — you? your partner? everyone?  This came up recently with a friend, and I thought it might be an interesting open thread.  For those of you without a partner, do you want to stay in charge of your finances — or will you be happy to give that drudgery over? (Pictured: Kate Spade Glitterball Coin Purse, available at Zappos in pink and black for $50.)

For my $.02: In our household, I’m the primary one in charge of our finances, both day-to-day and long-term.  (We tried when we were first married to put 80% of our income into a joint account and 20% into separate accounts for spending money, but we simplified everything and have totally joint accounts now.)  I give my husband a “State of the Union” summary about twice a year (or whenever the mood strikes) — what the balances are, how the investments are doing, how we’re doing on our goals for the year, the good news (how much debt we’ve paid down/savings we’ve banked), the bad news (if we had to dip into savings to pay any bills, how much, when, etc).  He also gets the weekly summary emails from Mint, as well as text messages when our accounts drop below a certain balance (I think that’s another Mint feature, but it may be through our bank, Chase.)  In all honesty, I think it’s easiest to have one person manage everything, but that’s just what I know.  (Especially in our situation, where I occasionally write about personal finance and so I’m reading about it more, whereas my husband just was never into it that much.)

I think it’s funny how sometimes this is seen as a “gendered” family role — I think it’s usually seen as “the man’s job,” but my mother was the primary one in charge of day-to-day finances while I was growing up, as were both my grandmothers before her.

Ladies, who manages the money in your house? If you’re not the primary person, do you get “reports” from your partner?  Was this something you negotiated before you intermingled finances, or did you just fall into your roles?


  1. Research, Not Law :

    We split responsibility. I handle more of the budgeting and long-range planning. He handles the bill payments. I used to handle the bill payments, too, but I got really ditzy when I was pregnant. It was no good. I’ll probably take them back soon, since it’s not really his cup of tea. Also, I’m a saver and he’s a spender, so we do better when I’m in charge of the money.

    We both have access to all accounts and review regularly. We discuss everything together, too.

    • “I’m a saver and he’s a spender, so we do better when I’m in charge of the money.”

      Haha. My thoughts exactly :)

      • This is why I gave over the finances to my husband. :) I am the spender and our savings balance has definitely improved since I ceded control. BUT, he keeps an old-fashioned ledger so I am never in the dark about our financial situation because I can always check the ledger for a quick look at all of our debt/utilities/credit cards/savings/etc. plus as you both mentioned, I have access to all accounts and we discuss any large or out of the ordinary purchases.

        • Also to clarify, we have all joint checkings/savings/investments into which our entire paychecks go but then each have our own personal account into which we get a weekly allowance so he can waste money on tools he doesn’t need without judgment and I can buy starbucks without comments on how we spent good money a Keurig. :)

    • Research, Not Law :

      Also, we only have joint accounts.

      • My husband took over budget management this year. We also have only a joint account and he does most of the Bill payments except for my credit card which is paid off every month. We have monthly budget discussions that are essential as diffas. erent expenses come up. I Don’t miss all the budgeting and he really enjoys it, so this setup works well for us. It also makes me less impulsive as I used to be a shopaholic.

    • Senior Attorney :

      Such a wonderfully interesting topic! I handle all of it in our house. We pool all our finances, even though I make twice what DH makes. I am in charge of day-to-day budgeting, bill-paying, cash-flow, all of it. I do zero-based budgeting so every penny has a job to do, and I have it all set up on MS Money and track it all down to the penny. We have a million different accounts and at this point all the money pretty much flies hither and thither, untouched by human hands. Paychecks come in to the checking account electronically, then are whisked away via automatic billpay or automatic transfers to savings. DH and I each get a cash allowance each week and we also have money transferred every week to our separate personal savings accounts.

      • Senior Attorney :

        Oh, and we definitely make big decisions together. We don’t have regular official finance meetings, but all big decisions are discussed and agreed on.

  2. we are not married, but we DO have a joint bank account. we add in equal amounts each month to pay for bills, groceries, dinners, happy hours, etc. we’ve been trying to save a bit into this account, but it’s not a huge deal. as long as the account stays above a certain dollar value, we’re ok with that! nobody really checks it regularly, except around rent time or another big purchase… as long as we’re always in the “we need to watch our spending” mood, we’ve never been unsatisfied with our joint finances :)

  3. We discuss & decide the budget jointly, but he pays the bills. Short & medium term savings is discussed & decided together, as is any debt. I’m responsible for long term savings as I’m an accountant & understand investing a little better than he does. Taxes are 100% my responsibility (apart from him getting me the slips & other info I need for his taxes). We each have one account that is 100% ours (aside from retirement savings). I use mine to keep track of my spending money. I don’t think he uses his for anything beyond student loan payments. Since I’m far, far more likely to spend money on myself I keep track of my fun (clothes, etc) spending separately.

  4. When we first started dating I was in charge of all of the day to day bill pay. Then I realized he was going back and checking everything because he is, well, anal about money stuff. Since I didn’t really like doing it, I happily relinquished the duties to him. We do investments, saving, and paying down debt (when we have it) together. I do the taxes. We communicate frequently about how we’re doing money-wise. It all kind of evolved into this system, and it works well for us.

  5. We have a joint account that our pay goes into, we use that to pay bills, move money into savings, etc. My husband does the mechanics of paying the bills. We discuss amounts to be saved for different purposes and obviously, most purchases beyond day to day things. I have my own little account that I use for my own personal wants– a coffee at starbucks, lunch out during the work day, a top or pair of shoes, etc. I like being able to keep track of these things myself and not have to “explain” the small discretionary purchases to my husband.

