money management relationships

Combining Finances: Two Questions from Readers

readers questions graphic I had two awesome questions on my latest post about combining finances so I wanted to share them in their own post.  Your comments always make me think about angles I had never even considered before!  I <3 you all.

Question #1 is from Daisy:

“Was combining your finances always something you knew you’d do, or was it a hard decision?”

Awesome question!  Since I’ve never really answered this question before, I’m sure many readers are wondering the same thing!

The decision to combine finances actually came after we learned a lot about personal finance and we had done some major clean-up of our finances.  I had always assumed that we would combine finances when we got married, but G took a little convincing.

First of all, he got some, uh, bad advice from a friend of a friend of a friend of an acquaintance of a friend (or something like that).  This person said something to the effect of, “Keep your finances separate.  It’s the best thing I ever did for my relationship.”

Um, yeah.  No judgment, but the quoted person may or may not have the best financial habits … so, there’s that.  Anyyyyways.

Second of all, I think G may have come into our relationship thinking that many women have bad spending habits.  I cleared that miscommunication up pretty quickly.  😉

I think after G realized that I don’t get too jazzed up about blowing $500 on a Coach purse (that’d give me a hernia, not excitement) and that I wasn’t a compulsive shopper, he realized it was for the best.  We also listen to a lot of Dave Ramsey’s talk show and he is a huge advocate of combining finances.  I have always agreed with combining finances and G finally sees the light, too.

I think another big part of this decision was growing up.  We spend much more wisely now that we’re older and I think that just tends to happen with age.  Also, seriously, can you imagine when you have kids?!  It’d go something like this:

  • A: “Can you buy some diapers on the way home?”
  • G: “I bought diapers last time.  It’s your turn to buy diapers.”
  • A: “Uhhh, okay.  Well, I guess Baby G will just go to the bathroom wherever he/she wants then …”

Yeah, that would drive me nuts.

Question #2 is from Well-Heeled (one of my fav bloggers of all all time, btw):

“What if one of you have family members that require much more financial help than the other person’s? How do you decide what part of your joint financial resources go to whom?”

Another awesome question.  In my opinion, the answer isn’t even about combined finances.  It’s about joint decision-making.  When we get married, our money will be 100% ours, 100% joint finances.  In addition, our families will no longer be “your family” and “my family”, they will all be “our” family.

In this situation, we would talk it out and decide together if we wanted to help that family member financially. At that point, the question would be more of how much, how, and when.  It wouldn’t come out of one of our two pots of money, because we’ll just have one pot of money.

Making joint decisions is probably an even touchier subject that combining finances.  Realizing that you can’t just make a decision to help a loved one financially on your own (like saying – oh my aunt is sick, I think I’ll give her some money), is a tough pill to swallow for many people.  G and I will have to learn to talk through each situation and make a joint decision before taking action.  (Which will be tough for both of us.  I like to make decisions.  Remember my ridiculously unrealistic required rate of progression that I talked about back when we were combining phone plans?)  Dang, I’m not even married and I’m already thinking it’s gonna be tough!  Hopefully, if I’m we’re lucky, I’ll we’ll never have to make a decision to help a relative out financially.

Now it’s your turn:  How would YOU answer Daisy and Well-Heeled’s questions?

P.S. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!


  • I thought your diapers example was funny, but I wanted to say… Saying you have separate finances doesn’t mean that you become anal retentive and keep a list of everything each person has bought. For instance, if I’m going to the grocery store and Mr. Red needs a few things, I pick them up. I don’t come home and tally up the receipt or tell him that he needs to spend X amount on MY stuff because I bought some of his stuff. (Before we were married, he would pay me back for stuff I picked up if money was tight, but that was rare.) I know that over the course of a marriage 1) those things are going to even themselves out and 2) those things don’t really matter. My concern with our finances really is just making sure both of us feel that our division of expenses is fair.

