How to Share Finances and Budgeting
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How to Share Finances and Budgeting
In our 8 years of marriage, my husband ALWAYS did the
finances. Before we had kids, we'd sit down at least a
couple times a month to talk through his Quicken reports. He
has used Quicken for at least a decade, and feels very
comfortable with it.
Since having kids, my husband no longer has time to keep up
with the categorization that Quicken requires for us to
track our spending. At one point I offered to take over, but
I use a Macbook, the Quicken files resided on his Dell
laptop, and I always found reasons to not do it.
We sat down today to have a really good discussion and I
feel like for the first time in years, we were both really
honest with each other. We both feel like my husband holds
all the cards financially in our relationship, and neither
of us is comfortable with that. We want to work together to
track our expenditures and set a budget and some savings
goals. We both recognize that we're each going to have to
work a little at a time when we have a moment to sit down,
and it's RARELY going to be together (he travels a lot for
work, and I'm super busy with the kids and work part time).
One suggestion my husband had was trading Quicken for
something online that we can both access. He didn't know
WHAT website might offer that though. We have 2 credit
cards, about 8 different accounts (when you include the 401K
and IRAs and our kids' accts), as well as utilities and
whatnot. We want it ALL to go to one place.
How do others handle finances in their marriage when you
want to work as partners? What suggestions do you have for
Want to be financial partners with my partner
You want mint.com. It's free and it does most of the work for you once you
it set up. We've been using it for a couple of years and I recommend it to
people I do budget counseling with all the time.
Very useful Tool...
Try Mint.com. It's free, has all the capabilities you are
asking for, and it's web-based so you can use it on any
It also has a iphone app, if that's your thing.
We use it in just the way you are hoping to and it's been
I have tried a lot of different software, and mint.com is
the best I've found.
Things I LOVE about Mint.com:
- track all of our accounts (bank, credit, assets,
retirement, EVERYTHING) in one place
- free and accessible from anywhere
- can set budgets and goals (like paying down debt) and
- nifty graphs of spending, income, etc.
- saves me hours every month because I no longer have to
balance a checkbook, track 5 different accounts, etc.
Wow, I totally sound like a commercial, but I just really
My spouse and I use Mint.com to track all of our finances.
It's great (and free), I am I pretty sure Quicken just
bought it. Not only does it keep track of all your bank
accounts and credit cards, but it also will track your
investments and loans. You can set up all kinds of different
budgets, and it is pretty much entirely customizable. If you
use an iphone, there is an app for it.
We both really like it, and as the nonworking partner in our
relationship, it really helps me feel like I am doing my
part to keep us on budget and help manage our finances. Good
I just started using Mint.com for our household finances after years of
underutilizing Quicken because of how labor intensive it was. Mint is fairly
simple but you can link to all of your account for easy views of
spending patterns, budgets, etc... It automatically categorizes spending for
which sometimes requires manual changes, and it automatically groups items
into logical buckets but it gives you a fair amount of flexibility in
budgeting and goal setting - best part is it is free and has free apps for
so you can keep track from wherever.
One thing I think really works in our marriage is the way we handle our
finances together. We take the ''family CFO'' route. This takes out any bad
feelings of one person making more than the other (at first, I was the main
earner, but now that has totally flipped). My husband's paycheck is our
paycheck. The detail in Quicken is maddening so we decided to take a
streamlined approach by coming up with larger categories of where our
money went: bills, utilities, entertainment (includes dining out together,
movies, etc), groceries, gas/transit and any regular spending. Then, we
figured out a daily allowance for each of us (this includes lunch at work,
shopping, clothes, haircuts, etc). Then, we came up with a solid two week
allowance for each on top of the shared expenses. Then, we take out that
amount and we avoid going to the cash machine during the period. This was a
much better way to realize our spending habits and if your allowance is gone
before the next pay day, you have to do without or renegotiate the
Large purchases like cars, tvs, electronics are discussed and planned in
advance. We do all of that together. by having the allowance we can save
individually for things we want for ourselves. we also dont' have to report
back to each other every single thing we spend money on. We definitely have
to revisit the spending plan often and sometimes things happen where things
get tighter, but it's nice to know I can just take XX amount of cash and
mine. When kids came into the picture, we had to readjust for clothes,
diapers, etc. Due to bad economic times for us, we now have to pay back
some debt accrued and and came up with a nice round monthly figure to pay
each month to pay the debt down. That way, we just know, we will now apply
$500 additional to our debt. We listed our debts and will start with the
amount first. When that is paid off, the minimum for that payment will be
added to the $500 and applied to the second lowest and we'll work our way to
the biggest and should be able to pay $1,000 a month until that is paid off.
the family cfo
We were almost in your same situation except that I handled
the finances and my husband was in the dark. We are really
enjoying Mint.com. It uploads all of your account
information in one place. You can access it everywhere as it
is online. And it is free. It gives us a pretty accurate
picture of where our money goes. Once in a while there are
miscategorizations, but I can always go back in all of my
free time (ha ha!) and correct those small issues. Saves us
tons of time.
First of all, I really applaud your decision to become
equally involved in your family's finances as your
husband. I think it's fine for one spouse to take the
lion's share of the duties when it comes to paying bills,
etc., but it's really important for both of you to at
least be aware of spending levels, asset levels, and
whether or not you are on track towards your goals. Not
to be a downer, but if you aren't somewhat on top of these
things, it becomes very easy to become lost and bewildered
if ever a death (or divorce) were to occur in your
My wife and I use Quicken on a desktop PC in our house
that we can both access and I generally recommend it to my
financial planning clients as well. If you just have his
laptop and your Mac (Quicken for Mac is lame), I would
recommend checking out Mint.com as a possible web-based
alternative. You might also consider instituing a
regular ''state of the household'' meeting where you and
your husband get together to review the family finances.
Best of luck!
One option that you might consider is Mint.com. I have
used it for a long time and really like it. I hooked
almost everything up to it (getting USAA connected was
difficult because I had to add in the specific security
questions and answers) including house value, etc.