  6. We recently got married and had been living together for a while. We have a pre-nup. So we generally keep our money in separate accounts and have one joint account where we deposit a designated amount to cover all of our joint expenses (rent, groceries, meals eaten out together, entertainment, etc.). I’m in charge of budgeting that stuff and once a month, when the joint credit card bill is due, I’ll let him know if we’ve gone over budget because we’ve gone on vacation, bought a bunch of Christmas gifts, etc. and we both make an extra deposit. We reevaluate the amount of the monthly deposits once in a while and can increase it in the future if there are additional child-based expenses. We have joint ownership over that account and keep the rest of our paychecks in personal accounts to do with as we wish. And we have been pretty successful at setting and forgetting this.

    For long term savings and investments, my husband is just way more into it than me. We keep separate investment accounts, but I’d just dump all my money into something super-safe and he’s more savvy. So I gave him access to my non-401k accounts along with a few parameters (i.e. don’t buy stock in Cigarettes4Kids) and let him make those investment decisions. That may seem a little gendered but I seriously could not care less about stocks and he takes hardcover investment books to read for fun on vacation. So it works for us.

  7. Susan (edna_mode_nyc) :

    Long-term saving & investing decisions are made jointly.

    Day-to-day and month-by-month: He pays the bills. I do the bulk of the budgeting.

    We have agreed upon a certain amount to be saved every month, and a certain amount of play money every month. We have pretty similar atttitudes and habits about money, so that makes things pretty easy.

  8. Anon in ATX :

    DH & I have merged our finances and I am primarily in charge of running the budget on a monthly basis. We will discuss larger savings & spending goals, but otherwise mostly all the categories for spending are set by me. DH & I both get a monthy “allowance” that we are free to spend guilt-free on whatever we want.

    Where we struggle is when I try to get him actively involved in making investment choices for his retirement accounts. I refuse to take this on myself because I feel like he needs to have some say in this. (I already manage my own retirement accts + investments outside retiremment). But it is such a struggle because he drags his feet on research and pulling the trigger. Any advise on how to get him more engaged in the process?

    • Susan (edna_mode_nyc) :

      Is your DH very goal-oriented?

      It can be hard– trying to do something today, researching, re-researching, discussing, etc. for something that seems very far away.

      Perhaps ask him when he’d like to retire. And what he’d like to do retiring. If he can visualize that goal, he may feel more motivated to work towards it.

      I suffer from the same myopia, but when I think that like many other employees in this country, subject to the vagaries of senior management, management trends, rolling layoffs, and a crap economy, I get motivated and start pulling the trigger on long-term investing stuff.

    • FYI, my husband and I (both in finance) have our money in Vanguard (and employer 401(k) companies’) mutual funds with target retirement dates. We basically don’t have to make any decisions, and this is a relief for both of us. Even for our non-retirement savings, we put the money into those types of funds, and just pick a “retirement” date around the time we expect to need the money. Anything that is really short-term, we put in our savings account or a money-market account. We don’t have to do research, we don’t have to follow the markets to closely, we don’t feel bad if the balances go down, and we’re pretty sure that we’ll do okay long-term. If your husband doesn’t like to conduct research, this may be a good option for him. (And it’s recommended by a lot of finance experts, including Felix Salmon, who just wrote about this a few days ago, if I am recalling correctly.)

      • Senior Attorney :

        Thanks for this. I am great at the day-to-day part of finances but I am at a loss when it comes to actually investing the money we’ve worked so hard to save!

      • Turtle Wexler :

        I’m so glad to hear a finance person say this. I don’t actively follow my retirement accounts either, I just have my Vanguard roll-over IRA and my TSP account set to the 2050ish target dates. I was never sure whether this was the best plan, but it’s by far the easiest and reduces my natural tendency to fiddle with things. I’m pretty sure I’d do more damage than good that way…though the funds in TSP are so limited, it really doesn’t matter either way.

      • karenpadi :

        I’m also glad to hear a finance person does this! I use the Vanguard target date funds for retirement and the “lifestyle” funds (defined by a ratio of stocks vs bonds vs other) for other savings. I really like these funds because I feel like I can dump money into them and forget about it.

        • We do this in part to avoid improprieties/insider trading allegations. But we would probably do so anyway. (There are day traders on both sides of our families, and we are not impressed with their pickings.) I don’t have the energy or interest to be hand-selecting stocks, much less following them and trading going forward. And I’m not interested in paying someone to do that for me, either. Vanguard funds have reasonable maintenance fees, you can get a lot of diversity within them, and (if the fund has a retirement target date) they will adjust appropriately among stock, bonds, and other investments, so you don’t have to reallocate your investments yourself.

      • Anon in ATX :


        I too love Vanguard. Back when I started getting serious about fiances I read alot of stuff that basically convinced me that index/target funds are the way to go, so that is what I do for my own 401k plus our joint investments. I guess the issue is DH is not convinced this is the best way to go, but also doesn’t want to commit to the time/homework of doing his own research. I know I don’t want to do the research, & I don’t want to pay someone else to do it either. So, how can I convince him this is the best strategy? I have tried to get him to read books on investing but he just abandons them before he finishes. He seems to rely heavily on advice from his father, who I love, but don’t consider him to be a reliable source because this is not his line of work, and I really have no idea what his father is using for his suggestions besides his own experience.

