Are Your Joint Finances As Feminist As You Think?

Or are you screwing yourself out of what's yours?

A few months ago, I was standing in line at a sample sale for my favorite clogs, trying to keep an eye on my two year old while chatting with the woman behind me in line. As we compared our finds and tracked our children’s paths of destruction, she said something along the lines of, “I’m kind of embarrassed I’m spending my husband’s money this way, you know?” I could tell that this was the point where I was supposed to say something similarly self-deprecating, but instead there was one of those pauses where I frantically tried to marshal words to politely convey my thoughts.

I remember trying to give a disclaimer before I dove in, by saying, “Well I write about this for a living, so I think about it a lot…” and then got right into it with, “but I really think that both partners contribute to a marriage, so nobody should have to feel like the money isn’t theirs.” Then I sort of grimaced, since obviously I had just gotten very personal for a sample sale line. But blessedly, probably because the people shopping for badass women-made clogs are bound to be awesome, she was clearly down to discuss.

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“It’s just that he makes so much more, and I spend part of my time taking care of our kid, so I feel like I don’t have the same right to our finances.”

And there it was. The refrain that I have heard from so many women, particularly those in hetero relationships. I’ve heard it from engaged folks, newlyweds, and, particularly, mothers over the years. Because guess what? We live in a world where women earn 70 cents on the man’s dollar (best case scenario), and nearly 30% of women opt to stay home with their children; this is a dynamic that happens over and over again, in household after household.

And while I have many facts and figures and feminist arguments that I like to make about the subject (and I’ve written in depth about why I think couples should combine finances), I was trying to keep my two-year-old from knocking over a display, and about to pay for some shoes, so I didn’t have time. So I boiled it down to the simplest argument I could possibly think of. “I significantly out-earn my husband, but he doesn’t get any less spending money than I do, because, that wouldn’t be fair, right? We contribute to the family in different ways.” And then looking at her child who was tugging at her arm, I pointed out, “And taking care of kids is some of the hardest work of a marriage, right?”

Thank God, she didn’t look offended, or slap me in the face, or any of the scenarios that had played out in my head before I opened my mouth. Instead she looked at me like a light bulb had gone on, and said, “OMG RIGHT. OF COURSE HE DOESN’T GET ANY LESS SPENDING MONEY THAN YOU.”

Progressive Men Are Hustling us

We live in a world where the majority of women earn less than their partners, and women are taught from childhood to sacrifice themselves to make other people more comfortable. When it comes to household finances, this assumption seems to go unquestioned, again and again, even in progressive households. If one person (namely, the husband) earns more, shouldn’t he get the benefit of that spending money? Apparently lots of men think so, and lots of women are going along with it.

In fact, in a recent article in Marie Clare, the generally super-progressive Gabby Dunn suggested the following:

In an episode of my podcast, Bad with Money, comedian couple Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher said that in the beginning of their relationship, when Cameron made more money, Rhea took care of all household chores. This greatly reduced Cameron’s stress and contributed more to their relationship than Rhea’s lesser income could.

But what does this really mean, particularly when we apply this advice to mixed-gender relationships? It means that we are dragging patriarchy inside our homes and embedding inequality in our wallets and relationships. It means that even though professions dominated by women are underpaid and professions dominated by men are overpaid, that men’s work is valued more highly than women’s work. That women earn less for doing the exact same jobs. Progressive men are getting more money to spend on the fun things in life because “they earned it.” And women are working the second shift, because they earned it. And we are by and large letting that assumption go unquestioned.

There are many painful conversations to be had here. There is a lot of soul searching that we all need to go through: Why do men think they deserve this? Why do we let them have it? And if marriage isn’t fundamentally about pooling resources of all kinds for the collective good of a (very) small group working toward a shared future, what is it for?

How To Change The Conversation

But I’ve found that the simplest way to change the conversation is to gender invert it. And as someone who has always out-earned her husband, I can tell you how the world looks at it when women earn more.

  • I do not get more spending money from our family accounts (and nobody has ever suggested that I should).
  • I do not do fewer chores. My husband does not try to make up for earning less by pulling more weight around the house, to reduce my stress.
  • My husband does not defer to me on all major purchases, “because it’s mostly her money overall.”

And nobody suggests that any of these things should happen. In fact, quite the opposite. People suggest that I should keep it a deep dark secret that I earn more. (I should probably definitely not put it on the Internet.) That I should defer to him so he feels better about who earns what. That I should do extra chores and childcare, just because. That I should obviously, always, share all that is mine with my husband. And you know, I mostly ignore that advice, other than sharing money equally. But thus far it seems to be working out just fine for everyone. We both make money, we throw it in a joint pot, we make financial decisions. Given that we both work hard, both at home and at work, we split our chores (and spending money) equally.

But I do know this. My husband has never in his life been in line for an electronics purchase and told someone, “I feel guilty spending this, because it’s kind of my wife’s money.” If he’s doing anything in that line, it’s calculating how much of our money he can get away with spending. As for the differences in our income? To the extent that he thinks about it at all, he congratulates himself on marrying someone who makes good money. (I know this is true, because I asked him.)

How are you handling finances as a couple? Does the partner who makes more money get more to spend, or #nope?

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  • Sarah Jane

    We have joint finances. EVERYTHING goes into one account, and we make joint decisions on what we spend it on. We both have our own lines in the budget for personal spending money, but we each get the same amount. And I’m in the same situation as Meg – I make wayyyy more money than my husband does. What constantly surprises me is the attitude I get from my friends and family, who all have split finances. They just can’t wrap their heads around the idea of ‘our money’ vs. ‘yours and mine money’. It makes me a little sad sometimes, because they always end up telling me about fights they have over money, that I never have with my husband.

    • Not Sarah

      I’m so sad that your friends with separate money have fights regularly with their spouses – that hasn’t been our situation. My spouse and I kept separate finances for quite a while, but we also always had a joint account that ran a household budget and that’s honestly where the vast majority of our spending was. The separate finances didn’t cause our fights – it was other pieces that did.

      • Sarah Jane

        Yeah, it seems like the couples that have more arguments are the ones who have some really complicated scheme set up, where one person is ‘paying’ the other person back each month, and the one who makes less money ends up doing more housework, things like that. I honestly think a lot of it stems to their individual attitudes about money, and the fact that they won’t really talk about it to each other. I’m glad that separate finances are working for you and your spouse!

        • Not Sarah

          Yes, I firmly believe that separate finances aren’t an excuse to not talk to your spouse about money. Separate finances for them to work well require MORE talking to your spouse!

        • I really dislike the idea of compensating for making less money by doing more housework! I think if the hours worked per week for each person are noticeably different, then the fewer hours person putting more hours into the household responsibilities make sense, but for earnings differences for similar amounts of hours? That makes me sad! Doctors and teachers both greatly contribute to society, but they aren’t paid equally!

      • NotMotherTheresa

        I suspect a lot of this is a causation vs. correlation thing.

        One of the big reasons for keeping separate finances is BECAUSE you can’t see eye to eye on money. If you have vastly different financial attitudes, you’re ~going ~ to fight about money, no matter how you choose to split the pie.

        My husband and I have a similar setup to what you and your spouse had: We contribute jointly to our household budget, and the rest is separate. The separate parts are what we fight about far more often than the joint, but that isn’t because one is inherently harder than the other. It’s a matter of attitudes and personal habits: We have a joint household budget because we CAN (more or less) see eye to eye on how much is appropriate to spend on houses, cars, etc. On the other hand, the other expenses are separate because we CANNOT agree on whether it’s okay to spend $10 on lunch/$50 on a shirt/$200 on plane tickets for a friend’s wedding. These vastly different values mean that separate or not, there are going to be some fights over those types of expenses that we just don’t have over the mortgage or car payments.

    • So here is my question: do people expect you to keep “your money” and let your husband have less? Pretty much nobody EVER suggests that to me. (And never in the history of time has anyone suggested he do all the chores to make sure I stay relaxed, though you know, people could feel free to drop that comment any time they want!) I’m curious who this goes for other women that earn more, because I feel like the convo is not the same when gender reversed, at ALL.

      (I mean, we fight about money sometimes, but it’s mostly like “so that was dumb, don’t do it again.” Not anything particularly epic.)

      • Sarah Jane

        No, I’ve never had that expectation at all. Honestly, most people are initially surprised that I make more, and then when we get to the fact that our accounts are joint, they say something like “oh, well that makes sense for you guys, but I make SOOOO much more than my wife that it just wouldn’t work for us” or something like that. Nobody seems comfortable enough to actually discuss numbers, so I don’t know how much of a difference in salary they have, but I usually respond by saying that I make about 50% more than my husband does, and we manage just fine. And we have a pretty even split on housework and taking care of the kid because, you know, we both work similar hours and get home at the same time.
        And of course, we have fights about money, but I think it’s the same thing that you mentioned, nothing major (for example, don’t spend the entire month’s budget on groceries in ONE trip just because they were having a bunch of buy 2 get 1 free deals. come on, dude. Like you said, that was dumb, don’t do it again!). We decided on priorities like savings and vacation funds etc. when we combined the accounts and set up our budget, so everything’s kind of just fallen into place.

        • This makes me want to punch a wall. RIGHT, if a woman makes a lot more then “I guess joint accounts work.” But if a man make a lot more than OBVIOUSLY HE HAS TO KEEP IT? And probably his wife needs to do more to make up for it?

          Seriously. How in the f*ck are we letting progressive men get away with this shit? It makes me livid. L-I-V-I-D.

          • Sarah Jane

            I KNOW. There have been more than a few days where I’ve come home from work in a raging fury over this issue. I’ve had multiple conversations with my male coworkers about this, they are sick to death of hearing me talk about it. I’ve made it my life’s mission to educate them on this nonsense and try to change their minds. So far, I’m not seeing much progress, but I’m going to keep at it.

          • I don’t know if we’ll ever get through to men, but I want women to stop tolerating it.

          • CeCe_R

            Can I get this printed on a tshirt? I can think of quite a few instances where this sentence applies.

        • Anna

          Late to this conversation, but I make two-going-on-three times what my husband does (software engineer vs. high school teacher), and I assure you that joint accounts continue to work just fine at that point xP

          I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, but it’s not remotely about the amount of money or the ratio between incomes; it’s about how you think about money (and less concrete contributions) in your relationship. We combined our finances before we even got married. We try to split chores as evenly as possible (meaning we both think we’re doing 75% haha). I’m all-in on Meg’s “marriage as mini-socialism” thing.

          But maybe the “I” in that sentence is telling: I do feel like I ended up with more influence over our overall financial arrangement, just sort of by default, because I’m the (way) higher earner. If our positions were reversed, who knows what would’ve happened. (But making more money than my partner was important to me, so probably we wouldn’t have ended up together in that case.)

      • Eileen

        This is our situation, I guess—I make more money, and we each keep a certain amount of our paychecks in our personal checking accounts that we spend on whatever we want. So I guess I have more spending money. But I’m fully aware that it’s all an artificial boundary because at the end of the day, all my savings go into our joint savings account. And I mean we have a child. I’m just a very visual person and need things to be clearly marked in order to save.

        But also, no one has ever asked me about this. And given that I have a public service job in France and my husband does not (well it’s a tad more complicated than that but whatever), most people are capable of realizing I make more money without asking us about it.

      • laddibugg

        I feel like I’ve posted this before but in my Facebook friend circle there are people who genuinely believe a man should pay all the bills and the woman should just do incidentals and light household stuff. I mean, if that works for them, cool, but most people I know can’t really afford to do that without living in substandard conditions.

        My guy and I make roughly the same amount now (he has more of a potential to be the breadwinner in a few years), and I while I don’t believe in spending all of our combined salary, I don’t want to live on just one. Even if we use ‘his’ salary to pay rent (and eventually mortgage), that just means ‘mine’ would go to savings.

        • Anna

          My husband likes to joke that his salary pays the rent – and only the rent – because his monthly after-tax pay is pretty much identical to our monthly rent :-P But in practice, all of our income goes into joint accounts and all of our expenses come out of said accounts.

      • AmandaBee

        I make about three times what my husband does, in part because he gave up us job to move across the country for mine (but even if he still had the job, I’d earn more). Our struggle is that he often assumes the money I earn is “my money”. If I overspend, he won’t hold me accountable because I “earned it.” He wouldn’t replace his holey jeans when we first moved here because he didn’t feel like he deserved new clothes until he had a new job. Part of why we went all-in on joint finances was to kill that mentality because it was driving me NUTS. But would his mentality even make me blink if our genders were flipped? Probs not.

