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How to Share Finances and Budgeting

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Household Management > How to Share Finances and Budgeting


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How to work together on budget and finances

Dec 2010

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 our situation? 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 get it set up. We've been using it for a couple of years and I recommend it to the 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 computer. 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 wonderful. Budget Minded
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 track progress
- 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 love mint.


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 luck! Vaile
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 transactions, spending patterns, budgets, etc... It automatically categorizes spending for you which sometimes requires manual changes, and it automatically groups items into logical buckets but it gives you a fair amount of flexibility in modifying, budgeting and goal setting - best part is it is free and has free apps for i-phone so you can keep track from wherever. Maggie
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 allowance. 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 it's 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 lowest 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. good luck. 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. Mint Happy
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 relationship.

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! John


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 to....

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! anon


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 machines.

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 his computer.

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- line site.

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. --Good Luck


Have you looked into Mint.com? I use it to help keep track of my accounts. They may have a solution for you Bobbie Jo

Husband and I not agreeing on finances

Nov 2009

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. m
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 about.
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 guy 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 unpromising commitment. 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 . Why not?

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) anon


Fiance refuses to share money and wants a pre-nup

Oct 2006

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 A mom
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 to renege on his parental responsibilities – even before having the child. What he’s asking is not reasonable. Once you have a baby, you may not want to work as much – certainly you don’t want to promise to work full-time. You never know. And the fact that he’s unwilling to change his work schedule is also worrisome. With a baby 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.

It’s 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 he’s just uptight about money – some people are. But I don’t 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 Good luck!
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, I 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 glad we haven't had a child yet'' (even though you've been trying for a year) ''he wants you to work full time after you have a child'' (has he seen nanny prices lately?) and he wants this all in writing? I honestly think that you are lucky to have found this out before you had a child with him. Is he willing to stay with you, unmarried, even if you don't 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 child 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 very much 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 is 415-721-4527, or visit www.skolnikoffMFT.com. You may also want to consult a tax accountant, because by marrying you, your boyfriend may get a great tax deduction as head of household and getting deductions for both the child and childcare. Ernie
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

Paying bills in ''roommate mode'' - what's a fair split?

April 2006

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. financial idiot


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 me. JJ
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. anon


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 together.

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. Team member


One option:

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 earning 60%.

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 help. 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 financial 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
Overcoming Overspending
--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 says. anon
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. anon
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. Cathy
You received so many helpful answers to this post, and I just wanted to follow-up 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 Claire Allvine and Christine Larson, and I wanted to say that I purchased the book right away and my partner and I have been working through it this week. It seems that their idea of forming the company ''Love, Inc,'' merging our money together, and managing our family's finances as if it were a business *really will* help us get out of the emotional mess that money seems to cause and get into a sensible, totally do-able system of money management that makes us both feel like equal financial partners. We love it, and feel like we're already leaps and bounds ahead of where we 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. anon

If you both work, how do you divide up the bills?

March 2006

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


Hi there- 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 toys/shopping/etc.

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 GO TEAM!


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. anon
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. anon
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 division.

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. anon


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 to. 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! anon
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. monie monie
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 funds.

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. anon


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. anon
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 that person. However, if one of us got a huge sum--inheritance, let's say, we would put it in the corporation. Good luck! happy egalitarian


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 mortgage. 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. anon

How to divvy up expenses now that we have a baby

April 2003

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.

Lastly, 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? anon


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. anon


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. Good luck. rebecca
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! cj


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 child! Susan
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. ms miserly
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 month.

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! Holly


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