  9. I am in charge of writeing all check’s on my own bank account, but my DAD manage’s it for me, and ocassionally deposit’s money in it when I need him to do so. Yay dad!

    He also pay’s the morgage on my CO-OP, but I pay the maintanence myself to the CO-OP every month. My dad also manage’s my 401(k) retirement account for me and is handeling a seperate brokerage account he has mantained for me ever since I was a MINOR under the UNIFORM Gift’s to MINOR’s act. It still says this on the account, even tho I am HARDLY a minor.

    My dad also doe’s my taxe’s for me (BOTH FEDERAL + NY STATE + NY CITY), but I sign all of these return’s.

    My dad want’s to transition responsibility for all of this once I get MARRIED, but so far, that is NOT in the card’s b/c most guys are onley interested in spendeing money not saveing for my retirement. If ONLEY I could find a guy to marry like my dad! That is not possible I think, b/c he was recruited by MENSA but turned them down.

    The dummies I meet here in NYC are realy dumb compared to him, so I stopped thinkeing I could find anyone close. FOOEY!

  10. I am in charge of budgeting, bills and building medium-term savings/emergency fund. Since we just merged households recently, we don’t have any joint investments yet – we just have our individual investments. We each put 60% of our paycheques into the joint account, which covers all our mortgage payments/bills/joint financial needs. The system is still a work in progress but so far appears to be working pretty well. We’ll be having our first financial review session in the next week or so to determine how we should tweak our budget and financial processes.

    It is actually kind of ironic that I am in charge of the budget, since BF is more financially savvy than me, but I get very uncomfortable if I don’t know how my money is doing – I’ve actually become quite neurotic about checking Mint (it’s that Type A personality coming out). As well, being in charge of the budget and therefore being accountable to someone else for my financial decisions helps me in my own quest for better personal financial health.

  11. I’m single, so can’t comment for myself. I will say that my mom has always handled the finances in our family. Apparently she started balancing my dad’s checkbook when they were dating in college and has had the responsibility ever since. If anything ever happens to her, my dad is in big trouble. Last year she sent him to the bank to deposit a check … and he went to the wrong bank!

    Although I would want to be informed about the basics, I would love to have a spouse handle the finances. I’m just not a numbers person, I guess.

  12. I used to think that I was the responsible one and therefore the only one who could handle managing our finances. At the same time, I felt put out for having to spend the time paying bills and being the one with ultimate responsibility for our financial condition. AND we were fighting all of the time about all of the frivolous things that each of us wanted to buy. Two solutions:

    1. We rotate bill paying/finance responsibility every two years (it turns out that my husband does an excellent job at it — I should have trusted him long ago); and

    2. The bulk of our paychecks go into a joint account, from which all bills are paid, but a set amount of each paycheck (the same amount for both of us, no matter who makes more money) goes into an account to which the other person does not have access. We each spend that money on whatever we want – no questions asked.

    Viola! No more fighting about money and no more martyrdom on my part.

    • I had a similar situation with my partner. Unfortunately he is not super responsible with bill-paying so rotating is not an option at this point. On the plus side, he wants to develop better habits. Hurray!

      Giving him a couple of small, less important bills did not work, so we’ve starting doing the bills together twice monthly. We made a shared calendar with all of our bills and paydays, and our twice-monthly bill pay time scheduled. We also use that time to talk about other financial things – for example, he started a new job so we went over the benefits options during Bills time. So far, so good!

  13. It’s a bit frustrating, I handle everything and my spouse is a bit clueless on our money front and doesn’t really engage when I try. He nods his head when I try to talk to his about paying off loans, savings, etc., but then will go and spend away the next day. We’ve tried separate accounts (just dips into main one when his allocated funds dry out), cash only, etc., but to no avail. I think he thinks since we have such a comfortable combined income it shouldn’t be a big deal, but he’s not the one paying the monthly expenses, building up savings/retirement, trying to plan vacations and other things. Wow, that was nice to get off of my chest…

    • get some money into a bank account only you have access to!

    • Would he agree to putting most of his money in an account he doesn’t have access to? I suppose that doesn’t prevent him from using a credit card, though.

      I’m inclined to agree with moss that a personal safety account for you would be a good move.

  14. My mother was in charge of the day to day finances, too, but that always made sense to me as she was mostly a homemaker, so this was another “home” duty, though I never got the chance that she was more “in charge” of where the money went then my dad. No idea about my grandparents.

    In my household, my husband definitely does the day to day work. We never sat down and decided that – it just sort of naturally happened, I guess because when we first got together, I really had no regular bills (college student on full scholarship, no car payment, no credit cards). Looking back, I’m actually sort of surprised to see that I’ve never really dealt with any of that stuff. Though most of it is on auto-pay, anyway, which simplifies things.

    That said, though, financial *decisions* are joint – we both are very respectful of each other and confer with any significant financial decisions. Also, I keep an eye on the balances and that sort of thing. I don’t handle the day to day stuff, but I don’t in any way feel like it is out of my control or that I am out of the loop.

  15. I’m married and our finances aren’t really very mingled. He pays the bills for our mortgage, utilities and joint credit card and bills me for my share. I was 31 when we got married and had been on my own since I was 17, so I’m perfectly comfortable handling the bills, he just likes doing it so I figure might as well let him. We have a joint savings account, but each maintain our own checking accounts that our respective paychecks go into. He’s a scientist and I’m a lawyer, so right now I make a lot more than him, but have a lot more student loan payments going out. So for now we just manage our own bills. I also have my own personal credit cards and car insurance that I pay out of my account.