You can set budgets and it will alert you when something
is over budget, etc. It makes it so easy to track
everything. I also have my own way of viewing things so i
created filters but they don't exactly work the way I want
so I download it in to excel and manipulate it there. It
is also a nice way to save your data in case you need
It's owned by Intuit so I feel safe.
I hope you stay interested in your family finances--I
think it is really important to look at the reality of
your own situation and know where you are/stand no matter
how good or bad. Good luck!
We share Quicken on my computer. We both have PC's, but
we'd have to buy a second copy of Quicken to run it on both
We put everything in Quicken and download as much as
possible from on-line accounts (including 401ks). It
doesn't take that long (an hour at the most) once a month
to make sure everything is entered properly (and
categorized) and your checkbook is balanced.
I'm sure you can find one hour/month that he isn't using
I'm not ready to have all our financial information stored
on the Internet in one place.
We take turns paying the shared bills each month. Only
COMCAST is automated since it is the same amount every
month. The rest we pay through Bill-Pay on our bank's on-
We use our shared credit card as much as possible (REI
VISA - 1% back on purchases) but pay it off every month.
Once a month I download the credit card transactions from
US Bank (the company that runs the REI VISA card) into
Quicken. Quicken will recognize the payees and the last
category you assigned to that payee. That works most of the
time. Sometimes you need to change the category if you
bought something different.
We use Quicken Premiere because it includes retirement
planning. By entering a few assumptions and major upcoming
expenses (like college or a new car), and knowing how much
money you need to live on, you can get a reasonable picture
of when you can retire.
Have you looked into Mint.com? I use it to help keep track of my
accounts. They may have a solution for you
I have 2 kids, a 3 year old and a baby and I have been taking
care of another child in our home since the other boy was 11
months old, nearly 2 years. Before this setup, my oldest and I
took care of other children in their homes so, since my son was
born, I have been taking care of other children. The boy I
currently care for will be starting preschool somewhat soon. I
told my husband when my daughter was born ten months ago that I
did not want to take on any other kids but my own once our
other little friend moved along to preschool and he agreed at
the time but now wants me to start looking for another one
anyway. We don't *need* my extra income, we can live off of my
husband's income pretty comfortably. He just doesn't want me
to not contribute any money to our household. At this point,
taking care of 3 kids is really exhasting. We've worked it out
pretty well because we have had the other little guy for so
long and we love him. The thought of integrating another kid
into our household in addition to the normal 3 year old battles
I have with my son and napping troubles I have with my daughter
is monumentally unappealing. I also go to school part time
(online) and am already falling behind. I thought we were on
the same page with this but my husband has dug his heels into
the sand. He thinks he gets to make all the big decisions
because he makes most of the money. I feel like I, myself, am
a household employee. I've suggested numerous times that we go
to counseling but he absolutely will not. I love my husband
very much but am so frustrated with his unwillingness to make
financial decisions like this together. I don't want to
jeopardize my ability to be home with my children right now but
I also don't want to feel trapped and powerless in my
marriage. I'm not sure how else to talk to him. I've said
this to him exactly as it's written here and he responds by
saying that I just want to do whatever I want to do and have no
regard for him. I appreciate any imput that anyone out there
can offer in this delicate situtation.
I'm your wife, not your nanny
Not to sound alarmist, but I think of Andrea Yates when I hear
this kind of stuff. Hubby does not realize how exhausting it is
to take care of children. I am the mother/breadwinner, so wish
I got to stay home, but when I am I do get tired too!
Maybe point out that if your two children were in daycare it
would cost nearly $3K a month, so in a way you are contribution
by reducing expenses. If you had to find an equivalent position
you would just be breakeven ($45K job roughly) and your kids
would not benefit from having you at home.
My husband & I were having arguments about finances that
weren't going anywhere. We saw a therapist, who helped - we
were polarizing the issue. I always took the side that we
needed to focus more on being financially savvy. He said I
worried too much and never focused on teh joy in things. I
could never admit he had a point, because then no one was
saying that my perspective had merit. Finally, I planned a
couple of fun activities and doing a spreadsheet helped him to
see that the future he wanted couldn't happen without a change
on his part. 2 of 3: house, kids, retirement.
So I wonder if there is any other alternate path that you might
find acceptable. SF Magazine recently had an article ''Mother of
All Recessions'' that has interesting points on the merits of
stay at home vs working mom. Financially lay out some options:
Is there a job you could do 3 days a week? Is there a job you
could do from home part time? Do you stay home for one more
year without an extra kid, and then go back full time? is there
another way you could contribute to the family or to the
community that he would think has value? and hire what you
need to cover what you had been doing: infant care & preschool,
a housecleaner (& who is paying the bills, buying groceries &
keeping things in order). Ask him to put a dollar value on
having you home with the kids. Is it zero to him? As a side
note, there are lots of nannies looking for work now, so with
smart negotiation, the rates could be quite reasonable. Also,
it's important to be open about the options, not trying to
prove a point.
Sorry if this isn't the answer you were hoping for... but I
haven't found digging in with the heels to solve major
arguements - unless it's a dealbreaker you're willing to leave
still learning, practicing to not polarize
Not contributing money to the household and not contributing to
the household are two different things. You already contribute
immensely, by taking care of the kids and keeping things humming.
If you fell ill for a few weeks, or had to travel for a family
emergency, how much would your husband have to spend for 40+
hours/week of childcare plus someone to shop, cook and clean?
That extra income from taking care of another child is just the
tip of the iceberg of your financial contribution to the family.
Besides which, having greater earning power does NOT translate
into greater decision-making power. If you're not feeling like an
equal partner in the relationship, there's a problem.