    Like SS4BC said, I think even if we combined finances I’d still have a running total in my mind of how much of the money was “mine.” I’m sure that kind of thinking goes away with time, but at least for the first few years, I would focus on what part of the pot was mine and leave his part alone.

  • I love the commitment you guys are putting in to everything being 100% combined. I don’t know if I would be able to mentally let go of my money like that. I would always be thinking “but I know that XXX amount is mine” in the back of my head. And then get mad if he bought something that I didn’t approve of.

    Are you guys having a certain amount that you have to check in on the other person before you can buy it?

    • I’m not sure. We haven’t dedided on a “set” number. I think we’ll just assume any big purchases, we should probably check with the other person.

  • I didn’t (and still really don”)t have a strong opinion on how money is managed, as long as it is managed and we are working towards mutual goals Which is why we are only very slowly moving towards joint.

    Also, I don’t think “separate” is as hard as you make it out to be. Before we were married, we split everything that was reasonably considered a joint expense by putting it on a joint credit card, then split the bill each month. If I got lunch or shoes on my own, clearly that was not a joint expense, so I put it on my regular card.

    I hadn’t so much thought of well-heeled’s question. That is a little… scary to think about, but like you said, it is now OUR family and our decisions. I think these kind of money decisions are so much easier when you aren’t spread too thin and have a good amount of freedom in where your money goes…. and that is a situation I hope we will be in!

  • To us it just made logical sense to have a joint checking for joint expenses and single accounts for our own spending money. We don’t want that my money your money issue when it’s time to grocery shop and all that stuff. The diapers (which by the way we will never, ever need) would just come out of the joint expense account. I set it up so there is extra misc money in there too and it works out nicely.

  • I really hope that you don’t judge others for keeping finances separate or that their relationships are much weaker just because they do so, I just think its a different decision and different things work for different people. Like J.D. Roth from GRS says “do what works for you.” IMO separate finances aren’t that complicated. I have online banking, so does my bf,
    and we login and see what our finances are in each separate account.

    We’re not the type of people who use Excel where you have to keep lots of charts and graphs, etc. We just keep things very simple. We don’t make things complicated.

    • Hey there, I just sent you an e-mail. I hope that my posts don’t make it sound like I’m judging. I truly am not judging anyone for keeping separate finances. Many other bloggers do keep separate finances and I seriously appreciate what they have told me about their situation because it also helps me figure out what works best for me. To many people, separate finances work better, but they just won’t for us. 🙂

  • btw men get into debt as much as women do but instead of shoes and clothes, they buy gadgets, sports memorabilia, electronics, cars, etc.

  • Thanks for raising this topic. I guess if two people had separate finances, it’d be easier to channel money to help their family. Although, I’ve seen this with my family, even when finances are ‘joint”, there are not-quite-secret-but-not-so-obvious streams of cash that goes to one side of the family and the other person isn’t happy, but just kind of turns a blind eye to it (or doesn’t check the statements as carefully as they can). I’m sure the experts will never condone this.. but if it works….

  • Great answer! I think as long as it works for you, it works! I’m sure when boy & I get married, we’ll combine some. Though I can imagine myself being a bit obsessive!
    Thanks for the link, by the way!

  • For couples struggling with the idea, you might consider setting up a joint account for mutual expenses that you each contribute to on a monthly basis (rent, groceries, utilities, etc.) while separately maintaining your own individual accounts for your “other” stuff. One more account to deal with but a reasonable way to have the best of both worlds.

  • A lot of our friends go down the route of having separate accounts and one joint account for joint expenses and it works for them but I can never get my head around it. My parents combined their finances so it was a method that I’m familiar with. Asher and I combined our accounts the day we moved in together and so far, we find that this works very well for us except when buying presents. 😐 That said, we’ve kinda overcome it by giving ourselves a cash allowance each month for discretionary spending.

    With helping out a relative financially, we’ll be going the same route as you. We’ve discussed it before so we know that if it happens, we’ll just have to let the other know and decide on whether to help and how much to give.

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