    We’ve been married 5 years, but we’re both pretty independently-minded so for now while we’re both working full-time and don’t have kids yet, this separate system works for us. I’m sure once kids come into the picture and I possibly cut down my hours, or he moves to a university position, we’ll reassess. We’re both pretty responsible, financially, so it hasn’t been a source of contention for us.

    • Oh, he also does the taxes, again, because he likes it (weirdo!).

    • Turtle Wexler :

      This sounds a lot like us, except that I make sure everything gets paid and we have a joint checking account that the mortgage and utilities come out of. I contribute a set amount every pay period and he usually makes a big transfer in every couple months. We also have a joint savings account designated as an emergency fund. Other than that, we keep things separate. I usually pay for groceries from my own account and he pays for dinners out, which pretty much evens out. For other household and other random purchases, we loosely alternate but don’t track too closely who spent how much and when.We don’t make that many big purchases, but when we do, the way we pay for it is on a case-by-case basis. We have no plans to have any joint credit cards and don’t have investments outside of our retirement plans, which I don’t think allow for more than one owner (though we are each other’s beneficiaries). For us, it’s not so much that we think of it as “his money” and “my money,” as that we like having the flexibility of our own accounts (I would go nuts trying to keep track of how much was in a shared checking account used for day-to-day purchases, whereas I always know how much is in my own accounts) and feel like it doesn’t really matter where the money comes from.

      We might reassess when we have kids, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

      On a somewhat tangential note, I paid off the last of my law school loans today! It took a chunk out of my savings, but I should be able to make that up pretty quickly now that I’m not throwing every spare penny at the loan. I’m excited, it feels pretty darn good!

  16. We keep things really separate because when I don’t pay attention it kind of gets out of control. I make more so I pay more bills. I pay mortgage & all other bills except internet, netflix, and the newspaper. He pays those plus all the gas and groceries. He is an independent contractor and can’t really save right now so I save for both of us. I buy all the extras like clothes etc also (he doesn’t need many since he works from home). And I spend my extra money on myself, guilt-free.

  17. I’ll use this thread where Kat recommended a coin purse to recommend my favorite one to the hive. It is this one by Candy Store.


    They sell it here on ulta and other places. It is brightly colored so you can find it easily in your bag and it is silicone so you can clean it out. Circulating change is disgustingly dirty. I bought my change purse at a duty free shop four months ago and I am astonished at how grimy it got on the inside since then. I’m grateful that I was able to just clean it out with dish soap.

  18. I ‘m in a really unusual situation. My husband is an attorney who makes tons more than me, although I am a professional in a management position and earn a very healthy salary of my own. All of our finances are separate. We have a prenup– it is his house and he pays all bills. He also pays for all meals and household items, other than the few things that I choose to shop for on my own. I sold my house when we married and the profit and all of my savings are entirely separate. The only real thing I contribute financially to our household is to pay for health insurance (it is expensive–slightly less than 1/6 of my take home each month). He has a child from a previous marriage and we are not planning to have any together. I never lived with anyone before being married, so have never had to mix finances. Before being married, I always outearned people I dated quite a bit–so even having meals paid for all of the time when husband and I were still dating was a big switch. I have really mixed feelings right now about the whole financial part of my life. I know I am very lucky–I am saving more than I ever dreamed I could and don’t want for anything in any way (not always the case in my life– early career post-grad for me was filled with a couple of low-paying but prestigious positions). I know I should be very happy and I do consider myself quite fortunate, but there definitely is a weirdness to the present arrangement. Husband and I have now been married almost 10 years and get along famously. I’m happier than ever with our relationship and feel like we make a fantastic team when it comes to most decisions and views on things. But I still am a bit envious of those who are “in it together” in every way. That said, I also don’t know if I could ever have that sort of arrangement at any point in life having been solo on my finances for so long. I can’t even imagine having to answer to anyone for any purchases or having to worry about saving while they spend, or any other sort of natural give and take. But I also think having that ability to share so well is a really important character trait and recognize my feelings around this as a personal weakness. The other real negative: There always is the nagging downside, that I’m not really living in “our” house. Sure, I can choose to decorate as I please and it feels like my home–but it isn’t really, and I still know that. (And have financially planned for and protected myself knowing that.) I guess every side has it’s positives and negatives. Such a weird position I am in.

    • Susan (edna_mode_nyc) :

      If you two have a loving relationship, then that’s great. And it sounds like you’ve been super-responsible about your own finances.

      Don’t feel weird or shut-out because you don’t own the house. A house is a liability until it’s fully paid off, and even then, it’s a never ending black hole of repairs, maintenance, and property taxes.

      Plenty a spouse has “fought for the house” post divorce, and found that to be a millstone around his/her neck, leading to personal bankruptcy.

  19. Anon for this :

    Subscribing to follow thread.

  20. TO Lawyer :

    My SO and I have talked about our ideal set-up once we’re married. I’m not sure how well this will work but: joint accounts, with separate credit cards. So all of our money goes into one pot and we would have both a joint credit card and separate cards for our own expenses, that would be paid out of the joint account. (but so neither of us could criticize the other’s day-to-day purchases).

    One of us would likely be responsible for the day-to-day management and bill paying (likely me) and the other would be responsible for investments etc. (likely him because he’s more interested in that). We think that for practicality reasons, one person will have to be responsible for the day to day management but both of us would have a say in investments, risk tolerance, savings proportions etc.