That said, I didn't get a sense from your post of what your
longer-term career goals are. You mention that you're enrolled in
school; and if it's a degree that would boost your earning power
beyond what you would make as a childcare provider, then I'm
surprised your husband isn't more supportive of it. If you're
still defining your career goals, or re-defining them post-kids,
or the field that interests you doesn't pay very well... then I
can better understand your husband feeling stressed about his
role as provider. It sounds like a longer-term plan might be in
order... you finish your degree, in a certain amount of time you
find part-time work, maybe at some point you go to full-time, etc
etc. Or maybe there are some other issues at play here. If you
can make time for a couple of counseling sessions, they really
will help you get to the real causes of this conflict.
Hang in there
money. My husband and I have joint accounts and we are a true
team--it has saved our marriage many times not to have one's
worth to the family based solely on what one contributes
financially. Red flags went up for me all over when I read
your post. Please think twice before you have kids with this
We're a Team, Financial and Otherwise.
I am currently going through a divorce, and so what I would
advise should be considered with that in mind, but I would
say... look for another partner. First, after my own
experience I would NEVER marry someone I have to pressure into
marrying me. Second, you have very different notions of money
and shared economy. Nightmare time if you try to be true
partners. It would be difficult to share parenting with
someone whose notions of trust, etc. are so different from
yours. Thirty-seven is late, I know, to begin thinking about
finding a new partner with whom you can start a family, but
don't let that push you into what looks to be a very
sadder and perhaps wiser?
Wow, I could have written almost the same story. I have come to
the conclusion that it's near impossible to make this work. We
hjust have different financial goals, and I'm happy at my lower
wage. I am currently planning my exit strategy. If you really
think the relationship is right for you, go for the pre-nup .
I have heard, though, that people in unequal relationships liek
this, but where the woman still pays half of everything (taking
2/3 of her pay and a miniscuule amount of the man's) never work
out. Apparently, down the road, the women seem to feel tha man is
stingy. I wouldn't know, but I'm hoping to get to gether with a
guy around my income level next time, rather than one who is
always bugging me to change so I can make more money (and stop
doing the work i love)
My partner and I have been together for four years and haven't gotten
officially married, though we did have a commitment ceremony. Once we
started trying to have a baby, though (one year ago), I realized I
really wanted to get married but he's been resisting. I haven't wanted
to pressure him, but as the year has gone by and I haven't been able
to get pregnant (I'm 37), I feel more strongly that I would love to
live our future together as a married couple. But when I do bring up
getting married he says things like, ''We need to figure out how to
make more money.''
He makes a lot more money than I do (in the six figures) and has a
very demanding work schedule. He said he's glad we haven't been able
to have a baby yet because we don't make enough money, he wants me to
agree to work full time if we do have a baby so we have more money,
and he doesn't want to get married unless I sign a pre-nuptial
agreement about what would happen to his money if I divorce him
because of his work schedule. He says he doesn't want to ''get
screwed'' and lose all his money and his house in a divorce.
I am floored by this--he is such a good and loving person--and I know
it's a good practical idea to think through finances before getting
married, but isn't this a weird way of looking at money and marriage?
To prepare financially for divorce because you're not willing to
modify your work schedule once we have a family? I read a post on BPN
about ''A Couples Guide to Love and Money'' and after reading the book
I embraced its idea of having a joint checking account and using our
money to accomplish our future goals together. He refused to combine
our money, though, and I continue to pay him ''rent'' plus we split
all groceries, pet bills, dates, furniture, kitchen supplies, etc by
50%. I feel very naive--I'm the one who is a teacher, never making
much money, but finding ways to travel, visit friends and family on
the East coast, but not devoting much thought to money. Is he
practical and responsible, and am I idealistic and irresponsible? Do
people typically think this way about money and pre-nups? Is this a
fundamental clash of values? Is this something bigger than finances?
love -n- money
Your guy seems extremely selfish. I have the feeling (and I'm
usually right) that he will only get worse if you do marry him.
Think on it
You have every right to be floored. Your partner's reticence
reads to me about a host of other issues, which he is packaging
under the heading of ''money.'' Money is about trust, and co-
mingling of one's present and future, and is really only a
symbol of larger, deeper issues. That he can't commit, that he
charges you rent, that he wants you to bring in the big bucks,
that he's reduced parenting to finances all suggests that he's
not ready to commit to you and not mature enough to be a
parent. Parenting is about endless, unrestricted giving.
Giving in all ways - the financial part being no small
component. I would pay close attention to the many signals
your partner is giving you, because once you do have kids, the
demands will be greater, the choices of greater consequence,
and the deep and abiding trust you have in one another so much
more critical to the life of your family. At 37, I'd be really
thinking deeply about having a baby and really wondering if
this partner is the one to have that future with. Perhaps
therapy might be in order so you don't get lost along the way
and his demands don't rule the day.
Best of luck with these important challenges - I hope it all
works out for you both.
Sounds like a horrible situation. It sounds like your partner is already planning
renege on his parental responsibilities even before having the child. What hes
asking is not reasonable. Once you have a baby, you may not want to work as much
certainly you dont want to promise to work full-time. You never know. And the
fact that hes unwilling to change his work schedule is also worrisome. With a
comes LOTS of extra work you may need his help, you may need him to work less.
The whole 50/50 splitting thing sounds wrong to me though, I know some
couples do it this way.
Its impossible to predict ahead of time how things will work out he could well
change his mind once he actually has a baby, and maybe hes just uptight about
money some people are. But I dont think you want to sign any agreements that
leave you vulnerable after you get married and/or have a child. Maybe you should
talk to a couples counselor? Or a lawyer?
