Married Finances: One Year In

In August, I canceled my monthly auto transfer to the joint checking account and my husband changed his to cover all of our household expenses. Today, that change really kicks in. It’s real.

We set an annual household budget for 2017 back in December. It was actually pretty easy – we took the contents of “Shared Spending 2016” and turned that into a budget with a few tweaks.

We set up auto transfers for each of us to pay for half of it, assigned particular credit cards to be household ones, and paid for those credit cards out of the joint account.

My husband proudly pronounced recently that Mint told him he had spent $0 on groceries, which meant he had been good all year at using the household credit cards to buy groceries. Slowly, we’re figuring out this game.

We forgot a few things like condo insurance, umbrella insurance, toiletries, occasional parking, and the endless stamps we seem to buy, lose, and re-find. The toiletries thing came to a head when I realized that my husband bought Fancy shampoo for him out of the groceries budget, yet I was buying Fancy shampoo for myself out of my personal money. (This may have resulted in some crying, possibly.) That prompted a re-evaluation of what we had each been spending out of personal money that should have been household. We found that I had been buying a lot of needs out of personal money, like moisturizer, cleanser, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and other hair products, and allergy medicine. I had been proclaiming about how frugal I was by spending only $X on lunches on campus on odd scheduled days. Those plus all the food out my husband had bought because he ate more food than me all turned into household purchases.

The joint account is incredible for the visibility. It means that we can both easily see how much we’re spending in various categories and how much it costs to run our household for a year. We’ve been doing so well with the budget overall that other than for wedding stuff, we haven’t had to transfer in extra money.

We’ve also both been a bit more frugal all year, what with paying for the wedding reception ourselves.

 

We ignored the elephants in the room all year: the question of what my plans were after I completed the coursework portion of my Master’s degree and the fact that my husband is earning 95% of our household income this year.

That all came to a heat when, in the span of a few weeks, my husband received a promotion he’s been working towards for many years, I completed the coursework portion of my Master’s degree, and we realized that if we continued on the path we were on, my savings account would have a zero dollar balance at the end of the year.

Gulp.

 

 

Whoever said you shouldn’t ask your partner for a pre-nuptial agreement because the discussions are hard was silly because talking about money in marriage is such vulnerable conversation and skipping it is a recipe for disaster.

Talking about all of this has brought back memories of how controlling my parents were around distributing money. Since college, I’ve been staunchly financially independent from anyone else (except that whole somewhat needing a job thing). I’ve paid my own rent, bought my own groceries, and bought clothes as I saw fit, not as my parents saw fit. My husband is much more easy going than my parents and it’s vastly different, but these feelings still come up.

 

No matter how expensive these past twelve months have been, we wouldn’t trade them for the world. The engagement couch has been a huge quality of life boost and was a far better decision than selling the condo and moving last year would have been. The elopement, the engagement ring, the fancy wedding band, and this joyful wedding reception we’ve planned have all been incredible, though I’ll have to report back on the wedding reception’s joy level later as right now, it’s in the stressful mad dash to the end.

If we went back in time, we would re-make the same decisions again.

We just can’t contribute to them 50/50 right now financially. Marriage isn’t 50/50 each year and this is one of those years. It’s an ebb and flow as my mom once said.

Or as my husband said, we have too much money for either of us to worry about how we’re buying the food we’re eating that night. <3 Our new spreadsheet titled “Combined net worth” shows that as of May 31st, 2017, 4% of our investments would cover our household budget, less the travel splurges. We have more than ten years of those expenses in cash or liquid investments. We can’t yet maintain our current lifestyle or cover non-employer health insurance with our investments, but we can keep a roof over our heads, feed ourselves, and have a pretty good stable life.

We feel really incredibly fortunate that my husband’s income is sufficient for us to live off of. It’s more than sufficient – more than half of his overall net income for the year would be saved even covering the household expenses entirely out of his paychecks.

 

It took us longer than it should have to realize we would come to this point because I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about it other than my husband. I briefly said something to a few people over the last few months and all of their immediate responses were “Why don’t you just live off of your husband’s income and stop worrying about all of this?” If your knee jerk reaction is the exact opposite of what the couple would prefer to do, perhaps you should keep your opinions to yourself rather than being entirely unsupportive. The intricacies of all of this are huge and complicated with all the money mindsets, past experiences, and that we never intended to get married until we did. We’re consciously choosing what to do with our money going forward as it makes sense and feels right to us, rather than our state telling us we had to combine from the date of our marriage forward.

Is this a path towards more combining? Is it bad if it is or isn’t? I’m confident that we will continue to consciously make the decisions and course correct as it makes sense for us going forward, however that ends up.

 

Here’s to an incredible first year of marriage and I’m so glad I’ve had you by my side through all the chaos of the last year!

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16 thoughts on “Married Finances: One Year In

  1. Lovely post! Yes marriage isn’t 50/50 in all domains, sounds like you figured out what would work best for you now going forward. I feel the same way my income has taken a hit with baby leave but I think it would feel much worse if we contributed equally even though are incomes are not equal in the first place.

    • I’m really glad we contributed 50/50 for a while after we got married – it helped ease into it. That’s no longer the balance that works though we do still believe that we shouldn’t be inflating our lifestyle with the other’s income. I hope you two find the right balance with you on baby leave!

  2. Great post! And I especially love that you don’t try to define what this “means” and just accept it “I’m confident that we will continue to consciously make the decisions and course correct as it makes sense for us going forward, however that ends up.” That’s perfect.

  3. Continuing to figure out what works for the two of you as a couple at any point in time is a class in learning and loving yourselves. These money talks and dealing with how we relate to money matter. I’m glad you and your husband are finding a good way for y’all.

  4. As long as you’d do the same for him, it is fair in my book.

    For us, as we both make a lot, we don’t really like anything but 50/50 but if push came to shove we would take over for each other 100% in the event we can’t work, etc… so same deal as you, essentially.

    • I didn’t really like anything but 50/50 either. We just came to a point that due to a series of mutual life decisions, that was no longer possible for me to continue to do AND support the individual life decisions I was making. Once I have an income again, then we will re-discuss or I assume too if me not having an income goes on for a long time. One of the questions we asked as we re-examined the household budget was whether my husband would have paid for X luxury item all by himself and if the answer was yes, then it should stay in the budget. I have a feeling we will be reducing luxuries a bit next year based on how expensive these past couple of years have been…

    • Absolutely! I didn’t charge him any rent for the two years that we lived together before we got married. The timing of when I bought the condo and the large extra principal payments I made also results in him paying far less interest than I did. So it definitely goes back and forth!

  5. Although we have combined our money, me husband and I make essentially the same amount of money so I kind of viewed us as unofficially 50/50. I felt really guilty when switched to part time for a year and a half because of a baby with some health issues and unsteady work hours. I suddenly felt I wasn’t contributing enough towards our financial goals even though we were still easily meeting them. Totally agree with you, as life surprises and changes pop up, sometimes our roles in a marriage change. When he worked more I tried to help pick up more of his household chores. Now that I’m back full time and have so much less free time, he packs my lunch for me every day. I think that’s the beauty in a marriage that’s based on partnership. Even when we both won’t be earning 50/50, we’ll both be contributing 100% to our marriage, family and financial goals.

  6. This post reminds me of the Joy Luck Club with the 50/50 husband and wife scene. I still have trouble understanding the division of finances in a marriage. I’m all for the one pot, especially since the money you two have is quite significant. I might be a bit more wasteful with our money but zero stress in figuring out such minute details IMHO. I feel there are times when being cheap is not being efficient.

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