    • This is pretty much exactly what my DH and I have done. We started out with a joint checking, joint savings, and two individual checking accounts, but we pretty much only transferred money into the individual accounts to pay student loans or credit card bills and it was more hassle than it was worth. We haven’t gotten around to getting a joint credit card yet (married four years, together 12) but plan to once we find time to research good rewards cards. Neither of us spends extravagantly, although I definitely spend more than DH does. He handles our Vanguard account where we invest our retirement savings, but he tried to run the investment strategy past me (admittedly, my eyes glazed over a few minutes in but I liked where he was going with it). I handle the day to day bills because I’m more on top of that than he is. We have weekly discussions about how to allocate our funds (savings, paying down debt, upcoming large purchases) and feel like we’re both in the loop.

      What is important to me is that both of us know what accounts we have and where. My dad was suddenly hospitalized last year and passed away. While he was in the hospital and after he passed, my mom had a monumental job gathering together all of the account and deadline info, as well as usernames and passwords, because my dad had been the point person on most of that. I want to get better about organizing things in a hard copy file that can be easily reviewed by my spouse or other beneficiary in the event of an emergency.

  21. Socksberg :

    Between the cats and I, we decided that I would be in charge of the finances. At first one of the cats was in charge, but after she blew a month’s paycheck on premium catnip, I took control.

  22. I manage our money 100%. I pay the bills, do the long range planning, and handle all the budgeting. DH is just terrible with money, so I have all the budgeting planned out in Excel for the next three months, and each couple weeks I email him the planned budget, but he never pays attention. Oh well!

  23. Divaliscious11 :

    We do 10%/90% split with 10% into individual accounts for incidentals, and 90% for household etc… I manage all of the bills and investing, but its all mostly on auto-pilot. Periodically I update my husband, but he mostly trusts me to manage it. I do have a notebook in our family safe that lays out the details etc… should something happen to me but otherwise, I do the managing….

    • I love that you keep a notebook. I also always leave a papertrail and if I am travelling with my SO, for example, I will tell my mother where to find all the important papers so that if the tragic happened, she would at least not have to deal with that aspect of it all. Same for the SO, if I am traveling without him.

  24. I am in charge of the finances in our house. My mom is at my parents’ house (my dad is a complete spaz, so if he were in charge, no bills would ever be paid). I have a couple of finance degrees and have always been a personal finance nerd, so I keep a closer eye on spending than my husband and love my budget spreadsheets! All of our accounts are combined, although I have never bothered to add him to the house. He has recently taken more of an interest and is actually learning a few of our IDs and passwords so he can log into the bank, credit card and see how we are doing each month. We live entirely on one salary and use the other for savings and aggressive student loan repayment.

  25. mintberrycrunch :

    I probably take more interest in the day-to-day stuff (checking in on our bank accounts, etc.), whereas my husband is the long-term investor for retirement, does our taxes, etc. When we first got married, we had a long, drawn-out conversation (argument?) about how to handle our finances – it was hard, because we’d both been single and independent for a long time, and were both very wedded to our way of doing things. But now that we’ve figured things out, it’s pretty much all on auto-pilot.

    Paychecks go into a joint checking account, out of which bills are paid and all joint expenses are purchased (groceries, dinners out together, weekend trips, etc.). A set amount also moves from this account into a joint savings account each month. We also have individual checking & savings accounts, with a set amount going into each monthly (same for both of us, although I make more at the moment). Our individual checking accounts are “play” money that we can use as we wish – no questions asked. Individual savings are designed for major emergencies (like if our car completely dies) or job loss. Joint savings are for “joint” emergencies like home repairs and for joint savings goals (vacations, big purchases, etc.). We also have individual credit cards and a joint credit card, which we really keep around for the sake of our credit scores, points/cash back, and emergencies.

    At first I thought I would hate having so many different accounts (six plus credit accounts really seems excessive), but I’ve found it’s so much easier to visualize what we have this way, and it keeps us both honest and accountable. My biggest requirement was that family came first, and I feel like we have that since all of our money goes into our joint accounts first – that is our priority. I really like the way it has worked thus far.

  26. We’ve merged finances completely, except for fun money, which is a small amount of our takehome pay. I’m in charge of bill pay, because a greater number of bills are related to my student loans. I have most of it set up in auto-pay, and I check our bank accounts on a near-daily basis. We handle long-term savings goals together, but I’m responsible for implementing them. This was a difficult compromise to reach because neither of us wanted to give up control of our money, but my husband has said that he finds it freeing. I think it also helps that we frequently talk about the state of our bank accounts, he can log in using my passwords, etc.

    I think the biggest problem for us is that both of us are spenders. We like fancy dinners, and takeout, and doing activities, and buying clothes, so even with our best intentions of reining it in, we still manage to accumulate credit card debt. My husband is the type of person who would rather have minimal savings and no debt, whereas I’m paranoid that our emergency fund will not cover 6 months of my salary. We have compromised by setting a goal for our savings that I’m comfortable with, while paying debt more slowly, and then once we hit that target we’ll reduce savings slightly (although still saving) and put that money towards debt. We’ve also recently compromised by agreeing to use a debit card for dinners and takeout. When I was in law school I exclusively used my debit card and it was the only way I managed to not spend more than I had. Fingers crossed that it will work (but just to be on the safe side, we have overdraft protection!).