50/50 is not always equal
What a tough situation. If I were you, I would put all your baby
plans on hold immediately, and start couples' counseling with
your partner to work out your money issues. Having a child
together is a much more serious and long-lasting financial
commitment than marriage - if you have a child together, you two
will be be interacting and working out much more complicated
financial issues (among other things) for the rest of your lives,
regardless of the state of your relationship. Having a child will
only make these issues worse, and getting married will not solve
them. It's possible that you can agree on a financial arrangement
that works for both of you as a couple, and eventually a family
(personally, I think that your current situation sounds more like
a ''roommate'' situation than a couple, and it doesn't even sound
like you share the same financial/lifestyle goals), but I
wouldn't move forward on anything (marriage or children) until
you come to an agreement
Oh dear. I am afraid he does not want to marry you. I don't know if money is the
reason but it seems to be the reason he is claiming. I don't (and neither do you,
think) see why two people married need to make more money than two people
''committed''. He seems to have a view of himself somewhere in the future with a
rich wife and it doesn't sound like you are it. Listen to what you said, ''he is
haven't had a child yet'' (even though you've been trying for a year) ''he wants
work full time after you have a child'' (has he seen nanny prices lately?) and he
this all in writing? I honestly think that you are lucky to have found this out
you had a child with him. Is he willing to stay with you, unmarried, even if you
make these changes? It really sounds like he is just keeping you around until he
finds something ''better''...sorry. I know it is hard because you want to have a
and you thought you were committed, but I'd get out of there and find someone
who shares your values
This is terrible.
My heart goes out to you. Having children was the best thing I ever did, and I
wish the same
for you. However, when my first child was born, we were in our 20s, we had no
money, but we
had no fears either. Later, when my 2nd child was born, in my late 30s, both me
and my spouse
had steady jobs, had some money, yet I was totally worried about money. Go figure!
Fortunately, we sought family counselling and were able to see our way through. I
recommend that you two seek family counselling through a licensed family
therapist. One that
I recommend is Ivan Skolnikoff, MFT, who has an office in Emeryville. His number
415-721-4527, or visit www.skolnikoffMFT.com. You may also want to consult a tax
because by marrying you, your boyfriend may get a great tax deduction as head of
and getting deductions for both the child and childcare.
I read your post and couldn't avoid answering. The way each
couple organizes and works with their finances is so different
and unique, however what you have described does not sound
healthy. You do not sound unreasonable or demanding. If anything,
you sound entirely flexible and cooperative and still
unappreciated for that.
I understand the desire for making more money, especially in
partner's in times of family planning, but what you described
sounds like an actual problem, perhaps an addition. I would
advise you to suggest couples counseling or one-on-one counseling
for your partner, whichever seems more likely to happen. This
does sound like a clash in values big time, and becuase of that,
you want to think long and hard about the decision you make. You
don't want to regret not having a family due to this. Good luck!
Sharing is good
I think you have two issues. First, regarding prenuptial
agreements, they are a good idea. It's good to have agreement
going into a relationship about how things will be split if you
break up. This is particularly important regarding retirement &
401K accounts - you don't want to be tracking down an ex when
you are 65 and start receiving payments. However, a prenup
doesn't have to mean you get nothing. And I think the fact
that ''you get nothing'' is how your boyfriend plans to use a
prenup points to your second problem.
Your boyfriend doesn't want to share his income with you, even
while you're together. He doesn't seem to want to share much of
anything with you. He doesn't want to marry you.
If he did, you'd be married
been there, moved on
Listen to your gut instinct. His attitude about money
and ''more, more, more'' is a recipe for disaster, especially as
you have children together. How will he feel about paying for
university education? What if your child(ren) need braces that
aren't covered by dental insurance? What if--heaven forbid--
your child needs some special tutoring or therapy and you have
to pay out of pocket? Then there are those other things: if
you spend more time making the family a real family (cooking
meals, doing laundry, reading to the kids, organizing social
time, etc etc) and he works more, does he ''pay'' you for your
time? It's not fair to you to think everything revolves around
Hi, I have a question about how to pay the bills when each
person in the couple is earning a different amount. Maybe both
earn similar hourly amounts, but one works more hours. Or maybe
they both work the same 40 hours, but one ears twice as much.
What is fair? How do you decide what goes in the joint account
and what stays separate? Do both contribute a percentage of
their income? Do you put equal amounts in a joint acount? Do you
keep equal amounts in separate accounts for ''personal'' spending?
I feel stuck in the ''roommate mode'' where we both contribute
equal amounts to family life, but it is feeling very unfair to
me. He has a whole lot left over for lunch with his buddies or
electronic gadgets, and I have little. Just writing this has
made me realize how messed up this is. Anybody know of a website
or book to consult? Thanks.
Wow that is messed up. I guess you need to decide what you need
and take it. If he is not willing to give it you have a problem.
Do you have kids? If not this might be a deal breaker. I mean
dang, does he care if you are happy? Does he love you? I know I
might sound extreme but the two of you need to talk about this
and talk about what it means when one person is comfortable and
having fun and one is basically being neglected. He might not
even realize what is going on here and what it means. But don't
threaten or accuse. Just tell the truth that usually works for
This seems like it would really vary couple-to-couple. But I
agree with you that if you are in a long-term relationship with
someone, and you're sharing a household and all expenses, you
should have equal money left over.
My husband and I have very different incomes - I work full-time
and he is a part-time stay at home parent, and also works very
part-time. We've done our budget together, and we figured out
how much is left over after all bills and expenses (not much!)
and we split that amount evenly for our personal use (for things
like lunches out, items we wish to buy). I pay most bills,
daycare, groceries and the mortgage, and he pays for errands that
he has time to run but I don't (filling the car with gas, trips
to the pet food store or Costco, doctor co-pays, etc.). It
generally works out so that we have an equal amount left over,
but if he's short on funds then I write him a check so he has
money to spend.
Since we've agreed on a certain amount per week of spending money
(same amount for each of us) and since we both pretty much stick
to it, this feels fair to both of us. The only thing we haven't
worked out here is that he feels like a teenager asking his
parents for money when he has to have me write him a check...
which isn't a good dynamic. Eventually we'll work out a better
system for that.
My husband and I call ourselves the 'team.' Sometimes you take
one for the team (doing more than your share of housework
because one team member is busier at the moment, going to a
movie you DON'T want to see, etc.), sometimes the team supports
you (unemployment, illness, etc.). Sometimes one team member
hits a few home runs, and sometimes one team member strikes out.
It takes some of the stress out of life to know we're working
My husband makes more than twice what I make, so if we split
things, I don't know if I could even come up with my 'share'.