        But from people that are not my husband? Nah. I don’t think it even occurs to them that I might make more, unless it comes up somehow. And there’s never been a question of whether or not he should spend our money.

      • Ros

        No. No one EVER suggests that he do more so I could put my feet up and relax after a hard day working more hours to earn most of our income (no resentment, that’s the way it is and I like it, but…)

        What I HAVE heard is when I’ll say that we share household tasks, someone will come up and tell me that ‘but he works so hard to earn for the family, why can’t you do more?’ and my husband, to his credit, is the one who will usually say ‘she earns more WTF why would you say that’.

        It’s infuriating.

  • Not Sarah

    After a year and a half of marriage and almost five years together, we finally combined everything…going forward. It is so full of feelings and we keep talking about them, even when the situation that is causing you joy leaves the other spouse a bit sad, for perfectly valid reasons. We started using YNAB which has not only bought my spouse into understanding what our cash flow looks like each month, but he is also very on top of logging his transactions and checking up on things, which is never what happened before when I was managing the spreadsheets before. We are even trying this experiment where we both get for personal spending what I spent last year. Which is hilarious because he spent 3x that last year. We will see how long that works for, but if we do increase, we will each get the same increase. I love using budget category groups for this in YNAB so that we can each set our own budget categories for things if we want.

  • Jessica

    We had joint checking and a joint savings, but also separate checking and savings. I would like to advocate that everyone has a separate savings account or some separate investments from your partner, because if something happens (not just divorce, but if there is an accident or any legal snafus), you want to have access to money that your partner’s name is not on. I am forever grateful that I had about 2 months of expenses in a savings account that was mine alone when I left my ex.

    • Investment accounts generally do that, right? I mean, retirement accounts can only be in on person’s name.

      That said, it’s obviously important to realize that in most states, those will be divided in half in the event of a divorce.

      • Jessica

        Good point, but there are investments (not retirement) that can be in a couple’s portfolio.

        Also, in my case there was a date chosen 3 months after we had separated that was used as the account balance date to determine the 50/50 split of funds.

        • Oh of course! I’m just pointing out that if you have say, Roth’s, they’re in one person’s name by default, and you can pull down your principal without penalty. Adding an additional savings account in each of our names seems overly complicated. Would you argue it’s necessary if you have things like Roth’s?

          • Jessica

            I always thought of my Roth’s as separate from my savings account. Roth’s, to me, is pretty untouchable since it has been my only retirement fund in my life (yay tiny non profits!).

            While married, I used the savings account to squirrel away fun money to save up for new shoes or computer, but it also held the emergency money that could quickly be transferred to checking.

            Now, I use my every-day bank savings account as a place to hold my rent money and make sure I don’t accidentally spend it (I get paid once a month, I need to be careful about that!), and my emergency money is in a high-yield account.

          • I’m not advocating touching a Roth other than in an emergancy (but a separation where I’m cut off from funds qualifies!) But we keep our savings joint, and I wouldn’t be super comfortable keeping any significant amount of savings separate, unless it seemed really vital. I’m just thinking through if it would be vital, given that retirement accounts do only have one name on them.

          • Jessica

            I understand that, and when we combined finances we had the savings in a joint account.

            But then he slept with another woman and started disappearing for days at a time while having what looked like a complete nervous breakdown. The first week he didn’t come home I transferred a lot of joint money to my account because I didn’t know what he was doing and we had bills to pay. When he went through therapy and was a little more stable, we changed it to 1/3 each and 1/3 in joint because I couldn’t trust him and wanted that assurance. We both used YNAB and knew how much was in every account, so it wasn’t a secret savings thing, but it gave me huge peace of mind–that proved itself just a few months later.

            The unpredictability of life is what makes me advocate having your own savings–even if it’s just a few hundred dollars (assuming you as a couple have that). It would have been very easy for him to leave me with almost nothing to my name AND all the bills to pay.

          • Oh I mean, you can BET I’d be moving money out of joint in that situation. But yes, thinking that through, principal in a Roth would do that in our case.

          • flashphase

            We each keep savings accounts in our names only, because it was extremely annoying to add the other person when we got married. However, we have full transparency – we check in regularly with each other about the balances, all non-investment accounts are in Mint and YNAB, etc. I don’t think it’s terrible to have some separate investment/savings accounts if you are open about it.

          • I don’t think I will ever mix savings with anyone again. Too risky. So I am a fan of separate savings/investments/retirement.

          • mskyle

            We keep some savings joint (emergency fund/house down payment fund) and some separate – I have a much higher tolerance for investment risk than my husband, and I want to retire a lot earlier than he does, so I have my own brokerage account. He has a lot more liquid savings than I do, I have more index fund investments.

            I would feel bad if I invested “his” money in “our” brokerage account and the value went down, but I don’t mind if it’s “my” money in “my” account. If we invested our money jointly we’d have to compromise on an asset allocation and then he’d be nervous about stock market fluctuations and I’d be annoyed about missing out on big gains… of course him investing “his” money his way and me investing “my” money my way actually works out the same in terms of our overall household allocation but for whatever reason it feels better to us this way.

          • Violet

            This is how I divvy it up too- retirement accounts is separate from my high-yield account for long-term savings goals is separate from day-to-day banking.

    • Sarah Jane

      That’s a good idea, and something that we’ve talked about doing – did you just put an equal amount in both every month, if you don’t mind me asking? Logistically, I was thinking we would just treat it like another savings account or something like that.

      • Jessica

        It was one of those things we kept changing. A few months before the split we actually revamped the accounts so we had 1/3 each in our own accounts and 1/3 in a joint account. Once my house is closed on and I pay off my debts (yay lawyer fees), I will be changing my direct deposit to 10% into a high-yield savings account for every paycheck and 90% into my checking account. I use a pretty large payroll service for my employer, and you could possibly do a 5% direct deposit into personal and 5% into joint savings if you wanted to.

    • Eh

      I can tell you that having your only bank account being joint account is a bad idea because if that person dies it will result in headache you don’t want to deal with when dealing with a loved ones death. I had a joint account with my mom when she passed away and my account was frozen. I couldn’t access any of my money. Luckily the bank dealt with it really fast (mind you, my mom worked for the branch that I went to) but it was still a headache I didn’t need while I was grieving.

      • That’s so odd. My grandmother made all of her accounts joint with my mom so nothing would go into probate after her death, and nothing was frozen. Same thing happened when my FIL passed away. I’m confused by one person passing on a joint account would freeze it!

        • Eh

          Maybe it’s something specific to Canada. I know other people it has happened to. From my understanding, the money in the account doesn’t automatically go to the other account holder in case there is a dispute so they freeze the account.

          • Yeah, I don’t think that is the case in the US.

          • CeCe_R

            Fellow Canadian here.. I think it depends if you’re joint but the other person is the main account holder with all the access and you have limited access, and also what the power of attorney situation is.

          • Eh

            So I just looked into this a bit. It’s not an issue with a joint account with a spouse. It’s an issue though when it’s a child/parent relationship.

          • And we just dealt with this in the US, and it wasn’t frozen!

          • CeCe_R

            Really? Huh. My mother had a joint account with my grandmother and it wasn’t frozen (at least, to my knowledge) when my grandmother died. Maybe it’s because she had power of attorney as well.

          • Eh

            Maybe being PoA changes things. The account is also only frozen once the bank is informed that the person has died. So the accounts can be changed before the bank is informed.

          • Margaret

            Power of attorney ends at death. They’d need to be executor/ personal representative of the estate unless it’s a joint asset with right of survivorship (not a 50/50 ownership).

          • Eh

            From my understanding, we don’t have right of survivorship for joint accounts in Canada. It is assumed that a spouse becomes sole owner of a joint account when the account holders are married to each other (i.e., in that case it should not be frozen). But in the case of a parent-child relationship, the joint account will probably be frozen. All the cases I know of joint accounts being frozen have been the case of a parent-child relationship. The idea is that the child was probably helping the parent manage their finances and not necessarily the person that the money was intended to go to. However, that was not my situation since the account was actually my money and I had it as a joint account to make things easier for me (since my mom worked there and we didn’t have a branch of that bank where I lived).

          • Good to know!

      • Mrrpaderp

        It depends on your jurisdiction and how the account was set up. In the US, you have to set up the account as joint tenants with the right of survivorship. If you don’t check the little box (or whatever) that says right of survivorship then they might automatically freeze the account upon death.

        Another possible snafu – if one of the joint account holders designates a primary beneficiary who isn’t the other account holder. This might happen, for example, if you have an account with the bank that’s just in your name, you select a beneficiary to cover “all accounts”, forget about it, and later open up a joint account with your SO. There’s a lot of fine print that’s intended to protect you but can also cause some issues.

    • Jess

      Seconding, having watched my friends only (joint) account get drained by her now ex-husband pre-divorce.

      • Violet

        Yep, my dad did this to my mom, too. It’s gnarly.

    • Not Sarah

      Yes, this was a huge part of why we took over a year to decide to combine going forward – we both wanted to have a chunk of money that was non-marital property and ours alone. We have satisfied that now and it is really freeing.

      • In almost every state that has to be codified with a pre or postnup, unless it’s assets you brought into the marriage that have never been commingled. I don’t know if you guys are doing this, but it’s really common to think that if it’s in your name, it’s legally yours. 99% of the time, that’s not true. If you make it during the marriage and there isn’t a contract stating otherwise, the court doesn’t care who’s name is on it.

        • Not Sarah

          Absolutely agreed and thank you for calling this out. I didn’t mention, but we do have a postnup and this was one of its purposes.

          • Blue_eyes

            Glad you have this set out in a postnup. I had the same thought as Meg (probably because we’re in the middle of writing a postnup so separate property and marital property is very much on my mind right now).

        • Amy CT

          I just looked into this and apparently it’s not the case in Australia (where I live), which really surprised me. Fun fact!

    • Zoya

      THIS THIS THIS.

    • Mrrpaderp

      Absolutely. You never know what could happen. Assets can get lost. stolen, or frozen for lots of reasons.

      Relatedly, marriage is a legal contract, make sure you understand it! Talk to a lawyer in your jurisdiction! Marriage does a lot of great things for you but there are some gaps too. You’ll want to know what those are and how to deal with them up front.

    • laddibugg

      OMG this. I am not ashamed to admit that we both have had financial issues in the past. I wanted separate accounts because I do not want some forgotten negative situation wiping out our joint finances.
      Right now I have his logins (in theory we have each other’s but he can’t remember anything…another issue) so if something needs to be paid or money needs to be moved around I just do it. We can also see each other’s accounts on our financial aggregators but again, I probably pay more attention than he does.

      • A single sarah

        Champion for password management system that lets you have separate vaults and shared vaults. I just upgraded my 1password to 1password family and am very happy with the ease at sending logins to my sister. Still need to share my master password for worst case scenarios, but that requires a bit more conversation than we’ve had so far. (My boss didn’t have the master when her husband suddenly died. It’s been many more wrinkles in the midst of tragedy.)

    • Pannorama

      YES to this. I believe in financial transparency and trust in a partnership. And I also believe that, at the very bottom line, sometimes you have to figure shit out for yourself. So there’s a few thousand dollars in my account that are 1. liquid and 2. in my name only because you never know what weird situation you’re going to end up in. And I think that’s really important for women in particular, since lower earning power disadvantages women in these situations.

      • I totally agree with all of this. And I think liquid is important, even if it’s just a smaller amount. But when you suddenly are on your own and need to buy food and live for a week or two or more until your next paycheck…this money can provide a small sense of stability for those basic things when everything else has fallen out from under you. I didn’t have a checking account or credit card that was only in my name, so I was scrounging around to find whatever cash change I had to last until I got my new debit card (from setting up a new personal checking account) and depositing the last small check I had received for freelance work and had not yet deposited in the joint account…thank God.

    • I did not have any accessible money when my ex left, and it was hard. I may have a joint account again in the future, but I will ALWAYS keep a separate just because.

    • Cellistec

      Ok, I need more details about the separate accounts thing. I’ve heard it described as “running away money” or “fuck you money,” as well as the more diplomatic phrases in this discussion, but my mental block is: how do you broach the conversation of “let’s add separate accounts” without sounding like a doomsayer, if your finances have been joint up til now? I’m as rational and grounded as they come, and even I get a whiff of bad juju from the idea. But I also 100% agree with it.

      • Orangie

        Our next bank account and credit card are going to be in my name only because when we combined money, we used my husband’s old account from his hometown bank. And his name was automatically put first on the car loan and the credit card (because he’s the man, natch). So now, all of our credit is in his name, which bothers me deeply.