  27. This is timely: BF & I are moving in together in January and are trying to solve the “who pays for what/how do we split things up” dilemma. It’s compounded by the fact that he makes 6-8x what I do, so he feels like he should cover almost everything (including all of our rent), whereas I want to contribute and don’t want him to feel like I’m just living off of him. Any suggestions on how to manage finances/split things up when you’re living together but not quite married (yet), particularly when one person makes significantly more than the other?

    We do plan on getting married in the next two/three years, but nothing’s ever 100%, so I don’t want to quite combine finances, but I do want to feel like we have some kind of plan or system worked out that suits both of us.

    Any help/suggestions much appreciated.

    • You could each contribute a percentage to a joint account so that you are contributing equally based on your respective salaries. It would still benefit you of course, but I don’t think it’s an unfair solution. To best do this, figure out your estimated monthly budget (doesn’t need to be exact) and then figure out what your respective contributions should be.

      • This is basically what we do, though our salaries don’t have nearly the discrepancy that KinCA has with her BF. Essentially I worked out what our monthly household budget needed to be, and worked backwards from there to determine what percentage was appropriate. I feel that a percentage system is the fairest way to approach this sort of thing.

      • mintberrycrunch :

        Before we got married, we each put in the same amount into a joint account each month – enough to cover all of our joint expenses. Worked well for us – and made the transition to “fully joint” a lot easier!

    • My husband and I didn’t combine finances until after we were engaged, and we lived together for many years beforehand. We apportioned certain household expenses (rent) based on income, and then would alternate other payments (groceries). Rent is something that can be broken down in percentages (for example, your rent is 1000. BF makes 6x what you do, so he pays 600 and you pay 400).

      When my DH and I first moved in together (well before marriage), we alternated grocery purchases each week. We would plan meals for the week, so we had a sense of what we needed to buy, and tried to keep a vague accounting of what was “fair” (we weren’t buying fancy cheeses or filet mignon every time it was one person’s turn to pay for groceries). Most of our dinners out, especially in those early years, were cheap places, so we would also alternate those expenses.

      Perhaps you should identify regular bills that you can afford to pay – like, cable, phone, etc. – and be responsible for those expenses, or, offer to split household expenses in a similar formula to splitting the rent.

      • Actually, if he makes 6x what she does, he would be paying 6/7 of the rent and she would be paying 1/7 ($142.86).

        • Which, while I would love to pay such a teeny tiny amount in rent, would feel totally ridiculous, given my perfectly healthy salary. He just happens to make a lot of money (not saying that to be obnoxious, although I know it might come off that way – sorry! definitely not my intent), so splitting it percentage-wise would still make me feel like I’m not paying my “full” weight or contributing what I should to our household expenses.

          We’re tossing around the idea of him covering the majority of our major expenses (rent, utilities, etc.). and me picking up some of the smaller stuff (groceries, etc.) and putting aside what I am currently spending on rent in savings. We could then use that for a wedding, nice vacation, just save it for the heck of saving it, etc. It just feels a little strange to me, as I’m hesitant to have a joint savings account (even if it’s just “joint” in theory, rather than in actuality) before we’re married.

          Ugh. I’ll figure it out. Thanks for the ideas & suggestions!

          • You could always do it the other way – you guys split your shared expenses and he saves the extra for a vacation and whatnot.

    • Veronica S :

      I actually dealt with this same situation this past January. My boyfriend and I have gone through a few different techniques. The first thing to do is figure out all your household expenses. For us, we have rent, utilities, internet, netflix, groceries, and household items which totals about $2000 per month. From there, we created a joint checking account that we each contribute the same percentage of our income to. For instance, if he is making $6000 a month and I am making $2000, he would contribute $1500 (25% of his income) and I’d contribute $500 (25% of my income). So it’s equal based on our income levels. The rest of the money is yours to use for anything that only impacts you (car payments, insurance, clothes, etc.)
      I hope this helps and makes sense.

    • just Karen :

      We opened a joint checking account and figured out a budget each month to put in it, and then divided out that budget by salary for contributions (I made twice as much as him at the time, so I put in 2/3, he put in 1/3). We started this for just dinners out and date nights because it sucked for both of us to either have me pay for everything because I made more (and as a result reminding him of it) or to split things evenly and have him struggle to make ends meet. When we moved in together it evolved to include groceries, household expenses from Target etc… When we got married, both of us moved our paychecks to deposit into the joint account. It’s a system that has evolved well with us over the years.

  28. Our finances are mingled and I’m in charge of everything. Almost all bills are automated through bill pay so that actually does not take much time. Now with kids, the hardest part is coming up with saving priorities. Every couple of months I try to sit down with my husband and discuss our priorities and make sure we are on the same page. This is especially important when we get our bonuses or need to start thinking about getting a new car.

    It’s always so interesting to see how many women manage household finances.

    Comments from my phone have not been working so I hope this posts!

  29. I am very torn about this subject. On the one hand, I hate dealing with this sort of thing so I would very much like my SO to do all of our money management. On the other, I am a completely uncomfortable being out of the loop and letting someone else make the financial decisions. As a result, we mostly keep our finances separates. Certain expenses like rent are shared jointly, other expenses are more or less split according to who does it, so for instance I tend to pay for groceries and he pays for cable and drycleaning/sending out laundry, which ends up being more or less equal. We each pay our own loans and have our own credit cards. I don’t worry too much about it most of the time because we make similar salaries and have similar spending philosophies (e.g., we both always pay off the full CC balance, etc.), but sometimes I wonder if there is a better way to manage our finances together. I’m just not sure how we would do it considering that I would resent doing it all myself, wouldn’t be comfortable not being the one to do, and doing it together is just too stressful.