And he would never consider suggesting it.
1. Figure out which expenses are shared. Some are obvious, like
PG&E, while others, like dinners out, may require some
discussion. Come up with a total amount for the year to cover
those expenses (plus a little extra). Divide that by 12. This
is the amount that needs to go in a joint account each month.
2. Total your income and his. Figure out the percent of income
you each have to that total. For example, if you earn $40k and
he earns $60k then you're earning 40% of $100k and he is
3. Multipy your percent by the amount from #1. This is how much
you put in the joint account each month. He puts in the balance
(which should be the same as the figure that you would come up
with if you multiplied his percent by #1.
4. Re-evaluate the amount in #1 at the end of a year as you may
find there are expenses that are appropriate to the joint that
were not considered or that an inadequate amount of funds was
being put in to cover the agreed upon expenses.
Another option is one you suggested, you put a pre-determined
amount into each person's personal account. You would have to
decide what gets paid from your personal accounts.
It is important to remember that most everyone has money issues
that go beyond the obvious. Discussing those at the outset will
Successfully Done It
I've read lots of advice books and I have a great book to recommend: ''The Family
CFO.'' I don't know whether your specific question is covered in the book. But it
teaches you how to deal with the various aspects of your family's finances. But most
importantly they have a good method for helping you to prioritize life goals and
make a financial plan to achieve them.
I also liked ''Get a Financial Life'' which does a good job of explaining basic
concepts like why the coat you bought for $70 really cost you $100. But ''The Family
CFO'' is more practical and hands-on and more applicable to couples and families.
Others I've read that are good for just inspiration or for a few key concepts like
saving or getting out of debt:
Suze Orman's books
Rich Dad, Poor Dad
Seven Laws of Money
--liking the family as joint enterprise approach.
You need the help of Suze Orman, who is often on financial shows and
public television. She has her own website,
I was listening one day to a concern of paying bills especially of a mixed
gender couple and her comment was that what would be ''fair'' is that the
payment of bills be put into percentages. Part of this is because women
are already in an unjust position in that women get $0.70 to every $1
that a man makes.
B Pay for shared expenses through an equal percentage of your
paycheck. So if you both can agree that an X% of each of your monthly
salary will be set aside each month for shared expenses. A percentage
will be more equal. This is a simple way of distributing wealth and fairly
contributing to the household.
This is different from splitting the bill down the middle.
On Suze Orman's website you could ask this question and see what she
There was another discussion of this on the BPN recently that you
might be able to find in the archives. My husband and I split
household expenses proportionally based on our income. Because
he makes more than me, he pays 60 percent and I pay 40, and we
each have a little spending cash left over. We have a joint bank
account for household expenses and each have personal accounts as
well. It has taken some time for us to work things out and merge
our finances. You definitely need to keep communication lines
open, be aware that money is an emotional issue, and find a
solution that both of you are truly comfortable with or at least
understand the rationale for. Having a spreadsheet you both can
look at together can be helpful.
This is in response to the responder who talked about her
husband feeling like a ''teen asking his parents for money'' when
she had to write him a check when he needed extra cash. Your
post describes our situation perfectly up to the check writing
piece (which we used to do and which made my hisband feel the
same way yours does). Here's how we solved that problem - ATM
cards. We both got ATM cards to the joint checking account.
We, too, get the same amount of spending money a week - which
we get for ourselves via ATM. If one of us needs extra, we
each go get it for ourself. I have an accounting basket on my
desk where we put bills to be paid, bank statements to
reconcile, etc. Whenever my husband gets cash out via the ATM
he just drops the receipt in this basket so I can later record
it in the checkbook. This has a much better feel to it for
both of us because the money in the checking account truly
feels like both of ours and I just happen to do the accounting,
which is a job that I do for the family.
You received so many helpful answers to this post, and I just wanted to
since I am in almost the same situation as you. Some people recommended buying
''The Family CFO: The Couple's Business Plan for Love and Money'' by Mary
Allvine and Christine Larson, and I wanted to say that I purchased the book
away and my partner and I have been working through it this week. It seems
their idea of forming the company ''Love, Inc,'' merging our money together,
managing our family's finances as if it were a business *really will* help us
of the emotional mess that money seems to cause and get into a sensible,
do-able system of money management that makes us both feel like equal
partners. We love it, and feel like we're already leaps and bounds ahead of
were last weekend in our relationship! So I recommend the book, too!
No longer a roommate
The best advice we ever about money before we got married was to
have three separate accounts. All paychecks go into a joint
account, and bills, groceries, gas etc are all paid from this
account. Each month a set amount goes into the individual
accounts. The amount is the SAME, regardless of what the percent
the person contributes to the joint account. This makes both
partners equal, regardless of if someone works only part time,
stays at home or is an a lesser paying field.
I've read the previous advice from 2003 about couples and
finances. I'd like to ask specifically about how couples that
both work share finances, grocery shopping, household cleaning
and child care. When one person works part time and does more of
the child care are they still responsible for 1/2 the bills,
etc.? Any information on gifted money from parents and how that
is used is appreciated in advance.
Thank you very much.
anon working mom
Both my partner and I work- however, I will only be working part time
now that we have a baby- the way we looked at it was this: In order for
her to work full-time (and make full
salary) she needs me to take care of the baby- In order for me to work
part-time ( and make part-time salary) I need her to help with the baby-
(my hours are non-traditional) Therefore, although we each make
different amounts of money from our employers, we each need each other's
help to EARN those monies. Therefore, we pool our resources totally
(this is new to us with the baby). We pay bills, add to savings, then
we each take a chunk for personal spending, saving for our own
This is different from pre-baby. we kept out own money and divvied up
the bills by half.
Now, however, it doesn't matter WHO makes more because the only way we
can do it is as a team (i.e., if I wasn't taking care of baby, the money
she makes would be nice, but more sent to daycare, etc.)