        The conversation was actually really easy to have because his dad just died, and the credit card company cancelled his mom’s card and reissued it with about $10,000 lower of a limit because she didn’t have any credit history separate from her husband. Literally, she could only get a credit card with a $1,000 limit, even though she worked for years and made more than half the money in the relationship, because everything had automatically been in his name. Scary! It doesn’t have to be framed as, “I need money in case I leave you.” It can also be framed as, “If you die, I don’t want to starve.”

        • Jessica

          What the actual f?

      • Erica

        My fiance and I talk about this using the shorthand, “If you get phineas gage’d…” Phineas Gage being that guy in the 1800s who took a railroad spike to the brain in a dynamite accident and survived, but his personality became much more aggressive and volatile afterward.

        Eg “When we join finances I’d like to keep my current, small personal savings separate & in my own name, in case I have a big ‘fun’ expense I’d like to pay for or in case you get phineas gage’d and I need a f*ck-off fund.”

      • Jessica

        You could take the route of having Roth IRAs, which are automatically in your name only, which is the route Meg said she’s cool with. I think it’s important to remember that setting up the fund doesn’t mean it’s fuck-you money. It could be “surprise! I got you a new watch [or whatever] just because” money or “oh shit, my sephora order was more than I planned on, so I’m taking it out of my savings” money (depending on how you and your SO deal with fun money, of course).

        It doesn’t need to be a lot. It’s just important to have in case of an emergency.

        • G.

          I think Roth IRAs are great as an investment/retirement vehicle, but they’re not going to provide quick cash if you need it in the case of an emergency or death. It will take a fair amount of time and effort to get that cash, whereas a savings account will be available immediately. The key is to know how they’re set up, who can access them in what ways, etc. When someone dies or is in a coma or you need to get out of a bad situation, the last thing you want to have to deal with is getting a financial advisor to help you access the cash.

        • Cellistec

          Roth IRA! LOVE IT.

      • Jan

        I was forthright from go about wanting my own accounts separate from our joint ones, and I also explained that I wanted HIM to have his own account; he could use it or not, but he should at least have one.

        It doesn’t have to be framed as “I need this in case we break up suddenly,” but rather, “I would like to have some autonomy/privacy over how I spend my discretionary money”. To me, that has nothing to do with trust.

        My sister just had this conversation with her husband after years of having joint everything. She was really frustrated by their different perspectives on spending (he is cheap as hell and wants to account for every dime, and she feels it’s too restrictive). She told him she wanted more autonomy and privacy over how she spent the money budgeted for her, he agreed, and now she’s a lot less frustrated with him. Win-win.

        • Cellistec

          That makes total sense.

    • Jan

      This. We pay for everything out of our joint account (actually, we pay for everything on our credit card and pay that off from our joint account). But, I have my own separate savings and checking accounts that I like to put money into, and a separate credit card that is in my name only. When my ex and I split I had nothing of my own and he’d cleaned out our accounts. I had to borrow money from my sister to buy food for my damn dog. I will never let that happen to me again. Ever.

  • scw

    yessss thank you for this. my husband and I were recently talking about putting our planning for an overseas vacation on hold because he’s had a hard year financially at work and I can’t believe how many people have suggested I book the vacation for just myself and go without him “since I make more.” nothing against traveling alone (which I would like to do more of), but it has been so weird to hear everyone suggest “go on your romantic trip to Paris alone” when not one person has suggested waiting a few months, etc, all the advice I expected – especially because the reasoning has always been that he somehow doesn’t contribute enough (bs!).

  • savannnah

    We are in the middle of large cross country move in which my husband got a transfer and big promotion and I am quitting my high paying job to move out west with him. We are also in the middle of joining our finances, paying off our credits cards, saving for a house and baby, dealing with his new commission style income and looking at 6 plus months of job searching for me . I’ve always made much more money in the past and come from a solid upper middle class background while he comes from a working class family. I have 2 advanced degrees and my husband did not finish college- which is all to say there are so many FEELINGS right now between us and individually about money. I feel like we are getting pulled inside out right now about our philosophies and instincts on what to do with money and how we relate to it so there have been a lot of arguments and we haven’t really even started to join our real day to day finances yet. We talk a lot about in theory what we want to do and that we are on the same page but our gut reactions to small comments here and there tells me we have a ton of work to do- when we aren’t you know, packing our whole lives up and moving away from our community while I’m stepping away from a program I grew from the ground up for 5 years. Just taking it day by day right now and trying to come to peace with the fact that I have 1 more paycheck coming.

    • Jess

      I feel this redefinition of how money works for us right now, in reverse, when R was laid off suddenly in November and I found myself to be the only income source.

      We’re facing huge changes if he gets hired outside our area, including leaving me looking for a job in a new town where I know nobody and packing things up.

      It’s Feelings-City over here about money right now.

      • savannnah

        Solidarity. I was really fooling myself that this transition would be easy if we talked it out here and there. Its been hard hard work together and individually and it just like spaghetti on the wall feelings level over here. Good luck with the search!

    • Not Sarah

      Solidarity here. In the last year and a half, I lost my job, we eloped that week, I went back to graduate school (that was funded by my savings), we planned a big wedding reception for our first anniversary, my husband got a big promotion that resulted in him now making basically what our household income had been before I lost my job, I developed a health issue that has made it impossible for me to work (for some undefined period of time until I get better which is hopefully at some point?), and we finally combined finances going forward.

      There are so many feelings engulfed in all of that and we have spent so much time talking about it, but it is all really hard. Talking certainly helps, but it’s still hard. We still keep talking though. It’s been a lot easier money-wise that his income is sufficient for both of us to live on and save, but there are still SO MANY emotions wrapped up in all of this.

  • CeCe_R

    We have paycheques go into the joint account where all the bills are paid from, and the last day of the month I transfer our “allowance” money from the joint account into each of our “allowance” bank accounts – they are separate bank accounts with only his name on his and my name on mine – that we do whatever we want with without having to consult the other person. So when I want to blow $250 at Sephora I don’t feel guilty because it’s my money that is specifically set aside for whatever I want, not taking away from bills or groceries.

    My husband makes more than me, but more because he’s been in the workforce longer than me.. we are in similar fields. I wouldn’t feel guilty about spending HIS money, any guilt I feel when I’m spending from the joint account is because I feel that I’m spending money that could have gone into savings. I will say, he gets more spending money than me. The allowance is based on a percentage, so I get 8% and he gets 11% of the budget. When it came down to it, we realized that his haircuts (every 6 weeks versus mine every 6 months) are more expensive, his clothes (I have a professional wardrobe already built, he is just starting his) are more expensive, and because he moved 5000 miles to live with me his friends are much farther away (he has to buy plane tickets and cross the border to visit his friends, I just have to hop on a bus).

    Having said that though, I just got a big raise/promotion and my allowance budget has increased each month, but his hasn’t, so we are essentially at par for our spending money now.

    • We do the same in terms of spending accounts, but I just flat out refuse to make those amounts different. Haircuts and clothes needed for work are joint expenses. But in terms of pure disposable income? We get the same.

      • Violet

        What stands in my way of wanting things to be fully joint is that I just don’t even want to budget things like work clothes together. I don’t want my ability to by yet another unnecessary but cute work top to be constrained by the fact that he’s decided this is the year he’s going to get new suits and drop a thou or two on them. We both like our really big picture items (rent, childcare, savings) to be done as a team. But I don’t want to think about all the other purchases together. I buy my stuff, he buys his, and neither of us want for anything. Because he makes more than I do, what’s left after he spends what he wants on his just goes towards our large savings goals. Is there anything unfeminist about that?

        • Katharine Parker

          I don’t think having money distributed justly in a relationship requires strict parity. It sounds like what you’re doing works for you and you’re approaching things as a team without resentment or manipulation.

        • NotMotherTheresa

          My husband and I take a similar approach. The mortgage? Utilities? Insurance? We sit down every few years and assess how to equitably divide those between us.
          But trying to split hairs over exactly how to budget for work clothes? Nope. As a large-scale concept, we try to take those things into account when splitting up responsibility for the big picture items, but on a daily basis, I don’t really want to have to figure out whether a new shirt counts as a “necessary” work expense or a “fun money” buy. (For a similar reason, I’m not one of those strict budget people who keeps separate funds for 78 different categories of spending. I buy what I need. Then, I decide which wants to accommodate based on how the big picture is looking.)

          • Violet

            Yes. Ultimately I trust my spouse’s judgment because we tend to view things like purchases and savings very similarly, plus we already have ongoing discussions to make sure the bigger picture is on track. I don’t wanna have nickel and dime discussions, too.

        • Why not have a different budget line for each person’s work clothes (or whatever)?

          • Violet

            I’m more of a “Why?” person than a “Why not?” person. Why do we both have to budget each other’s clothes? What could possibly be the benefit?

        • RNLindsay

          For this reason, my husband and I have pretty sizable (equal) monthly allowances. We each buy our own clothes, necessary or frivolous, out of our personal spending money, pay for our own haircuts etc out of personal money. If we had the discussion that it was going to be joint and actually budgeted, we’d have to reduce our monthly allowances. But by giving each other a large allowance, it gives us the freedom to buy whatever the hell we want with that money all month. I don’t have to justify any of it

      • CeCe_R

        We talked about adding that to our joint, but it was just such a blurry line for ‘personal’ vs ‘necessity’ that I didn’t want to deal with. The key is that we are both on board with buying clothes out of personal. If one of us wanted to make it personal and one joint, then that would be a point of contention. We also have relatively large allowances to account for this.

        It did feel a bit silly a couple weeks ago.. we happened to be walking by Cole Haan both bought the exact same shoes (although his were more expensive as the men’s style!) and we each paid for them out of our separate spending accounts.

  • Sarah

    This was a non-starter for me. I moved, giving up my stable job for us. It’s a sacrifice that made sense for our marriage and life. But you better believe, I’m not going to accept less financial power because of that decision. We both make sacrifices for our relationship. That is what partnership is.

    • Girl. Yes.

    • savannnah

      I’m actually finding that being ‘dependent’ on my husband (also moving and quit my job for us) is causing us to have a lot more upfront discussions about money and in much more equal ways than ever before.

  • Sonnie

    We have 100% joint finances, and I also manage 100% of our finances. I have no issue thinking of our money as “ours” even though he makes significantly more than I do. My hang up, however, is that I am way more strict about what I consider personal money for myself than I do for my husband which, in essence, gives him more personal money than I get every month. I’ll instinctively pay for makeup or knitting supplies out of my personal money but then fail to recognize my husband’s hockey registration fee or nice shave cream as his personal money and take it out of the joint account. In this sense, it goes beyond the pink tax to valuing what I spend money on as ‘being selfish’ or ‘spoiling myself’ and he sees it as just making another purchase.

    • CeCe_R

      We manage our own personal spending, but I will definitely pay for things out of my personal money that could probably go out of joint because I manage the joint account and I know where we are at in the budget. Then I’ll think, “oh but husband isn’t paying for this or this out of his personal account!” I’m making this unnecessarily unfair on myself! Well, a few days ago I realized that my husband has bought all the milk for the last five months out of his personal spending account. So it all evens out for us I guess!

    • I’d suggest that you work on that! Together or on your own, or whatever it takes. I’ve gone so far as refusing to put things like my hair in my personal account, because my hair costs 10X what his does to get done, but we both need to look presentable for work. So that’s joint.

      If it’s hard emotionally maybe try separate checking accounts with separate cards? Because I manage the money, but I don’t divide up that. If it’s a personal charge, you use your personal debit card, and I don’t deal with it in the joint budget.

    • Eenie

      This is why we did away with separate fun money categories. We just have a general bucket “Spending Money” and check in with purchase over $50 or if the budget line is empty. I like the his, hers, ours in theory, but in practicality we both thought the other was using personal money on joint budget items. So we just made everything joint.

  • Violet

    I’m pretty sure at this point I’ve thrown up my hands trying to decide whether we have “joint” or “separate” finances. We’ve got some accounts joint, others as separate. We contribute to shared expenses in proportion to our salaries, but we both have jobs that involve fluctuating amounts on top of that (think of commissions or bonuses). We don’t base our lifestyle off of the fluctuating amounts because those aren’t guaranteed. So whatever is left over after our regular joint expenses we either save for joint goals (vacations, a house) or spend on ourselves. I think if we had differences in how we approach money (we both tend towards saving by default, both think a lot about purchases before making them, both avoid consumer debt, etc.) this would be an issue. As it is, it feels like we’re on the same page regardless of where our actual money sits.

    • CeCe_R

      “I think if we had differences in how we approach money (we both tend towards saving by default, both think a lot about purchases before making them, both avoid consumer debt, etc.) this would be an issue.”
      This is an important point for me – do what works for you, as long as you’re both doing it.