    FWIW, when I was growing up, I think my father made most of the financial decisions and paid for the bulk of all the household expenses and my mother worked part time and was free to spend her salary as she thought best. But after my parents separated, my mom actually became very savvy with her finances and after she remarried, she continued to be in charge of all the finances in her second marriage. With the exception of what my stepfather spends on his kids from a prior marriage, she makes the bulk of their financial decisions.

  30. I do most of the bill paying and budgeting, hubby has a few bills he pays, we each have our own CC to keep up individual credit histories (and to keep presents a surprise). Hubby checks the accounts once in a while, and we do ‘state of the union’ talks every couple of months.

    My Dad always did the family finances, sitting grumpily with bundles of paper at the dining room table. My mom only takes care of a small checking account and credit card, (and that didn’t happen until I was in high school) but her mother was in charge of all the family finances. My Grandfather would hand over his chased paycheck over dinner every Friday night, and Grandma would hand him back his ‘allowance’. If he wanted to buy her a present, he had to save from that allowance in order to spend money with out her knowing. She paid all the bills, and did the budgeting. She also managed her mother-in-law’s financial affairs for many years. As in-charge as she was about all of that, I was very surprised to learn she had no retirement accounts of her own, though she worked for most of her life.

    My Grandmother passed away two months ago, and she left the most organized, well thought out finances for my mother to deal with. So I don’t think of finances as a ‘man’ thing, but as a ‘person who is good at it’ thing.

  31. MiddleCoast :

    We have one joint checking account through which most of the money flows. I have a separate personal checking account I use solely for paying for my children’s education related expenses. I find that I must use a check to pay for Home & School related expenses as cash payments are never properly credited to the payee in their worthless accounting system. The checks linger uncashed for months, which makes balancing our regular checking account a nightmare. I write checks for $2.00 hot dog lunches from a separate account and don’t worry about balancing it. When the last child is done, I will close out the account and use any “savings” for a graduation party.

    We divide the financial work according to our skill sets. I’m detail oriented, my husband is a big picture guy. I handle bill paying, my spouse has access to Mint to see what’s been happening. He looks into investments, large purchases etc. We make joint decisions on saving and spending. He negotiates for a living, so he is in charge of those aspects of our finances. He considers negotiating lower insurance rates or cell phone plans as practice. I have a steady income and his is irregular, but rather large. So we live off of my income (while I take full advantage of my employer’s retirement plans) and use his for savings, debt paydown and large, planned purchases. We each get an allowance for personal spending. We try to pay everything with our captial one cards to get the miles. I pay those cards off each Friday, so we never incur interest.

    • Wouldn’t you not incur interest if you just paid the cards on each due date?

      • Yes, that’s what I do with my credit cards… but I’m guessing she just makes a habit of it each Friday, probably on-line, which would allow better awareness of spending levels rather than any monthly ‘surprises’.

        Not married here but live with my boyfriend in the house I purchased before we started dating… as I already had a system for paying my bills, we just figured out what the average expenses were for bills (minus the cable bill, which he pays) and he pays that plus half the house payment for ‘rent’. We alternate paying for the cleaning ladies every other week. Otherwise, we keep everything pretty separate, and it all likely works out in the wash, as he tends to pay when we go out, and he does the grocery shopping, for example, while I pay for the monthly exterminator, take care of the spa chemicals, pay the vet bills, and most other assorted ‘house’ stuff. If there is anything big, like last year we replaced the oven, he chips in.

        Works for us, and honestly I can’t see changing it much even if/when we get married. The biggest challenge when that happens will be sitting down with a financial planner and figuring out a cohesive investment strategy. Right now we make about the same net income, but his pension is much better than mine, and he’ll retire very young (law enforcement) so has an opportunity to have a second career with another retirement account, while I need to invest more now in outside sources, 457s, IRAs, etc, to plan ahead as a single person. We may need a different strategy and investments if our marital status changes!

  32. We’re a divide-and-conquer household. Like others have said, I fall on the spending side and he’s the saver, so I handle the daily/monthly stuff: paying bills and monitoring the budget (all hail the almighty Mint.com!). He’s very interested in investments so he handles long-term planning, saving and investing.

    Our monthly budget was developed jointly, and believe me, there was some negotiation over the % of total income to be set aside for saving and investment and the amount that could be allocated to non-essential spending.

    We have a yearly State of the Household meeting in which he tells me what’s going on with our investments and savings. We adjust the monthly budget as needed (new expenses, income changes, etc.)

    Dividing things up based on personality, interest and skill set definitely makes for more harmonious household money management.

  33. Any long distance couple on this thread?

    We’ve been married for a year and we maintain separate finance. We’re aware of each other’s financial situation (how much we have, make, and spend) but we don’t have any joint account nor do we have access to each other’s accounts. We’re both savers so I don’t think this causes us to spend more, etc. But I’ve been reading many advice saying that it’s better to have a joint system for better financial planning and I’m concerned if I’m missing something. Any thoughts? How are other long distance couples dealing with their finances? We may remain as a long distance couple for many more years due to our career planning.

    • We were long distance the first three years of our relationship. We kept almost all our expenses separate because it was more practical, but we did have a joint savings account we used as our “someday when we’re together” fund. That fund paid for me to move back to the West Coast, the deposit on our apartment, and helped buy household items for our new place.