Hope this helps
My partner and I have an Excel spreadsheet that we use to list all the
expenses each of us paid for the month. We make a combined total. So, if
I spent $500 and he spent $1500, we have together spent $2000. Then we
work a ratio based on what each of us earned during the month, and
calculate what each of our portion of the $2K was, then whichever owes
the other one money writes a check to equalize the proportions. This was
particularly helpful while I was on maternity leave, and earning a small
fraction of my salary. Those months, he was responsible for a larger
proportion of the bills.
My husband works more than I do and subsequently earns three times what
I earn. We only have one checking account, which I balance. Money
comes in to this one account (his salary, my part-time business, my
mom's generosity, etc.) Money goes out from this one account (mortgage,
taxes, food, insurance, gasoline, utilities, tuition, retirement
accounts, college fund, home improvement, music classes, clothing, the
very occasional vacation, etc., etc.) There is no ''my money'' and no
''his money''. In fact, once everything on the list is paid for, there
is no money at all! Our house, our child, our money.
I've found that the best division of chores and bill paying is one that
yields fair results i.e.: we both have fulfilling work in the ''adult''
world, we both are accumulating $ in our separate savings and retirement
accounts, and we both do the chores/activities around house and with
kids that we each enjoy the most.
When I get stressed I can analyze and say ''hey, this isn't equally
divided right down the middle!'' but most of the time I'm happy with our
I work 40 hours, my partner works 30 hours paid + 20 hours volunteer.
We pay for childcare during some of those unpaid hours and I cover the
rest weekends/ evenings. We divide the bills that we each pay and try to
adjust the division to be sure that we each are accumulating $ in
retirement/ savings accounts. We divide household chores based on what
we like to do or feel controlling about. I do cooking, 1/2 grocery
shopping, bedtime, laundry, childcare arrangements, vacation
arrangements, healthcare arrangements, and planning for house
improvements. My partner does dishes, most pick-up/drop-off, morning
routine, car maintenance, house improvements, 1/2 grocery shopping, 1/2
house cleaning, all gardening.
Maybe we are lucky that the split feels rather fair.
Basically, you have to come to your own understanding with your partner.
There is no right way to do it--you should do whatever you both agree
In our household, we have a joint account for joint expenses--mortgage,
utilities, food, the kid, etc. We each also have individual accounts.
Right now we both put in the same amount and we both work about the same
amount of time and make the same amount of money. But in many many
cases, someone works full time outside the home and the other at home,
or both work full time but make different amounts of money. I think that
if one partner makes a lot more money but the other partner works just
as hard either in or out of the home, it is only fair for them to
contribute more to the general fund so that the lower earning person has
some kind of discretionary funds left. Alternatively, you could both
contribute the same to everyday expenses, but the higher paid person
takes care of some ''big things'' like vacation or property taxes!
When it came to finances, my husband and I decided from the get go that
all money coming into the relationship was our money.
At first, I made more money than he did, but over time, that has
changed. But, no matter what, we treat the money and budget as one pot.
We figured out our budget and we work from there.
We negotiate big purchases. The big thing that made things easier was
figuring out how much ''allowance'' we each get so you don't have to
keep reporting back every penny you spend and if we want to do our own
shopping or whatever, we can do it as long as we're within our
allowance. It works great. We seldom argue about money, if ever. I know
most people like to keep things separate, but that seems to open up more
room for problems than working together. Also, the person who makes less
isn't belittled for making less and financial contributions are not tied
to other contributions you make toward housework or whatever. Maybe it's
different if you aren't married. I was dead set against this idea at
first because I thought it would mess with my feminist identity, but it
hasn't. I think the key is to openly communicate and anything you spend
over your allowance must be negotiated. It probably helps that both my
husband and I are pretty conscientious about money. We're not debt free
or anything, but we both tend to make big purchases with caution.
In our family, I work full time and my partner brings in $500-$800
supplemental income per month. Basically, since he has more time during
the day, his money is what goes to buying gas for the car, food for the
pets, co-pays for his and our son's doctor visits, etc. - all of the
errands that he has time to do but I don't - as well as his spending
money. My income goes to pay the mortgage, daycare costs, all the
bills, and the groceries (I do grocery shopping on weekends). If there
is an imbalance in a month, I write him a check so he's not low on
Since my partner is a part-time stay-at-home dad, he ends up with a lot
of the chores. He does all the dishes and all the laundry, and small
daily cleaning tasks. On weekends, I do all the grocery shopping and
one big full-house cleaning stint. We share pet care. I also do much
of the cooking, but that's just because of how our schedules work out -
he has many activities that start around dinner time, so I end up
responsible for dinner.
Child care is another hard one. Our 3.5 year old son is in daycare 2
days per week, and with his grandmother 1 day per week.
My partner has him 1.5 days per week, and I work extra hours at the
beginning of the week so I can take off part of Friday to spend with our
son. Basically, in the mornings, at night, and over the weekends I am
primarily responsible for him. This means that I don't get much time to
myself. My partner gets more. We could try to work on it to make it
more ''fair'' to me, but adult concepts of what is fair don't make any
difference at all to a
3.5 year old boy who would rather spend time with his mama than anyone
else. Since I am not with him during the day on weekdays, he really
misses me by the evening time, and wants the whole weekend with me as
well. I have just come to grips with the fact that this cannot be split
''fairly'' and take my moments to myself when I can get them. This is
after years of me griping to my partner that he needs to give me more
time to myself, and trying every which way to make it happen - and it
just ends up being unsatisfying for me and hard on everyone else.
Basically, my husband and I split household expenses proportionally
based on our income. Because he makes more than me, he pays 60 percent
and I pay 40, and we each have a little spending cash left over. To
answer your second question, when I got gift money from my parents, I
considered it my money to manage, though I did choose to spend much of
it on things for ''us'' (like a vacation). It has taken some time for us
to work things out and merge our finances. You definitely need to keep
communication lines open, be aware that money is an emotional issue, and
find a solution that both of you are truly comfortable with or at least
understand the rationale for. Having a spreadsheet you both can look at
together can be helpful.