      • Violet

        You’re right- I don’t think it would work if we had very different views of money and financials priorities.

    • Antonia

      This is totally my husband and I too.

  • Robyn

    When my husband and I first combined our finances, I suggested the “spending money based on percentage of income” idea because that seems to be the most commonly done way. At the time, I made significantly more. He was rightly offended that I was suggesting I deserved more spending money than him just because I was lucky enough to land a job at a company that paid better than where he was working (we were both recently graduated engineers, so we were doing the same work but being paid differently). Of course I didn’t think I “deserved” more but I hadn’t thought of it that way. We decided to pool all of our money and get an equal “spending allowance” per month as I had seen suggested on this site. It has worked very well, and now that I am in graduate school and making almost no money, we still abide by this and don’t consider my very low paying grad school stipend to be cause for me to need to contribute more to household chores etc. I need to be able to focus on getting my degree and do well, so I can get a better job when I’m done and start bringing in money again. If I was bogged down by all the chores, it would greatly increase my stress for no good reason.

    If the person making less is being punished by having to take on more household responsibilities, that added stress will absolutely have a direct effect on their ability to improve their job prospects and start bringing in more money.

    If one person is working a full time job and the other is working only like, one day a week, I’d consider that a different story. But if two people are working equivalent hours, regardless of income – even split on spending money and chores or resentment will follow.

    • savannnah

      Agreed. In my approaching funemployment I assume I’ll take on the bulk of house chores because my husband is at work all day and at school at night and we don’t have kids so while I’ll be working to get a job, I’ll also just have way more time to do chores and yes it will help me contribute to our household. When I get a full time job, those chores and who does them will change.

  • My husband and I do a good-ish job of managing our “his, hers, ours” system of accounts and paying for things. And we both stick to the “if it’s more than $250 you have to talk to the other person” rule, even if the spending is coming from a personal account, cause at the end of the day, it’s money coming out of our household, even if it’s from a personal account.

    I was talking to my husband about a related topic the other day, because once again the topic of dating a man who makes less came up on Black Twitter. And I realized that one reason why I wanted to marry my husband is because we have very similar salaries and debt levels. Like it took so much of the issues off the table and we both feel like we have more parity in our marriage. Could I have married someone who made way more or way less than me? Maybe…but it helps me sleep at night knowing that we’re truly equals not just in what we say to each other, but also in what we bring to the table. We’re equals in how we run our household and how we raise our daughter.

    Also it REALLY burns me up how women are expected to justify their spending otherwise it’s deemed “frivolous” but men don’t get the same scrutiny. Him buying a fancy Xbox & tons of games is just the same as my trips to Sephora & buying fancy yarn.

    • Ros

      ‘ one reason why I wanted to marry my husband is because we have very similar salaries’

      So having been surrounded by So. Freakin. Many relationships where the dude had more money and used that to make decisions (some dick moves, like ‘I pay the rent and I like this apartment and it’s where we’re living’, and some logical-ish ones like ‘my salary pays all our bills and my promotion takes us to Middle-Of-Nowhere so we’re moving!’)… I recently realized that one of the reasons I was ok with getting married to my husband is that I’ve always, always out-earned him. And, to be clear: he had less than 10K in student loans and was always living within his means (I wouldn’t have been ok with lots of spending and debt, for self-preservation reasons), but honestly there was something reassuring in knowing that I legitimately had half the decision making clout and that it wasn’t dependant on his good will.

      Marrying someone who was like ‘oh, hon, of course your decision counts for as much’ but realistically I’d be financially dependant so other than his good will in sharing that power I’d be stuck with what he decided? Would be scary as hell.

  • GCDC

    An interesting aspect of couples’ money habits that played out in my relationship is that my husband is a little older than me. Add that to the fact that I went to school longer than he did, and he has significantly more work experience than I do. (I recently started out earning him, which is a huge point of pride for me, so allow me to gloat). When we started seriously dating, I was still in school and didn’t have any income, so I had no spending habits other than living as cheaply as possible. He had had gotten used to making certain, big-item purchases for himself, and he also had more savings than I did. It took us a while to negotiate some of his spending habits, and to come to terms with the fact that while I might have no “right” to his savings, it wasn’t doing him or us a lot of good to view it as “his” rather than “ours.” What was he going to do with it – go on an awesome vacation without me? I guess if that’s what he had wanted, I would have supported him. But he was saving for life things, and his life now includes me, so we slowly started to look at his savings as ours.

    • CeCe_R

      Despite being together for 30 years, my parents still have separate finances and I have slowly started talking to my dad about how he and my mum should start thinking about joining finances. The problem is that my mum was a SAHM with a side gig for many years and didn’t save at all during that time. Before then and since she rejoined the work force 15 years ago she made significantly less than my dad. She has been saving what she can for retirement, but it’s in no way enough to support herself during retirement. My dad, however, has become accustomed to spending his money on toys for himself (a boat, ATV, fishing trips with his buddies) and I don’t know how he will feel joining finances late in life. I think at that point my mum is going to feel really awkward about spending joint money on say, a new bicycle for herself. This was a big reason for me wanting to join finances with my husband right away.

      • GCDC

        I can see how it’s easy to think about separate finances one way when neither spouse is wanting for anything, and how that framework might not work when that’s no longer the case. I work with a man who has separate finances with his wife. The other day he was talking about how he will have to “finance his wife’s retirement” since she had “failed to save” enough. I was a little blown away by how he could think about it in those terms. But, with this guy, i think he enjoys seeing himself as someone who provides for/takes care of his wife financially, so maybe that’s what he tells himself? I don’t know.

        • CeCe_R

          Ugh that really rubs me the wrong way. Like my mum was busy raising children (that they both really wanted!) and couldn’t save for retirement during those years because everything she made went to “kid expenses”. The arrangement they had was that my dad paid the mortgage, bills, and most of the groceries and my mum paid for her car, all the kid stuff (piano lessons, school field trips, etc.). She did not fail to save enough – she just didn’t have the ability to. I don’t like it, but that’s what they decided worked for them.

    • savannnah

      This is one of the things my husband is struggling with right now. He never expected to be making the kind of money he is in his life- ever and he wants to buy the things he feels he was deprived of or struggled to see others get for a long time. I’m in the background like ‘HEYY its me, your wife’ and he knows that and gets it and he really feels like this is money he has earned and he wants to share it and also spend it on what he wants.

    • Eenie

      I think my husband was happier than me when I started out earning him! People at work gave him so much shit for it. He said he didn’t care cause if I wasn’t we wouldn’t have the money to do all this fun stuff! We’ve had so many discussions lately on the fact that I have way more drive and earning potential and how we need to structure things to make sure I can take advantage of opportunities.

      Congrats on being the big money earner!

    • GotMarried!

      I second this. When I married my husband, his savings became ours. A couple months later, it paid off nearly all ‘my’ mortgage. Now WE enjoy OUR house.

      • Jan

        When we got engaged, he paid off a private student loan that was absolutely crushing me. Your life together is both of yours, and no matter where the money comes from, the impact of how you use it affects you both.

        We do have separate accounts on top of our joint ones, but we’re also capable of looking at our money/expenses, generally, as *ours*. You can do both those things, and sometimes I think that gets lost in the discussion here.

  • lamarsh

    My husband and I have fully joint finances and a joint budget. I make over three times what my husband makes, so I don’t think any other system would be feasible for us. I like to go on nice vacations and to occasionally eat a fancy dinner, so I can’t imagine not sharing those experiences with him because he couldn’t afford them. I grew up in a family where my mom significantly out-earned my dad and they had fully joint finances so I never considered approaching this any other way.

    I’m curious for people who are married but have fully separate finances, do you make similar amounts? I don’t know how it could work otherwise, at least for me.

    • Not Sarah

      Yes, we earned similar* amounts when we had separate finances, but we did also have a joint account that we used to run our household budget.

      *and by similar, I mean, that we could both sustain 50% of the household budget, afford our personal spending desires and save for retirement.

    • We have 100% separated finances (we don’t even use the same banks) but he makes about 40% more than me. We rarely fight about money. We mostly keep it separate because while we have similar philosophies about money, we have wildly different budgeting methods. I’m a hardcore YNABer and he doesn’t like that much detail. Neither of us has come up with a suitable compromise, so we just leave it.

      But we have marriage summits twice a year and do a money check in every other month or so to see if anything is going on. Since I do all the cooking and associated emotional labor, he buys the groceries. I take care of my car, he takes care of his. We split extra expenses along interest lines. We pay for our hobbies ourselves.

      Our method of the pink tax is that he covers anything bought at multi-purpose stores (like Target), ie tampons, soap, razors, deodorant. I buy anything at a “specialty store”, ie Ulta or Sephora.

      We got married in our thirties after decades of financial independence. It just didn’t seem like it made anything better or easier to combine finances. At this point we mostly have “our” money in different accounts. Legally we know there’s no difference where the money is. So for us it’s a matter of “which category are we spending” and then use that account. It sounds more complicated than it is. But it’s worked for us for 5 years and wildly changing incomes, so we’ll keep it.

  • Mrrpaderp

    I despise the notion that a higher salary buys you out of chores, or that a lower salary means you have to make it up to the household by doing more chores. Time and money are separate resources that have to be shared in the household. Just because you make more doesn’t necessarily mean you work more. The person who brings in more money is going to pay more of the bills, and the person who has more time on their hands is going to do more of the chores.

    • Zoya

      Yep yep. And for folks who work from home, being home all the time doesn’t have to equate to taking care of all house stuff. This was something my husband and I had to iron out–even when I’m at home, I’m still working! We split our chores pretty rigorously evenly, and the chores that fall disproportionately to me are the ones where there really is a big logistical difference, like dealing with repair people or running mid-day errands.

    • Zeea

      I’m with you on that. I get complicated feelings about it, still, because I make less money, but I end up having more time off/flexibility, so I do more chores.
      We both work full time, but he often works extra hours for night time meetings (taking clients to dinner, public meetings, that kind of thing), and I always get off work the same time, so I’m always doing things like taking the dogs out and fixing dinner. I get that it makes sense, and it’s not because I make less, it’s just that I’m home more, but I still feel grumpy about it sometimes, even though we’re both working, he’s just in office, and I’m at home.

    • e.e.hersh

      Yep – exactly. I just talked about this below. There’s no question that I spend more hours “working for our family” than my husband does at his job. But since my hours are part-time and I work from home and because mothering is undervalued, there’s just this assumption everywhere that my contribution is the smaller one and that I should be taking on more household work to “make up the difference” somehow. Most of the moms I know struggle with this as well… having those kiddos really throws the “how much is our work valued?” question into focus.

    • SarahRose472

      I agree with this in principle, but on average, work hours and earnings are correlated. Men are much more likely both to work more hours and have higher earnings than women are, which then brings us back to the circular reality…that even if we’re going by the seemingly egalitarian principle of “whoever has more time” that’s typically going to end up being the woman in a heterosexual relationship.

      • Mrrpaderp

        Egalitarian doesn’t necessarily mean equal. I’ve had a higher salary and much longer hours than most of my partners, and that’s likely to be true in the future. If I’m working 80+ hours a week and my partner is working 40, he’s doing the lion’s share of the housework. I think this is one of the differences between an SO and a roommate… you’re a team. You have to share resources to make it fair, so you don’t have one partner with 5 hours/night of free time while the other never gets a break ever.

        • GCDC

          I think it should also be an arrangement both partners enter into openly and willingly. Like, I have to work a lot to make money, but my husband has bought into that and the fact that my career, and the income it provides, means he’ll have to bear the bulk of the household maintenance work. I didn’t just walk home one day and say “i got a raise, looks like I’m not doing dishes tonight!” And if either of us gets fed up with this arrangement, I like to think we’d take steps to change it.

          I know that we’re lucky in that we have these choices, and lots of people have to work crazy hours to make ends meet or can’t work for one reason or another. But I still hope these decisions regarding division of household labor versus household work are joint decisions and not just default settings.

          • Em

            It is good to have a default setting that’s equal though. I.e. an assumption going into that conversation that money will be split according to income and unpaid labour will be split according to free time. From there, it’s a discussion of personal needs and abilities.
            Right now it feels like the default is that money is split 50/50 and unpaid labour lands with the person who’s been most socialised to do it.

    • Her Lindsayship

      I think they really should be even more separate than that – like the division of chores just isn’t as simple as saying who spends more time on what. Because a lot of work done to keep a household going isn’t always easy to quantify in time spent, like being the one who remembers when you’re low on olive oil or who checks on the bank account more frequently. I think in my mind there’s really no way to split these up in an objectively perfectly even way, so the best split is the one both partners feel good about. And that probably requires revisiting the split on occasion too.

