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I've been married a long time, 17 years this May. We've tried all the different ways couples can manage their money. In the beginning, we both worked, we tried keeping our separate checking accounts and paying bills, but back then I made more money than my husband and it was confusing. So we switched to one bank account, but we still split up the bills, to “make it fair,” or so I thought. This was before computers and electronic payments, mind you, so sometimes one of us would get busy and forget to pay a bill. It was confusing. We had late fees, lots of miscommunication between the two of us, and fighting about who's-a-spender and who's-a-saver.
Fast forward to now: I do it all. It makes sense that I manage our family finances since 1) I have more time (in theory) since I'm a stay-at-home mom; 2) I'm the one who spends the money, for the most part; and 3) I'm
a control freak more organized.
We've been through the ups and downs of consumer debt, spending too much on unnecessary things, etc. and we've agreed that this is working. We meet once a year to set our financial goals and get on the same page with the big picture, and we meet 1-2 times each month to talk about what's happening, what's coming up, and how things are going. It makes a huge difference when you and your spouse agree. Yes, we have personal “fun” money, yes we have disagreements, but in general we're focused on paying off our debts and saving for the future. It's taken a lot of trial and error to get here, but it's smooth now.
If you haven't yet, I encourage you to have a date night with your spouse where you set your financial goals. We go out for milkshakes and talk through this list of topics, everything from debts to retirement to vacations to home repairs. Once you agree on the big numbers, you can set a monthly amount for each of you to have as “personal money.” That takes the feelings of sacrifice and struggle away and gives you each some independent, can't argue-with-me money to spend.
It's not too late for 2011, and it will get you on track for improved communication with your honey as well as an improved budget.