In my marriage, we take the attitude that we are equal partners and we
have devised a wonderful system for handling the money. We both have
some private money and we both contribute to household expenses. We
NEVER have money arguments since we started doing this (years have gone
by--no tension over finances!). We used to both work and make equal
income and were childless. Now I am mainly a SAHM
with our kids. This has worked great for us in all of those situations.
Here's how it works. All money that comes to us (salary, bonuses, gifts
to us as a
family) go into the ''corporation''. The corporation pays all
household-type expenses (housing, food, gas, car repair, kids, etc.).
It also pays each of us an equal monthly allowance. The rule is, your
allowance is yours to do what you wish and the other person has no say
about it. We use allowance for our own clothes, lunch/ dinner out,
gifts to each other, help for friends in need--anything that benefits
only one of us or that is controversial.
If money were gifted to one of us (like a birthday check), it belongs to
However, if one of us got a huge sum--inheritance, let's say, we would
put it in the corporation.
We both work: full-time for him, part-time for me. Most bills paid
electronically, otherwise I do most of bill-paying, grocery shopping,
cleaning, childcare. He does yard work, plays with kids and if I ask him
to do something, he does it. Any gifted money goes into the general fund
for mutually agreed upon purposes. He earns much more then me and is a
wonderful and supportive partner; that, in my mind, equalizes the
unbalanced division of domestic labor.
happy with what is
In our case, we both work full time. We have a nanny share and a
toddler at family daycare. We only have joint accounts. I take care of
finanace, i.e. paying bills, saving, and investing and keep my husband
informed. My husband takes care of household repairs, more physically
demanding gardening tasks such as trimming trees. We both clean the
house in our own way.
I would use gifted money towards paying off credit card debt or
in a balanced household
My husband and I deposit everything in a joint account. Neither one of
us keeps a seperate account. Basically, I am the treasurer in our
house, and my husband wants nothing to do with
the finances. I make more than he does, but somehow it has
never been a tit-for-tat thing. Since everything is paid for out of the
same account, we never have to discuss who is responsible for what--we
are both responsible for everything. Alternately, neither one of us
will go out and buy an expensive personal item without consulting the
other. We're both fairly frugal and have similar spending habits.
My longterm boyfriend and I recently had a baby and, after many
years of having no clear financial arrangement, we find
ourselves fighting about money a lot. I'd be curious to know how
other couples/families divvie up finances, and what they'd
recommend for my situation. Our background: when at my job full
time, I make about 40-50 percent of what he does. I'm now
working three days a week and taking care of our baby two days
(plus many saturdays, when he works). He owns the house, and he
pays the mortgage and the bills (his choice, not mine). Till
now, we've had separate accounts, and i've typically paid for
groceries and big ticket items like sofas. It might sound like
i'm getting a great deal, but in fact i hate how nebulous it is,
and i feel powerless; i'd much rather be pulling my weight
financially and feel like i owned the house as well. plus,
there's an underlying expectation on his part that i do most of
the housekeeping and more traditional domestic chores since i'm
not paying rent or bills. my preference would be to come up with
an agreement where i contribute more money, and do less (though
still the majority of) domestic work. but he's reluctant to even
discuss it, and keeps complaining about how he's paying for
everything and i should be doing more. (with a new baby and a
job, i feel stretched to the absolute limit as it is). I also
feel my time spent with baby and lost wages from that time isn't
taken into consideration.
Ideally, i'd like to come up with an
arrangement where i feel more like i'm contributing financially
and he doesn't complain of me taking advantage of him. So my
question is, if we shared finances, how much would be fair for
me to pay: split all expenses 50-50? and if i pay ''rent'', do we
factor it at the going rental-market rate, or as percentage of
his mortgage (he bought house cheap 10 years ago). How do you
factor in my taking care of baby two-three days a week, and my
lost wages from those days? And how do we best join our
finances: bank account? contribute a certain amount to an
account every month? What difference would it make to our
finances if we were to marry? (and would i be more protected in
case we were to ever split, god forbid). And, if we are to
eventually buy a house together (which i think might make me
feel less like i moved into his world), how do we share that
expense, considering he has a lot more money than i do.
if we can't resolve this on our own, can someone recommend a
professional to help us come to some sort of agreement on this?
It sounds to me like your boyfriend is trying to use money to
control you - the fact that he expects you to take care of your
child, take care of the house and still complains about paying
for everything is mindboggling. In my case, my husband works for
pay and I don't, but we share money equally. I take care of the
baby when he's at work (and he takes care of her when he's at
home) and do whatever housework I can. He never complains if I
don't do something.
Be that as it may, let me answer your questions. If you get
married, and don't have a prenup, then everything he makes from
now on will be community property. That means that half of his
salary is yours (and half of your salary is his). If you buy a
home before you get married, you'll have to come to some
agreement as to whether the house is equally shared or whether
you are buying only a part of the house. If you buy it after you
are married, the house will also be community property.
I would recommend that you and your partner see a therapist.
Years ago my (now husband) then boyfriend and I saw a therapist
and she said that couples tend to have conflicts about three
things: sex, money and the division of labor. We certainly
found that to be true. What we found also to be true is that
money and the division of labor are not the real problems-they
are the symptoms. Our real problems were an ineffective
communication system, lack of trust and a lot of
misunderstanding. It took four years, once a week, but now we
have the happiest, healthiest relationship I can even imagine.
We are both so happy that we took the time to learn the tools
we need to make our relationship work. I really encourgage you
to make the investment and go-these are big issues that won't
go away unless you act. There are lots of therapists, I'm
sure, we saw Mary Ann Regan at 652-6600 and she was great.
I can completely identify with your situation. For years, my
boyfriend and I had separate accounts, split everything
(including groceries, rent, utilities) 50/50 (even though our
income percentages were similar to yours), and I tried to do all
I could to keep up with my 50% share. When we married, we still
kept everything separate but instead of splitting everything
50/50 we divvied up bills more according to our income levels.