      • emilyg25

        Truth. My husband makes more and works longer hours and also does more of the physical chores because he has more energy.

        • Rezia

          Emilyg- thank you for saying this. I’ve struggled a LOT in the past year because I’ve been dealing with both mental illness and physical illness to the point where my husband has taken on 80% of the chores. And I’ve felt SO. GUILTY. He’s not even complaining! On top of everything he’s been reassuring me that it’s okay, because he has the energy and my priority is to get better. It helps me to just hear it coming so matter of factly from you, that it’s okay if the person with more energy does the chores.

      • Mrrpaderp

        Good point, the emotional labor struggle is a whole ‘nother layer of this discussion.

      • NotMotherTheresa

        ^This!

        To me, the best way to think of either issue isn’t “this needs to be split 50/50” or even “this needs to be split equitably” (in the conventional sense), so much as “these are two completely separate matters that should be split in a way that works for both people involved, taking into account varying attitude/aptitudes/practical realities”.

        For two couples with comparable incomes and similar financial habits, a shared account and a neat 50/50 split of household expenses might work. For other couples, the shared finances are going to be a bit wonkier looking. Household chores are no different.

        in my case, I’m an unrepentant slob, while the husband is a Danny Tanner-level neatfreak. An even 50/50 level split would never work, for the same reason that there’s no fair way to split expenses 50/50 when one person is a surgeon and the other works part time as a receptionist. Instead, 98% of cleaning is on him, and I just try to put my dirty dishes in or around the sink. Emotional labor, on the other hand? He really struggles with mental illness, and even if he gave 110% in that regard, it wouldn’t be nearly enough. Instead, that burden falls on me, just as the burden of making sure that the toilets get scrubbed more than twice a year falls on him.

    • AmandaBee

      “Time and money are separate resources that have to be shared in the household.”

      Hell yes. That has always bothered me – women’s professions are underpaid so we’re basically screwed with the argument that the lower earner has to do more household work. My husband has taken on more household work because I work longer hours and he currently works part-time. But if our hours matched, I wouldn’t ask him to do more household just because I earn more. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

    • Eenie

      I will say my boss has a very interesting set up with his gf. They been together for 10+ years, and he refuses to ever marry again. The set up is – he pays all the bills. Every single bill for the house. She lives with him. She pays her student loans and any other money she makes can go to whatever she wants (she decided to buy a car, so she also has a car payment. He had previously bought a car for her, but she wanted a different one). He way out earns her, but none of his money goes to her, it only goes to household expenses.

      As far as household chores go, they divided them up between the two of them equitably, but my boss outsources most of his. So he doesn’t actually do most of the chores himself, but his gf doesn’t have to do them either. She’s complained about why he doesn’t outsource her chores too, and he says that she can choose to do that with her money, but she doesn’t.

      I’m fascinated by how this arrangement works for them. My only real issue is he holds most of the power in the relationship, but I also think that’s the point after getting screwed over in two divorces. She is always free to move out if she doesn’t like the setup.

      • Amy March

        Yeah I think that’s easy to understand. If you fundamentally have no interest in an equal partnership then sure go for it.

      • mjh

        Do you happen to know how they pay for things they share that aren’t household expenses- meals, vacations, activities etc? And do you know if they have equal input when making decisions – like, do they have equal input when choosing which household expenses to incur (things like where to live, which internet plan to sign up for, when to replace appliances, choosing furniture down to little things like what food to stock in the fridge and which laundry detergent to use)? And do they have equal input in how often to spend on the non household stuff like activities and vacations, and in choosing what activities to do etc?

        Sorry if I’m asking too many questions. I know those are a lot of specifics and there’s no reason for you to necessarily know all of it. I’m just curious and figured who knows, it could have all come up in discussion.

        • Eenie

          He pays for all food. Vacations are paid for by him if they are together, but he does set limits on how much to spend (he says budget is $x, and she gets to plan it). Activities it depends – he does pay for some of these if they do them together. Not quite equal on choosing expenses – I think he has more say but it’s not real strict unless it impacts the environment (he won’t buy paper towels for example). He definitely has more power on activities and such unless she spends her own money on them. She makes decent money, so anything she can’t convince him is a good household expense she just spends her own money on.

          The set up really bothered me at first, but the more I know the guy the more it makes sense. She is really bad at managing money (no personal savings at all), so she really benefits from what he brings to the table. He got burned really badly in two divorces, they have a contract and everything written up. She gets to have a lot of freedom with her own money, and she doesn’t have to worry about any living expenses.

          • mjh

            I don’t think the setup of one person paying all house expenses and the other paying their personal expenses has to be unequal, but the money being linked with decisionmaking power changes the game for me. I don’t think there’s one ultimate solution for money management for couples, and I subscribe to the whatever works for everyone involved method, but I personally can’t get down with any method in which how much of a voice each partner has is determined by their financial contributions.

      • JLily

        My aunt and her husband have a similar setup, also based on his issues with his ex-wife. I think it’s shitty. He earns significantly more than her and pays for the house/bills. I think she pays for groceries. But he still has way more spending money and “treats” her to dinner or vacations–which is not really a treat at all at there is always a power disparity. The issue is still that they are in a committed relationship but they do are not on equal footing; decisions about how to spend money are not made together as partners.

        • Lisa

          This is why I really didn’t like my husband’s suggested budget set-up (based on his parents’ finances). If he got to keep all lesson money secretly and separately from our joint finances, then he’s making decisions about what our needs are without me. We’re a team and need to decide on financial goals together. I can’t figure out if we’ve saved enough for retirement or not if he’s holding money back so he can “treat me to dinner”/decide unilaterally that restaurants are more important than being financially stable in our old age.

        • mskyle

          My mom and her boyfriend (now fiance) had a similar setup for many years, where she owned and paid for most stuff to do with the house, and he paid for (or shared) utilities and groceries (he had substantial expenses and debts related to his first marriage). I don’t know if they’re still doing it that way, but it always seemed to breed resentment – she would feel like he wasn’t contributing enough, and he would feel like she never let him make any decisions about their shared home. And they were both right!

          I hope they’re doing things differently now, but I found hearing about it sufficiently frustrating that I’ve officially written off my mom’s and her boyfriend’s finances off as Not My Business unless and until it becomes necessary for me to interfere.

    • Katherine

      I will make a point (because it’s saved so much strife in my relationship) that hiring someone to come clean can help the chore gap if you’re working relatively even amounts of time. I work 40 hours a week and SO probably works 40-50 hours a week. SO makes 3x what I do and I handle most of the emotional labor of our household and all cooking (I enjoy it sometimes, but it doesn’t make it not a chore on all nights). He was not chipping in what I felt was an adequate amount on chores, but we also have different opinions of what constitute ‘clean’ and ‘tidy’. I was frustrated and he was frustrated because I was frustrated. So we hired an eco-green company that likes pets to come clean the house once a month. I know this isn’t an adequate solution for everyone, but it might be an adequate solution for some. I felt like I was a failure as a women, because I was having a hard time keeping the house clean (thanks, patriarchy), but other 40+ hour a week women recommended it to me. If y’all have the cash flow, this is your social permission to look up cleaners.

      • Mrrpaderp

        Agreed, I’m a huge advocate of not losing sleep over things that money can solve.

        Of course there’s the emotional labor component you mention. Someone has to manage the cleaning service – interview and hire them, remember to pay them, deal with any issues the service might have, deal with any issues you might have with them, interview and hire a replacement if necessary. If your relationship dynamic is such that one person is the Household Manager, then hiring a cleaning service in a way exacerbates that. You still have to manage the cleaners but your SO gets to completely check out of cleaning – so between the two of you, you’re now 100% responsible for the house being clean, whereas before maybe you managed and he helped clean.

      • Ros

        Yes. Yesyesyes the cleaning service. Yes.

  • Zoya

    This feels especially timely as I prepare to go from being the lower-earning spouse to the non-earning spouse. My husband and I have worked it out so I can take a break from pursuing paid work starting this summer, instead focusing on building a writing portfolio and getting my health under control. He’s wildly supportive, we can afford to live on his salary alone, and it’s OUR money, yet I feel wildly guilty for not working as much as I’m physically able (thanks, capitalism) or bringing in enough money to offset my out-of-pocket medical costs. You know this stuff is insidious when you start apologizing for the cost of maintaining your own body…

  • Lagaviota

    I’m loving all the financial conversations here recently. It feels very well matched with the conversations we’re having in our relationship. For us, I have been holding down a stable job (meaning regular income in predictable amounts) for our whole relationship, and he has in the past few years ended up in lots of contract/part time things that cobbled together make less than what I do (and now is in grad school, so a whole other financial ball of wax). We’ve had lots of conversations where I’ve really pushed the idea that agreeing to merge finances (which we did) means no shame about the comparison of amounts. (I mean, no shame at all, but he felt worse that he was bringing that “baggage” to our shared situation.) It’s been a slow process, and I’m still grappling with it myself (shared debt feels emotionally different than shared income…), but the conversations have made our partnership much stronger.

    • flashphase

      Oof, shared debt. We decided to prioritize my husband’s higher interest rate, smaller grad school debt over mine because it’ll be best for us as a couple in the long run. But man, when I think about year 10 of paying down my grad school debt while his will be wiped out in 3 years… ugh! Can’t wait til our household is student debt-free.

      • Eenie

        My husband paid off all his debt before marriage and I feel so guilty about mine. I shouldn’t for the record, because I’m on track to pay mine off quicker than he paid off his after graduation. But I still hate seeing all that money go there each month.

    • Lisa

      I feel you on the shared debts. I had none coming into our marriage, but my husband had student loans. Many years ago one of my friends (with a lot of debt) married her husband (with no debt) and told him how guilty she felt about making him pay for it out of his salary. His immediate response was, “But it’s not your debt anymore. It’s ours because I’m choosing to be with you, and we’ll figure it out together.”

      That was the spirit I took when I approached my husband’s loans. It’s ours, we figured out a reasonable plan for us, and it was on both of us to stay on track to finish them off. The loans both benefited us in some way (if he hadn’t taken them out, he wouldn’t have gone to the school where we met! plus education!) so it makes sense we would combine efforts to repay them.

    • Angela Howard

      I know that sometimes my husband is bothered by the fact that he makes considerably less than I do. Whenever it comes up, I remind him that he makes more than he thinks he does because we have all our HSA savings taken out of his checks but also that he provides that health insurance that cares for our daughter (she has health issues so this is huge – my insurance would not have her specialists in network) and that his non-traditional work schedule enables him to take care of a lot of things that would be hard for her to do with a more traditional 9-5 schedule. Of course more money could be nice, but right now I’ll take the time & the insurance.

      • RNLindsay

        This is how I phrase it for myself! As a nurse, I only work 3 12 hr shifts a week. We don’t have kids yet but my non-traditional schedule will allow us to limit the amount of day care usage and also give me time for doctors appointments etc that are difficult with normal 9-5’s (or in my husband’ case… 9-8ish). We also get excellent healthcare from my job (and are *required* to stay within hospital network at only one of the best hospitals in the country, thank you very much) so those are my contributions even if my salary is less!

    • Julia

      Totally agree shared debt feels emotionally different. We have joint finances, my husband makes 2x what I do (marketing v. tech) and even though he has always been very “it’s our debt, we will tackle it together” re: my student loan debt, I still feel a sense of obligation that it’s *my* job to pay it off. And I mentally calculate the loan coming out of *my* paycheck every month, even though it’s technically just coming out of our shared checking account.

  • Lisa

    I make more money than my husband and will probably always make more (tech vs. music). We had a lot of discussions early in our marriage about what an equitable distribution of the wealth would look like and that it would not necessarily look like anything that was modeled for us growing up.

    It took some convincing on my part (which lets just talk about all of the emotional labor I did in researching and talking about it, right?), but we finally came to a solution that is mostly fair and includes my husband paying some version of the pink tax because, even though not everyone is going to wear bras, it doesn’t mean we don’t both benefit in some way from me owning them. I feel like that’s a portion of the conversation that doesn’t get talked about very much, but it has its own financial and societal repercussions. My husband spends money on things that others wouldn’t consider frivolous because he’s a man, but if I feel like I need/want to buy make-up to keep up a certain level of appearance, that’s something that I should deal with on my own? I say no to that, society.

