When my husband — I like to call him Juan in these blog posts — and I first decided to join accounts, we started with an online savings account for the wedding. Juan and I decided on an amount we wanted to save and both contribute equally at regular intervals. No problem.
We had the wedding in his parents’ backyard and did almost everything ourselves, including purchasing the flowers wholesale, trimming, and arranging them two hours before the ceremony. We stuck to our budget, and shy of his father flipping burgers, we did it as inexpensively as possible. Yay for us! (More on how to pay for your own wedding and why it is ideal for the bride another time.)
We were happily married, and soon moved out of his post-college “frat house.” (I lived there, too, to save money.) My name was officially updated and it was time to merge finances… Simple right?
Our wedding budget strategy — I call it “Separate AND Equal” — worked perfectly, so I naturally thought we should continue it.
Here was the problem: I was a Boston Public School teacher at the time and he worked in accounting for a successful software startup, which meant a significant difference in our salaries. It was easy for him to make his equal contribution. Mine, however, put me in the red. I’d either have to get another job or start taking out a loan from my new husband. I tried to make it happen, but it was totally wacky.
Here was the thinking behind my stubbornness:
1. Discretionary spending. We just didn’t value the same things. I’d have one glass of wine and feel enough guilt that I’d order a salad and pass on dessert. He’d have several beers and eat like every meal was his last. I didn’t want these differences to cause tension, so better to have side dough to cover the things we separately wanted without grief.
2. I. Am. Independent. I had been on my own budget since I was 18, put myself through school (twice), and worked three jobs when necessary. I did not want someone else to pay my way… period.
3. What if this marriage doesn’t work out? Nah. Just kidding, I didn’t think that… But just in case, I needed to have my own stash to rebuild if necessary.
These are just a few of the things that could impact your post-wedding financial merger.
Ultimately, I found that financial strategy is about compromise, much like the rest of marriage has been.
Looking back, it was tough to let this all go… and sometimes it still is. Over time, as our lives and hopes and dreams merged, we ended up valuing the same things (mostly). He tightened up and I loosened up, and I realized that it’s alright to spend money. Together, we focus on being smarter about our money and balancing one another out. So far, it’s working well. With that said, I must say it’s more fun when you have a little more to spend, so I’m enjoying my half of the compromise — being a little less frugal.
We could also challenge ourselves budget-wise by living off of his income and banking mine for the future (our salary differential is still the same). Lastly, to deal with my control issues with money, I stay in control of our budget.
By the way, I still have a few of my own accounts in my name only and my own credit card. And if the S.O.B. leaves, I can lock him out by changing the passwords before he does!
So, ladies of the new millennium, jump heart first, but keep your head above water.
What challenges did you face when combining financial futures with your partner? Please share in the comments!
Sam Hammar is a city-dwelling workaholic, who works on all kinds of projects that help the City of Boston be the kind of place PerkStreet Financial is proud to call home. Although public service is tough, Sam keeps things in balance by focusing on the little things in life. Sam loves saving money and helping people, and she also loves her husband, Juan. Her writing is geared toward recently married couples.
Interested in writing for the PerkStreet Blog regularly like Sam does? Email the editor at Kyle.Psaty[at]PerkStreet[dot]com!
Combining accounts with your special someone? Check out PerkStreet Financial. We offer awesome cash back rewards on joint accounts!