And recently, with a new baby on the way, we've finally combined
accounts and put both incomes into it.
What took me a long time to realize (and accept) was that our
finances were never going to be equal (and I mean both ways,
there have been times in the last couple of years that our
income levels changed and I was the one bringing in more and
paying more). And I was not a bad/lesser person because of this.
When I finally accepted this, it also made me stop trying (and
feeling guilty) that I was not making the same as him. There is
so much more to a relationship and family and career than $$.
You work hard for your money, and for your family and
relationship -- respect your money and honor all that you do!
It's not your fault that he brings in more. And just because he
does, does not mean you should feel obligated to always being do
more to make up the difference.
My advice would be to combine into one account for both
incomes/and all expenses. If you both crave a little more
independence -- have separate savings/investment accounts. It is
one thing when you are two individuals living together, expenses
can be split up in an easier way. But when you have a child,
it's just not as easy. There are so many expenses that need to
be covered by both of you (and you definitely don't want to have
to discuss every expense that comes up) and making your baby a
priority means that both of you can no longer focus on just your
careers and bringing in a certain amount of money.
If this freaks your boyfriend out because he already thinks he's
paying to much, talk to him about what he thinks the family
priorities should be. If he really thinks (and you agree) that
you should work more, then maybe you should discuss daycare
alternatives and bringing in a housecleaner a couple times a
month. If he really thinks it's important for the baby to be
cared for by you (and him) then he'll need to accept the fact
that there's going to be a limited amount of money for awhile
and he'll be bringing in more of it.
It sounds to me like you are doing a LOT of work (baby, job,
house) -- so much of which does not have a dollar sign attached
to it. Respect and stand up for all that you contribute to the
family. It is worth a great deal and you should feel good about
all that you do -- not like you're never doing enough. Regarding
the house thing, I'm probably not the best person to give advice
on this (I'm still not on the deed for the house my husband bought
during our relationship but prior to our marriage). I personally
think, more important than what to do with the house, is making
plans to protect the baby (and also you since you are caring for
the baby) if something should happen to your boyfriend.
Insurance? Will? Add you to the deed? I'm not sure which makes
the best financial sense but an investment planner can probably
help you there. Best of luck!
When I cohabitated w/ my boyfriend (no kids) we found a
reasonable way to split living expenses was pro rata based on
our income (at the time, split was about 65/35). This was
viewed as an ''even'' split -- and household chores were still
equal responsibility. However, now that I have children, and
work part time, I find that it is a COMMON problem that the part-
time working partner is expected to take up more of the formerly
joint chores -- shopping, car care, chores, errands etc. It's
such a common problem I'm not sure there is a good solution,
except to keep reminding yourselves that childcare IS a job.
However, ultimately, I am concerned about your lack of financial
protection in the arrangement you described -- you are
compromising your earning potential, he gets all the upside of
homeownership, etc. To be protected financially, you should
either have a WRITTEN cohabitation agreement or get married
(preferrably with a prenuptial). Couples counseling might be
the first place to start to come to mutual decisions, then
involve a lawyer for the drafting. Also, does he have life
insurance? A will? Etc. Please protect yourself and your
I am in an close-to opposite situation, where my boyfriend is a
research asst and makes half what I do. Regardless, _we_ bought
a house. Truly the whole downpayment was my funds and most bills
and expenses are paid from my income. For us, what was important
for me (ms. miserly) and him (mr. nosavings) to recognize was
that we were commiting to ''us'' which had to mean a lessening of
''mine'' and ''his.'' He's not my roommate, I don't want rent. He's
my partner so we need to talk about the things that effect our
money (can he get lunch out everyday?) and happiness (who does
chores?). It's not always easy, but-for us- the committment to us
first folowed by mine and yours, really helps. I know many
friends who operate as a great couple in what, to me, is more of
a ''roommate'' relationship and division of responsibilities,
whereas for us, working as a ''family'' is more comfortable--
though probably also more challanging as roles/responsibilities
are less deliniated. Maybe a discussion with your boyfriend as
to how you both view the relationship in that aspect would be
helpful. Hopefully other parents have a success story of their
more ''roommate-y'' division of finance and chores that will be
helpful to you too.
You have a lot of questions and concerns, some of which are more
about trust and expectations in your relationship than they
really are about money, and I don't think I could possibly do
justice to them all, so I would definitely suggest bringing in a
financial advisor, not only for the benefit of specific
financial advice, but also as a neutral third party to help you
and your partner think productively about money. You may also
want to consult a family lawyer or real estate lawyer about how
the title to your house is held and who is named on the mortgage.
I can tell you what my husband and I have done. Before we were
married, we got a joint credit card and used it to pay for joint
expenses (restaurant meals, theater tickets, 'toys' we planned
to share) and split the bill 50/50, and after we moved in
togehter, we did the same with rent and other household
expenses. When we married, we decided that 50/50 was no longer
appropriate and began dividing all household and joint bills in
the same proportion as our respective incomes. Which meant it
stayed almost 50/50, as it happens, since we've so far earned
very similar incomes, but we've built some flexibility into the
system for the future. We've never had a truly joint bank
account, though we each are named as an accountholder on the
other's accounts so that we do have access to each other's money
if and when needed. I'm in charge of paying the bills and my
husband simply transfers ''his share'' into my account twice a
Other couples I know, instead of sharing the expenses
proportionately, budget a certain amount of money for each
spouse to be the ''mad money'' and each contributes all *but* that
amount into a 'household' bank account from which all bills are
paid. I do know others who use a ''he pays these bills, she pays
those'' system as you are doing. Any of these can work just fine
but there has to be an underlying agreement about how and how
much each of you is contributing to the economic and social unit
that is your family and how those contributions (in $$$ and
time) are valued. It sounds like you may not have that, and I
think trying to create it by changing how you manage your bills
is putting the cart before the horse. I suggest a serious talk
with your partner about coordinating your needs, expectations
and values FIRST, and the question of who pays how much of what
bills from which account should suddenly become much easier to
answer. Good luck!
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