    • The “pink tax” portion is such a great point. I tend to pay for my waxing appts or pedicures from my separate account, but I have no problem using our joint account to pay for birth control or tampons. Maybe I should reconsider this…

      • Alynae

        This was a recent conversation because I was buying make up and paying for manicures for joint. Same point. Those are pretty much professional requirements for me. I don’t tell him to buy dress shirts or ties from his own account. So now its joint unless its an extra “for funsie”. And thats for me to decide

        • Lisa

          Yeah, our designations are rather arbitrary and rely mostly on the honor system. For example, I’ll buy basic make-up from the joint toiletry budget, but if I want to splurge on a lipstick, that comes out of personal money. To my husband’s credit, he’s never questioned a purchase that I’ve wanted to make joint on any grounds. (Not since the “I’ll buy you a new beige bra for your birthday” blow-up of 2015.)

          • Alynae

            sounds like the ” Look I got you a new vacuum for christmas” debacle of 2015…lesson learned. the roomba was a family gift for 2017.

          • Jan

            “Not since the “I’ll buy you a new beige bra for your birthday” blow-up of 2015.”

            I’m dying laughing.

      • emilyg25

        I more or less have a scale of frivolity that I use to decide what I pay from my account and what’s joint. New bras because mine are a saggy mess? Joint. Fancy exfoliating face mask? Solo. Hair cuts? Joint. Concealer? Joint. Pedicures? Solo. There’s a lot of wiggle room there and my husband has never given me crap.

        • e.e.hersh

          Ha – “Scale of Frivolity”! That’s a good way to look at it.

        • AmandaBee

          My thought process on this is similar. Some of it also boils down to “what do I need to look and feel reasonably professional?” Stuff like bras, makeup, haircuts/grooming make the list. Those are joint. Pedicures and my 1,000th tube of “rosey nude” lipstick (I have a problem) don’t. Those are individual.

          • Jessica

            The number of crimson red lipsticks I own has gone up 500% since splitting from my husband. I think it’s 1. a cheap way to make me feel good about how I look and 2. a way to express the freedom I feel in never having to justify an impulse buy.

          • AmandaBee

            This reminds me that my trusty-dusty red lipstick went rancid and I really need to pick up a new one. What’s your favorite shade? Haha.

            (Husband hates bold lipstick in general, so I’ve probably gotten out of the habit of wearing it. I feel like that needs to change tho.)

          • Jessica

            Hmmmm, it depends on what you’re looking for. My fave creamy lipstick is Marc Jacobs, my fave luxe matte is Nars lip pencil, and my fave cheapo matte is Rimmel Stay Matte Liquid. Still looking for a creamy cheap red.

          • AmandaBee

            Of course I want creamy red but also want to be cheap. Let me know when you find one! Baha.

          • GotMarried!

            Do you find these stay on? I am always frustrated when my lipstick ends up all over my coffee cup or fork etc. Any recommendations welcome!

          • Jessica

            The Rimmel one stays on for hours! The Marc Jacobs stays on for a good long while, but with any creamy lipstick you’ll have to reapply.

          • Jan

            Last year there was a post on here about a wedding and the bride was wearing this killer NYX matte lipstick, and I immediately went out and bought it for myself, and I… may own, like, 25 NYX matte lipsticks now. THANKS APW.

        • Duke Alum

          Yes – same here!

        • doh

          Ha, I’ve never thought about it before, but I do the same thing!

        • Jan

          This is pretty much my system. Things I use on the daily or that I must have in order to be a human woman (like haircuts) = joint.

      • e.e.hersh

        I’m a big believer in most personal appearance spending coming out of our joint account… especially for things that husband has expressed a preference for (like waxing). I guess I see it as sort of a “Personal Care” category for both of us. Yes, my spending in this category is higher than his, but that’s because of societal crap, not because I’m off having a joyful waxing holiday with *his* money!

        • Jessica

          “Joyful Waxing Holiday” sounds like a indie rock album

        • NotMotherTheresa

          I think you’ve hit on a key thing in terms of things he’s expressed a preference for!

          For me, the deciding factor on “personal vs. joint” is who the ultimate beneficiary is. When I worked as an attorney, things like pantyhose and foundation came out of our joint account, because those were things I needed in order to look professional at my job. Lingerie ~would~ come out of our joint account if the husband paid more attention to those things, because ~I~ don’t really care about having a lacy pink bra to match my lacy pink thong. On the other hand, I’ve always paid for my own hair highlights, because those are more for my benefit than anybody else’s.

        • Fanny

          I gave my husband a choice: keeping my nails done professionally costs a lot where I live, but he loves how it looks. I told him the cost of maintenance could either come out of the joint account and I would go for a mani every 3 weeks and a pedi every 6 weeks, or he can stop complaining and I will use my personal fun money to do them when I want a little self care (a few times a year and not at all in the winter). He chose to stop complaining. My dude is nothing if not consistently budget conscious and he had zero clue how expensive it is. When it was up against “we go on a couple long weekend trips or you have nice nails” the winner was obvious.

    • Katharine Parker

      “that it would not necessarily look like anything that was modeled for us growing up.”

      This is an ongoing thing for my husband and me, mostly because we both grew up with our parents having more money than we currently have. The question of how money is being distributed becomes a lot less fraught when you have more than enough money to meet all needs and most wants.

      • Lisa

        And we have no way to go back to the beginning of a relationship to see how our parents arrived at the choices they did! Whatever their motives at the time were, they don’t necessarily apply to us here and now.

        For all of the faults in their marriage, my parents have always been on the same page financially, even though my mom stayed at home. My husband’s parents lived off his dad’s salary and each had “spending money” from their side hustle/music teaching businesses. My husband wanted to keep his lesson money separate as his “fun money,” and I pointed out how incredibly unfair that was because that meant he would never really contribute to our living expenses but have unlimited free money. As fun as I’m sure it was for his parents to realize they had saved up the sticker price of a fully-loaded Subaru Outback between them, I don’t want us to each have $15,000+ that the other person doesn’t know about when it could be working towards our mutual goals.

        • Katharine Parker

          Oh yeah, our awareness of our parents as people with a financial relationship at like 55 is so different from knowing them at 25 and starting out. My parents don’t budget, at all. They meet with their financial planner every so often and invest and save as she advises, but day to day there is no budget. So that isn’t a helpful model practically, although saving for retirement and being on the same page about money is a good model big picture.

          I would also be pissed to learn that my husband had saved $15k without us discussing it, especially if it was just $15k in a savings account. We could do a lot more with $15k!

          • Lisa

            It was even worse. It was in cash! Around the house!

            Transparency, honesty, and integrity are some of the qualities I value most in others. I don’t think I could handle NOT knowing where the money was. We can roll over spending money in our budget so we can save that way in our joint accounts. I rarely, if ever, check what he’s spent his money on, and I can guarantee he’s never looked at mine. But the fact remains that I could if I wanted to.

          • Katharine Parker

            CASH AROUND THE HOUSE? 30 GS IN CASH?

            My jaw dropped.

          • quiet000001

            How do you do that? Basement full of spare change?

          • Angela Howard

            A friend of my mom’s said they had to go through every item in her parents house – her mom had tucked bills into the pages of books, folded towels, everywhere. Apparently it is a behavior that can accompany dementia.

          • NotMotherTheresa

            Do I have dementia? Because no kidding, ~I~ do this!

            Honestly, in my case, I do it for the same reason my depression-era grandparents did. Growing up, my parents made fairly good money, but they were HORRIBLE at managing it (as in, McMansion and BMW but no electricity because they didn’t have money to pay the light bill that week). When the recession hit? They didn’t have a dime to their names, and they started pawning Christmas gifts they’d given us kids a decade earlier. The only things that survived the recession were things that had been hidden.

            I keep the majority of my money in the bank, but after living through that, I’ll regularly stash $20 behind a picture frame and $50 in a coat pocket. We don’t have thousands of dollars hidden around the house or anything, but there’s almost definitely enough to cover the electric bill and a tank of gas or two.

          • quiet000001

            Is it not normal to have a little emergency money? We keep enough for some gas in each car, plus $100ish in the house so we can get basic necessities if there’s a bank problem or local power issue.

          • I do this too! It’s super helpful to have spare change (and let’s be real $20 is spare change for a sandwich in toronto) in the drawer for the times when I don’t have time to run to the bank and need spare change for the bus, or for a cash only mom and pop shop, etc. etc.

          • Lisa

            My husband’s godmother’s godmother did something similar. Being a Depression-era kid, she didn’t believe in banks so she would buy expensive purses (theoretically that had a high re-sale value), stash wads of cash in them, and hide them around the house. Husband’s godmother found over a million dollars in cash when she was clearing out the house.

            This woman also bought lots of jewelry with precious metals and stones for the same reason. Godmother sold most of it but kept the diamond rings, which were what my husband used to propose to me.

          • Lisa

            In private lesson teaching, it’s really common to be paid in cash or check. They basically each just had a hidey hole somewhere in the house where they would stash the money after they taught each day and would pull some out whenever they wanted a treat or to buy a gift. I guess they never bothered to count it to see how much they’d hidden.

          • quiet000001

            That just seems like it’d still be physically a pretty impressive pile of cash. Wow.

          • e.e.hersh

            Yeah, and don’t forget that the way our parents budgeted was probably WAY more heavily influenced by traditional gender roles and stereotypes. Sometimes I feel like our generation is forging a new path in trying to really have equal partnerships. I don’t think my parents (as enlightened as they were) thought and talked about this as much as my husband and I do today (at least from a “what does it mean to be equal” perspective).

    • Her Lindsayship

      My husband makes more than twice as much as I do now (yay?) and basically I’ve started buying better makeup. Lindsay of three years ago would be shocked that I’m now willing to lay down $20 for a good eyeliner. But I’ve started getting pretty good at this makeup thing, and maybe I don’t *need* it to be respected in society, but it sure don’t hurt. The point is really just that one partner making more than the other doesn’t mean the lower earner has to live like they would on just their salary. That’s not really a partnership. As long as we’re on the same page about where our money is going, we’re good. If for some reason we ever have to return to a single income, well, then at that point I will start buying cheap eyeliner again. ;)

    • E.

      Yes! I don’t worry too much about the pink tax in our relationship because I consider most of those things to be necessary so we use the joint account. Not necessary in terms of survival, but in terms of what you need in society, which I think is different for everyone. I almost never wear makeup so I think I would consider that a splurge (so my personal money), but if I wore it every day that would probably be different.

      We just had a talk about this because I was using my personal money for haircuts because I felt bad they are so expensive, and my wonderful husband pointed out that that discrepancy is WHY it should be a joint expense. He’s the best.

      • Lisa

        I was using my personal money for haircuts because I felt bad they are so expensive, and my wonderful husband pointed out that that discrepancy is WHY it should be a joint expense.

        I love this! You go, E’s husband!

      • Lexipedia

        Yes on the haircuts! Though if you get your hair colored too, we mathed it out and found out that my haircare is only slightly more than S pays. I get highlights every 3 months (no blowdry and long-term client makes that about $120 plus tip) and he gets his hair cut every 4 weeks for $40 plus tip. I get my hair cut twice a year on top of that, but in reality it’s not as far apart as we thought it would be!

    • yes this. there’s not a lot of precedent for what finances look like when the woman makes more, and this is something i want to here more about. meg’s example of i feel guilty i’m spending my husband’s money on frivolous things is common, but what happens when you are the mom, the family hustler and doing most of the emotional labour? i bet most women who make more than their husbands don’t even think to point out “pink” expenses to their husbands. i know i don’t. i make twice as much as my husband (and i only make mid 5 digits) and i’ve kind of just carried on paying for my expenses the way i did before getting in a relationship, adding his expenses to mine.

    • Jan

      I am forever thankful that my partner is totally fine with my makeup, toiletries, and general pink tax stuff coming out of our joint account. If it’s something that feels over the top luxurious, I happily pay for it out of my own account, but he’s never asked me to do that; it just feels right to me.

  • Sarah E

    It’s likely my husband will always out-earn me (though maybe that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy), at least he does now. However, I handle all of our finances. I do the budget, I set our saving/spending pattern, I catch up with things and hand out the cash. Though we make money decisions jointly, I just cry/talked about this last night as I feel that’s a really stressful task to take on. To some extent, having one person be on point for financial tasks is likely more efficient, but I much prefer the “sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s you” approach that we have for other household management stuff.

    I’m at work so I can’t wade in to the conversation further, but I do think it’s worth examining how much of our money = resources shit comes from damaging and exploitative capitalist notions. Whether those resources are time, chores, social life management, emotional labor, child-rearing. We tend to always work out the dollars and cents on that shit, but what does money have to do with any of it?

  • Zeea

    Question– for those with a joint account for joint expenses, and then separate accounts for personal money, I feel like I can easily picture how this would go for unchanging, recurring expenses (like mortgage). What about expenses that vary each month, like food or gas? Do you just estimate an amount to keep in the joint account each month, and hope for the best? Or do you keep some kind of cushion, just in case things are unexpectedly more expensive that month?