    • My husband and I have been long distance for various stretches of our marriage. We’ve never merged our transaction accounts (where salaries go in and expenses come out), have a casual split of responsibilities for our household bills (he gets the utilities and I get the groceries and the help at our primary home, the commuting spouse gets all expenses relating to any secondary residence) and only started to share our investment pot relatively recently.

      I would definitely say the latter makes sense. It’s good long-term planning of course, but some other benefits would be potentially lower entry costs for some types of investment if you have a larger joint ticket size, no need to duplicate multiple pots of low-yield ’emergency’ funds, having both names on your investment accounts makes access easy in an emergency and so on. The main thing I’d keep an eye on is tax treatments if you are long-distance with different nationalities/ in different countries. US global income tax is complex and the non-US spouse may not want to deal with the unnecessary complication of retrieving US-friendly income statements every year.

  34. My fiance and I have mostly combined finances, which has been working fine for us. We make roughly the same amount, so 95% of each paycheck goes into the joint account and the remaining 5% goes into our individual “fun money” accounts. All household expenses come out of the joint account, and individual expenses (mostly books, video games, and the occasional lunch out for him; books, clothes, and charity donations for me) come out of our own spending money. We also have individual credit cards, and are currently looking for a rewards card for joint expenses. I manage the day-to-day tasks like paying bills and balancing the checkbook, and he manages our long-term payment and savings plans. Once a month we get together to go over household finances and make sure we’re on track for everything.

    One thing we did combine, which I know not everyone on this site has done, were our student loan payments. All loan payments come out of our joint account, along with additional payments on principle when we have the money–the way we see it is that having less debt as a household benefits us both (those payments could be going toward vacations! Or a nicer apartment! Or adopting a kitten! Or a monthly pizza night!) and that it’s worth him paying off my loans way after his are gone because in the long run less time spent in debt = good.

  35. des-pairing :

    Somewhat related: How to invest?
    I’ve come to a point where I have saved enough for six months, and paid off all my bills and loans (there wasn’t a lot anyway), and a modest but growing 401K. With the bonus, I’ll have some extra savings I’d like to use to invest, but I’m risk averse and don’t know much about investing. What would you do in this situation?

    • karenpadi :

      How to invest? That depends on the person. FWIW, I took a community-school evening class that discussed personal finance. The book we used was: http://www.amazon.com/Womans-Guide-Investing-Virginia-Morris/dp/B001PO67ES/ref=la_B001IGNY8K_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1354150066&sr=1-8 Other people have recommended other books so just look around the bookstore until you find one you like.

      A number of us here use Vanguard or Fidelity to actually invest. Both sites have educational materials about investing. I know Vanguard lets you talk to someone for free about where to put your money. I was hesitant to use a free person at first (you get what you pay for) but he was actually really really good and went through the same questions a paid financial planner would ask.

      Honestly, you just have to start somewhere. Start with some amount of money that won’t keep you up at night in a safe place. Then just keep adding to it. Over time, you’ll become more comfortable with risk. The best financial plan is the one that lets you sleep at night.

      • des-pairing :

        That last bit makes a lot of sense. I am also thinking of calling up Vanguard, I already have my 401k with them. Thank you!
        To be honest, growing up in a less than well-off family, I hardly thought of the day my money problem would be investing.

        • Glad to help. I also grew up without a lot of money so investing was not something I ever expected to do. When it gets overwhelming, I just remind myself that it’s the best money problem to have.

  36. Mr. Rugosa does the books chez nous. I’m perfectly capable of keeping a reasonable set of household books, but he is a mathematician and keeps a MANIACALLY detailed set of Excel spreadsheets. Dozens of them. And they balance out to the penny every month.

    He is completely sane in all other aspects of life.

  37. So I’ve got a question. I generally manage the finances, and allocate money to pay rent, bills, savings, etc. But recently, we have been discussing how much of our income should become ‘fun money’. Does any use a ratio or just a general number? I tend to sit on the lower side of the fence for this, and he thinks it should be quite high. I don’t know how to decide on a number that pleases us both!

    • We probably don’t make as much money as others here, so ours was decided partially be necessity. We added up all of the non-negotiable bills and then split what was left fairly evenly between variable bills (gas, groceries), personal fun money, savings, and extra debt repayment. There really wasn’t any logic behind that split except that it was easy.

  38. He manages all the monthly expenses and I manage all the long term investing. I am obsessed with saving and investing – him not so much… and if I were left to pay the utilities, we’d have our lights shut off because I have no patience for dealing with that minutiae. So, our system works wonderfully for us.

    He keeps a spreadsheet updated with all our bills that he gives me periodically and we both have all our accounts linked into Mint.

  39. Thank you SO MUCH, those of you who mentioned Mint! Oh my god, such an incredibly amazing website – I can see it being a huge help when I finally start getting an income (August – yay!) and start paying back my loan (also August – booooo =S).

  40. ExcelNinja :

    We have a joint account and that’s it. I’ve done it other ways (two separate accounts, and one joint with two separate) and this way seems to be working the best for us.

    All our bills are automatically debited and we each have spending money budgeted for clothing, personal care, and entertainment. It’s been a total freaking mess the past five months because we got married and moved to a different country, but we’re starting to clean it up again.

    BTW, he’s been a stay at home husband for the last six months, and I’m actually finding I LOVE it!! It’s so nice of him to take care of stuff during the weekday, rather than it being a mad errands rush on the weekends. Does anyone else have a SAHH?

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