Q:I am hoping for some help in a marriage-as-mini-socialism predicament. My fiancé and I recently bought a house, which sort of tipped the scales for us from keeping separate bank accounts and splitting the bills down the middle to sharing an account. It was getting really annoying to try to split everything “fairly.” So we are doing the all-in-one-pot-thing, with equal allowances in our individual accounts.
We make enough to cover the bills, but I am concerned about our savings rate. Instead of being able to stash anything away, we pretty much just break even every month. The exception is my own allowance fund, which has been building up.
My fiancé has this brand new truck, which has irked me for a while. I have a thirteen-year-old car, which works fine for me. It’s not that I want a new car. I just want to get on a stable foundation with our money, and the bill for just his truck and the insurance is just SO HIGH. (It might be reasonable, actually, I have just never financed a car because it really is such a huge expense that I don’t see the value in.) He also has a terrible chewing tobacco habit, which costs $7 every day, likes to go to sit-down restaurants for lunch, and just generally doesn’t seem to be working toward long-term financial goals. I have discussed this with him, and he seems to agree that saving more is something we should do, but not about any actions that would help us get there.
Short story: I want him to trade in his truck, find another way of reducing (what I see as) frivolous spending, OR… I kinda want to go back to splitting the bills evenly. If we did that, I could at least save a greater part of my own income, and he might feel a bit more strain, which could lead to a curb in his spending. So… what would APW do?
—ENGAGED IN A COLD WAR
Keeping your money separate and splitting the bills evenly seems to just avoid the problem, rather than fixing it, doesn’t it? And you basically end up in the same place—the bills are covered, you have a pile of cash, and he has a bunch of tobacco and a new truck, but no cushion. You’re not solving anything. Say a medical emergency comes up, or you want to go on vacation, you’re still the one with the loot, jumping in to cover his butt.
You guys aren’t on the same page about something pretty major (where you’re headed financially) and it’s important to force yourselves onto that same page. Money decisions reveal and determine so much else about your life. Current priorities, future goals, and longterm plans are all wrapped up in how you choose to spend your cash. If you can’t agree about the spending, chances are you don’t agree on the bigger picture, which can be a pretty big problem. Don’t just avoid it. Fix it.
At least, mostly. You may not fix it completely. You guys need to have some serious conversations (probably a lot of them, if I’m being real) and try to determine together what you financially prioritize as a couple. But, that will mean some compromise on your part. Selling the truck or quitting the tobacco habit might seem plain responsible to you (and sure, there’s an element where working toward savings is just a part of adulthood), but if he’s a spender and you’re a saver, you’re both going to need to concede a bit. There has to be room for having different interests and priorities as individuals, even when you’re aligned on the big picture, joint stuff.
Practically? That might mean showing him on paper what “putting more toward savings” (a goal he agrees with!) actually looks like in daily choices, cold hard numbers, truck payments or whatever else. It might mean setting some actual specific goals for that savings rather than just some amorphous pile of money.
And if you still can’t come to an agreement about his truck, it seems like that’s one “bill” that’s more of a personal spending allowance sort of expense. Joint finances don’t mean that you need to agree on absolutely every expenditure. But it does mean you jointly pick the big goals, jointly set a plan to achieve them together, and then give one another some wiggle room to be individuals.
Luckily this whole money issue isn’t unique to you. It’s uh, something a few of us have worked on (and argued about and thrown exasperated hands into the air over). So it might help to read not one but two posts by Meg about how joint finances work in their house. Or this by Maddie on ways they worked around the arguments. Or just, you know what, take a tour of the whole archive of money posts, because it’s never a bad idea to see that other folks struggle with the same stuff.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTION, PLEASE DON’T BE SHY! IF YOU WOULD PREFER NOT TO BE NAMED, ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS ARE ALSO ACCEPTED. (THOUGH IT REALLY MAKES OUR DAY WHEN YOU COME UP WITH A CLEVER SIGN-OFF!)