    Do you find that you have to keep a strict budget for the joint money? Does everyone just do that in budgeting software, like YNAB or Mint? Does anyone not do the budgeting software and still make the joint thing work?

    I worry that if we had a joint account, we’d have problems estimating how much we were spending on gas or something, like if he used more gas that I realized that month, then we might overdraw. And in my mind it seems like the only way is to keep a strict budget, but I’m not sure how that would work– I love using a budgeting app, but my partner doesn’t.

    We currently have separate accounts, where we each pay some bills on our own, and end up roughly with the same amount of spending money, but somehow it always feels like I’m scrimping and sacrificing some of my spending money for things like vet bills or groceries, where he doesn’t feel bad about spending money on craft beer for himself, even if it’s a tight month.

    I guess I’m interested in doing a joint account, but I’m really unsure of how to start. Any tips for getting started?

    • GCDC

      The framework we came up with, largely thanks to the conversations on this site, is that everything goes into the joint account. Then, once necessary bills are paid, we pay ourselves our own personal money out of the joint account. In short, we have two principles that we rely on: 1) everything is joint first and separate second and 2) necessary expenses are paid before discretionary ones. We view separate money as discretionary, since things like haircuts, dry cleaner, etc., are joint expenses, so we don’t pay ourselves our fun money until we know the unfun expenses are covered.

    • Katharine Parker

      Do you only use debit cards/cash? Because a way to prevent overdrawing is to put the fluctuating spending on a credit card and as you pay it each month (or every week or two weeks, depending on how often you want to reconcile), look at the remainder to distribute individual spending money to each of you.

      I can’t entirely understand from your craft beer comment–is your husband eating into the food budget with extras that are for him? It sounds like your bills aren’t being divided evenly currently if your fun money is the only place that something like a vet bill is coming out of.

      • Zeea

        Thanks! My husband primarily uses debit and cash, and I use a credit card, since I so closely track things. I pay it off at the end of the month from my checking account, so I get the rewards.
        My husband operates more in the vein of looking at his debit balance, and then judges whether or not he can afford to spend something.
        Food is currently one thing I pay for, if it’s for stuff like ingredients for dinners and breakfasts and stuff, but if he wants something just for him, he’ll buy it out of his budget (like the craft beer).
        I think you’re right– it’s not exactly equal. We’ve had so many talks, and rebalanced, so that he takes on more expenses when I’m feeling squeezed by something like vet bills, but I think until we have a joint account I’ll always feel a bit unequal.

        • Katharine Parker

          If your husband hates budgeting, I would maybe suggest that he switches to an all cash model for discretionary spending. You both agree to $200 a month, or however much, and he takes it out in cash and can spend it throughout the month. When it’s done, it’s done. He continues paying bills as is his responsibility. You continue tracking through your credit card. At the end of the month, the remainder in each account goes to savings, and you know roughly how much to anticipate for the next month.

          I tend to think of a joint account as only one way to share finances, to be honest. My husband and I don’t have an actual joint checking, but we both think of our individual checking accounts as part of our finances and make decisions and budget based on that.

    • emilyg25

      Everything goes into the joint account and we each get a set allowance every month. And yes, we have a budget for the joint account and track things like gasoline.

    • EllieS

      We were going to use YNAB, but I made a super detailed spreadsheet on google sheets instead. We track where every dollar goes and assign an amount for every category (including gas, food, etc). If we have extra money in that category, it rolls over to the next month to make a cushion. If we overspend because something comes up, we have an emergency fund category that we pull money from. It takes work (I update the spreadsheet every day and my husband does whenever he spends), but it honestly makes me so much calmer with our money since I know exactly what happens to it.

    • Sarah Jane

      We use YNAB, and we started just by tracking expenses for a few months to get an idea of how much we spent (on average) on things like groceries, gas, haircuts, etc. Then we made a line item for each item, and when the paychecks come in, we fund each line in order of major bills, necessary expenses (groceries and gas), savings, extra stuff (dry cleaning, hair cuts, date night money) and then whatever is left over gets evenly split between our personal spending lines. We have all of the expenses (even the personal ones) actually come out of one joint checking, but we have a joint savings linked to it that we move money into every month. So far, we’ve been ok about staying on budget, but the savings account is right there if we do overdraft.
      We like the YNAB app because it’s reallllllly easy to log purchases when you make them – my husband thought he wouldn’t like it, but he’s actually better at it than I am. We’ve also gotten into the habit of going into the budget every few days and reconciling, just to make sure we are on track.

    • There’s really 2 ways to handle this:
      A – have income deposited into joint account, then transfer out set amount/% into personal accounts; or
      B – figure out how much you each need to put into the joint account and then pad that amount. for example, if you both contribute $500 in the joint account every week, up that amount to $600 to cover overage.

      I can tell you that B is a pain the ass, but it can work. I’m trying to nudge my husband for scenario A because of the inevitable overages, and I hate having to say “you need to go take money from your account and deposit it into the joint account cause we had too much takeout this week”.

      • e.e.hersh

        Yeah – your A and B scenario is what I was just typing and that’s a good summation, so I’ll just hop on here :)

        We started with Plan B, but like Zeea, I felt like I was always the one having to tell him to move money over – and it was a shitty position to be in. so we moved to Plan A and it has been AWESOME. Now all money goes into joint first. And we pay ourselves out into individual accounts after that depending on what we have left after the joint expenses have been paid.

        • Oh man, I’m trying to get my husband on the A train, crossing my fingers that I can finally make this happen this year.

        • Zoya

          Another vote for Plan A! Works like a charm for us.

      • RNLindsay

        Yes, A is what we do and what I was going to suggest! All of our money is deposited into our joint account. We have an agreed upon number that gets transferred into our separate accounts for fun money each month. The majority of the money stays in the joint account though and is there to cover all joint expenses. If we found it wasn’t covering expenses, we would reduce the amount of fun money transferred out (but luckily this hasn’t been the case)

    • What I did was to sit down and (honestly) look at several months’ expenses. Plus, the budget shifts month to month, so we sit down and talk about if there are any birthdays or events or out-of-town trips we need to add to the budget.

      Unless you take regular, unexpected road trips, you’d be surprised how constant your gas stations trips are. And, of course, I usually budget an extra tank in there.

      I budget up for our animals because inevitably, they cost more than I think they will. We’re pretty strict on groceries, though, and rarely exceed what we budget.

      My husband is not all about budgeting, but he doesn’t spend much either – a sandwich for lunch a day here and there. He typically buys an on-sale PS4 game a month. Something like that. So our personal budgets exceed what we usually spend. Same for eating-out. I track all of that because I’m finally – after years of not being with it – super serious about money, and I want it working for us as much as possible.

      At first, I only budgeted $60 for each of us for personal buys a month, and I’d get resentful when he went over because I’m not super spendy. So we increased it after talking about it, and I actually feel more freedom to spend than I ever have in my life. And I never feel resentful toward him.

      So my advice: talk about it. Analyze what you spend and when. And be honest (and forgiving) when you create a budget. Oh, and we keep a $500 buffer in our checking account. :) (We’ve never touched it.)

    • C

      If I’m honest, I do probably 90+% of the work of maintaining our budget. I use a mix of Mint and Google Sheets for it. We both put all our joint and separate accounts into Mint and then I go through most mornings and put those in the spreadsheet and categorize them against the appropriate budget lines (because the way the categories are arranged in Mint DOES NOT match how I think about our money). My husband basically just contributes to setting the budget, enters his own cash transactions, and checks the spreadsheet to see if there’s space in the appropriate budget for whatever he wants to buy.

      It’s completely understandable if you don’t want to take that on alone, but if you’re weird like me and find it fun (numbers! charts! pretty little color coded boxes!) it’s possible to get a fairly detailed budget without a ton of input from your partner. However, it does rely on your partner being willing to abide by the budget limits and check something other than the posted account balance. It’s not clear if you’re saying that he’s opposed to using a budgeting app or to following a budget at all. If you’re in a situation where you have to worry about
      overdrafting and aren’t able to keep a buffer amount in the account, you
      may not be able to get away with not doing any spending tracking.

      Regarding variable necessary expenses, we usually try to use the monthly average over some extended period of time (so like a time scale where we’ve, say, had to replace all our toiletries at least once) and set the budget for those things a little higher than that average. We also leave some extra money in our checking account in addition to whatever category rollover amounts we have, so we don’t really worry too much about overdrawing. If we’re going over the budget multiple months in a row we revisit whether that budget is realistic.

      I think when we were starting to think about going partially joint we put our accounts in Mint and spent a few months mostly just figuring out where we were spending money so that we would have a realistic baseline. I would probably suggest doing that, then making a budget and try to both stick to it for a couple of months before moving to joint accounts if you’re worried about the budget not really being maintained.

    • E.

      It really helps us have a joint account and we did it fairly early. We just have our paychecks direct deposit in the joint account and have a monthly automatic transfer of our fun money into our personal accounts. We have the same amount of fun money and we decide together what it will be depending on our budget. (We recently went from two incomes that were basically equal to just my income since my husband started law school so we had to reevaluate.)
      We still have to have conversations about what counts as joint expenses and what counts as personal, but it works for us. There are no questions asked about personal money. For us, we decided that if it’s something for both of us (groceries, utilities, etc) or something necessary (winter coat, haircuts, gas) it’s from the joint account. If it’s a splurge (I don’t need shoes, but they’re cute and I want them) or entertainment that is not with each other (going to happy hour with friends) it’s fun money. It definitely takes communication though! Once we went to a baseball game together, but got dinner at separate stands. I put it on the joint card (we were at the game together! entertainment budget!) and my husband put it on his personal card (we were getting our food separately).

    • GotMarried!

      We’ve only ever had a joint account – but to allay the fear of over-drafting, i’m a huge fan of the older YNAB rule to live on last month’s income. The goal is to save up enough of a buffer so that you spend in This month the money you earned last month. I put this system in place when I was fresh out of Law school and trying to paying down my loans like crazy. It freed my mind up from the cash-flow cycle and worrying about which paycheck to use to pay for which irregular bill. We’ve had months where we’re not quite a full month ahead since then (like when our refrigerator died and had to be replaced), but for the most part, stick to the plan. It save so much stress.

  • e.e.hersh

    The “housework/childcare can make up for my reduced earnings as a woman!” idea has been a total mindf*ck for me to work through in my early years of marriage and family, let me tell you. I have always considered myself a progressive feminist and have no idea why this feeling (that I somehow needed to prove my worth in my own household because my husband makes more money) keeps coming up. Maybe it’s the idea of fairness – the goal of wanting to have this equal partnership… and so my work must somehow be measurably equal to his?? The reality, which I KNOW, is that my work (part-time care of our child, part-time career work and full household management for all of us) is WAY harder and way more hours than his job. I know this, he knows this (because I’ve spent every year of our marriage discussing it) and yet… it’s so engrained. The fact that women’s work is undervalued. It’s just so engrained in seemingly EVERYONE. Argh! No good advice here – just ranting out of frustration, I guess. It’s a topic I think a lot about as well.

  • Basketcase

    My husband earns literally double what I do – and has, for several periods of our relationship, been the sole income earner.
    He feels that weight of supporting the family because that’s one part of his traditional upbringing he can’t shake yet.
    But I’ve never had any form of brake applied to my spending.
    I mentally self-brake regularly, but that is solely because I’m stopping to more deeply consider whether what I am spending OUR money on is worth it – do I need a new pair of shoes today (no, because all my existing ones are in good condition), do I need a new work top (yes, because the ones I have are starting to pill and are 2+ years old).
    When every purchase (down to the smallest bar of chocolate) technically impacts how long our mortgage will take to pay off, THAT is my personal spending brake.
    Yes, my husband regularly asks me what I spent money on, and rolls his eyes at some of my purchases (I have an awful sweet tooth), but I never have to justify my spending beyond “I wanted / needed it for X reason”.
    Big purchases are obviously discussed in advance.

  • Abs

    I love everything you’re saying here, but it’s really hard. I make a lot less money than my husband, and we have also relocated to a new place where we don’t know anyone for my career, with the result that he has no community at all and also has to do a lot of traveling. And he is completely supportive of my career and never complains, and we have really good communications about money, but sometimes it feels like every time I start a conversation about money, it’s to say that I should have more of it because #feminism. First saying that he should pay a bigger share of the bills because I make less, and then that our personal spending money should be equal, and now I’m thinking that I should bring up the pink tax stuff, but I just feel like I’m always demanding more from him. He doesn’t make me feel this way even a little, but I feel guilty because he never asks me for anything and I’m always asking things of him.

    • SarahRose472

      Oh wow. I could have written this. Also make less, had my husband follow me to somewhere he has no community, and he’s also had to travel a lot… Not much to say except, I feel you and it definitely is hard. I feel like I struggle sometimes with separating my opinions about my husband and like, the patriarchy in general. That sounds kind of stupid when I say it like that, but trying to say that sometimes I feel like I unfairly take out my frustrations of inequality for women on him…

      • Lisa

        I feel like I struggle sometimes with separating my opinions about my husband and like, the patriarchy in general.

        I feel this so much. My husband got upset at one point when I was railing against white men in response to being offered a really low salary last week. I had to stop and say that I dislike the archetype of white men and the patriarchy they stand for, but I don’t have problems most days with him specifically as a white male.

      • Abs

        I DO THIS ALL THE TIME. I really need to stop, because there’s no way for him to step up when I make him the enemy, but god it’s hard.

    • e.e.hersh

      I hear this, I hear this. I feel like I’m ALWAYS the one bringing this stuff up to my husband. And it’s not always that I’m asking for things, it’s even sometimes that I’m just bringing things to his attention that he isn’t aware of (like the pink tax, etc.). It’s hard not to feel like you’re just being too… demanding or something. I think in our generation, there’s a lot of men who WANT to believe they’re woke and have an equal partnership, but they don’t actually *know* what that looks like or how to make it happen. And I think it happens by us having these conversations and being kind of…demanding, you know?

      • Zoya

        I’d argue it also happens by men being willing to listen and change based on what women are telling them. Personally, I’ve been more than willing to put in the work to educate my “woke” husband, because he doesn’t ever question my experiences or try to invalidate what I’m saying. He listens and takes it in, then changes his behavior accordingly. It’s always a conversation, not a fight to be heard.

      • ssha

        I am the bringer-upper in our relationship. Sometimes it’s really tiring.

    • Anon

      Definitely feel you on this! My husband earns significantly more than me and we budget for joint expenses based on our salary percentages. In fact, he “subsidizes” some of my portion of the joint expenses, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to contribute to retirement or have *any* personal fun money. (No kids, both work full time.) This topic is extremely difficult for me to sort out my own feelings on because. . .well, we set up our approach because we feel it is fair. Neither of us wants to jointly budget for individual expenses. I don’t feel deserving of or entitled to some theoretical greater amount of what he earns. I have knowingly made career choices that somewhat limited my earning potential and he has knowingly made career choices that increased his. My lifestyle (and life!) is net far better with him in it. And yet, because of this system, I can’t shake the feeling that we’re a team in name only and that it’s just so. . . Arbitrary!

      • Amy March

        I mean, isn’t that kinda true? Your system isn’t fair and it isn’t a team approach. So yeah? Your feelings seem reasonable.

      • Sarah E

        Your career choices don’t happen in a vacuum, and your earning potential is directly tied to capitalist patriarchal systems.

        I suspect not wanting to jointly budget for individual expenses (and what is really individual in a household? Like, maybe if I want to buy a snack while running errands?) stems from it being a difficult conversation to have about where your values are.

    • quiet000001

      I’d just introduce it as a “hey, a thing I thought about recently, it’s called the Pink Tax, have you heard about it?” and go from there without talking about adjusting the finances to start with.

    • Sarah E

      I think an important thing to think about (which I’m aware of thanks to a rad cousin and her relationship) is that you’re not responsible for you husband’s “community.” It takes time to build relationships, but it also takes effort. As an adult, he’s certainly capable of texting some new acquaintances, finding a meet-up group, joining a rec league, reaching out in general. It’s certainly really tough to make friends as adults, but it’s not on you at all.

  • jem

    I have always made more money than my husband (tho honestly once he graduates from law school I expect he’ll outearn me in short order even though I’ve been a lawyer for for five years because… that’s how the world works).

    Anyways… I’ve always out-earned him and I STILL don’t feel entitled to use our joint funds for joint expenses. I pretty much always use my money, even though I KNOW I can use our money and he’s told me to use our money, and it mostly came from me anyway… but it still makes me cringe.

    How do I get over that???

    • Do you know what’s stopping you from using the money in the joint account?

    • Her Lindsayship

      Dang, I know you said ‘he’s told me to use our money’ but maybe you haven’t really talked about it enough yet? If some part of you feels uncomfortable spending JOINT money on JOINT expenses, that strikes me as way off base and really warrants some discussion to try and figure out why you feel that way. Everyone has hangups about money in some way or another, but when you’re in a partnership you should be able to face them as partners!

    • AmandaBee

      I mean, it might help to figure out why you feel that way. Have you ever spoken to a therapist about it? Maybe it would help to hear the perspective of someone neutral.

      • jem

        I totally and absolutely need to speak to a therapist about it… thanks for the nudge!

    • LindseyM

      My husband is like this, although the situation is flipped. I hugely out earn him (because he is in school and because I am a lawyer), and he has had a very hard time spending money on things because he feels guilty that I am earning it all. (We’ve been together for ten years and have joint finances, so this isn’t coming from timidity.) What has worked for us is the joint account and a separate account for him for fun money. It might be worth a try, and for the first six months or so you might need to force yourself to spend your fun money every month, to get used to it. Also very important, when you say: “I will buy such and such when I achieve Y,” you have to actually go do it, or it becomes an empty promise in the future.

      • LindseyM

        oops…. misread your question, sorry :)

    • Amy March

      Just start doing it. Give yourself permission to feel uncomfortable but do it anyway.

      • jem

        This may be the best advice I’ve ever received, thank you! I need to tattoo this on my forearm…

  • Anne

    I think maybe some of this is a non-issue if you just don’t have very much money as a couple?

    Husband and I make pretty similar amounts and neither of us are big spenders by nature, but it almost wouldn’t matter if we were. There’s always been an understanding that we’re just not going to make large discretionary purchases that only benefit one or the other of us, and we’re both going to do our reasonable best to be frugal about everything else and not obsess about it too much. I don’t think either of us has ever had the thought that one of us is spending too much on themselves or that there should be limits of some sort on those quantities specifically (though we’ve had some back-and-forth discussion about how important it is to be detailed and goal-oriented in our budgeting). Even when we had totally separate finances, he was always fine with e.g. evenly splitting a grocery bill for both of us that included tampons for me. Thinking about it now, I’m pretty sure I spend more than him because of the pink tax and because of having a more expensive hobby, but he’s also more likely to sometimes buy lunch instead of packing from home or to spend more on drinks when out at a bar.

    It’s possible that we’re just kicking the can down the hypothetical road to a point where one of us significantly out-earns the other, but I’d optimistically like to think that we’ve established a dynamic where this is a non-issue because we don’t place disproportionate value on the role of money and tracking whether we spend it on ourselves as a couple vs as individuals.

    • littleinfinity

      I agree, sometimes I have trouble relating to the financial discussions on APW because I’m like Roth what? Investment who? When you’re just trying to get by and pay a bill or two, it becomes a lot less of an issue whose money you’re spending – the issue is whether or not you have money to spend at all. The only times we’ve really fought about money have been times when we were barely bringing in enough to stay above water, and the fight was “you need to work more hours so we can pay rent”, not “you spend too much on makeup/ xbox”.

      • ssha

        I’m really glad to hear this perspective in here because we just had this conversation (“one of hs needs to make more money very soon”) and I feel like APW readership skews to the higher end of income. BUT that doesn’t mean we don’t have these same worries about spending and egalitarianism. I often feel frivolous when I spend ANY money because of our situation, but I don’t think he feels that way.

  • lirr

    I really appreciated this essay, but btw Gaby Dunn spells her name with only one ‘b’!

  • Anon Now

    I’m another person who outearns my spouse and we keep separate accounts. He has an expensive hobby and I prefer not to haggle over how we each spend our money, and this setup has worked great for us.

    There are certain things that I always pay for (health insurance, major medical bills) and some that I pay significantly more for (e.g. rent is split approximately by income, since we live in an expensive city), but we have only separate checking accounts. We put most household expenses on a credit card that we generally each pay half of.

    Both of our parents are divorced, and in both cases money was a big
    issue, so maybe that makes us a little more cautious than we would be
    otherwise (and we do have a prenup). It’s definitely flexible, and we talk about how we’re handling our separate funds often to make sure we’re on the same page long term. But we’re thinking we might eventually want to have a kid, which would definitely change things – I think in that case we would probably have to think seriously about combining.

    • Dating a pilot

      How do you make funding the expensive hobby seem fair? I’m dating someone whose first love was a spendy hobby. Asking him to cut back doesn’t respect his desires. But also I wouldn’t take up something equally expensive to balance our spending.

      • gelk

        What does it matter though? I mean, if his spendy hobby isn’t putting pressure on your budget, and if you currently feel happy and fulfilled in your life as is (i.e. there are no spendy hobbies you wish you were doing), then what’s the problem? And then in the future if there’s a dream you want to chase that costs some $$, he should be totally willing to use your joint money to make it happen. I think the goal should be that both partners have their needs met and feel equally fulfilled in their lives, not that an equal amount of money is spent on them arbitrarily just to be fair.

        That said, of course, if his hobby is straining your budget or making it impossible for you to do things that are important to you, that’s not going to fly. But from your comment it doesn’t sound like that’s the issue.

  • rebecca

    My husband and I have worked so hard on this front and I’m really proud of us. Coming from extremely traditional homes, he earns slightly more than me and we fully pool our finances. And he genuinely “gets it” and is proud and happy to participate in a truly egalitarian financial relationship and I have genuinely see him put his job on the line to make his workplace more inclusive. BUT….y’all…my house is FILTHY. Actually, right now it isn’t bc we paid someone to clean it this weekend. But I work full time and I’m taking two college classes to finish up prereqs for an accelerated MBA. I do all the cooking, meal planning and Instacart ordering and I…..I just can’t do chores on the 3 nights a week where I’m home before 10pm. It doesn’t phase him at all, when I’m not there he comes home, microwaves his dinner and plays video games. And when I say I need more support w/chores he just says “Sorry, but…I’m pretty good…right?” And…he is…but….I just hate that the bar is so unbearably low for men that we’re supposed to be *grateful* for what should be the bare standards of partnership/decency.

    • Jessica

      Yeah, when he says “I’m pretty good…right?” You may want to express that he needs to be better than pretty good. The bare minimum isn’t typically what people shoot for in a relationship.

      • penguin

        My response at that moment would be “not right now you’re not”, but this is basically the exact right way to pick a fight with me.

        • rebecca

          lol, yeah this is exactly how it goes. Also I think folks might be reading this as worse than it actually is? idk maybe it is terrible. But it’s “Sorry I didn’t think on my own to do the thing” not “Sorry I’m not going to do the thing” he doesn’t like, reject my requests for help, he’s just incapable of thinking of it on his own and think he should be told how wonderful he is every time he contributes.

          • quiet000001

            My response to this problem was “okay, sit down and I will help you make a list of things you can do.” (Note: I did not make the list FOR him. I just nudged him to get him going. I.e. “so what do you see in the kitchen right now? What’s in the dishwasher?” Once he got going ‘seeing’ the chores that needed to be done, the list happened without much help. He just needed help turning the switch in his head so he saw stuff. Now he has a list he can look at when he’s home and intellectually knows he should do SOMETHING but can’t see what to do.)

          • penguin

            Ah ok yeah I read it the worse way at first as well – a hazard of being an internet stranger :) I believe you that it’s more of an annoyance than a red flag. I know some stuff about my husband sounds really bad on the internet, when in real life it’s more just frustrating.

    • e.e.hersh

      Ohhhh yeah – I totally hate that “just lower your standards!” chestnut that everyone tells women when they want their husband to step it up. That’s just bullsh*t. My husband could go for MONTHS without cleaning a toilet. That’s just not OK and I am done trying to do chore charts and having thoughtful conversations about it. If he can’t clean up after himself to a normal, generally-accepted hygienic standard (which some months he can’t) we pay for a cleaning service out of our joint expenses (which is mostly his salary). Either pick up a broom or pay for someone (who is not your wife) to do it for you.

      • NotMotherTheresa

        As the slob in our relationship, I…never can decide how I feel about this!

        Because you know what? ~I~ could for months without cleaning the toilet. I just don’t notice that stuff, and even more than that, I truly do not care. If it gets to where it bothers ME, I’ll clean it. Until then, nope. Not enough hours in the day to worry about someone else’s arbitrary standards for cleanliness.

        On the other hand, for years, I shouldered all of the emotional labor. Picking out wedding gifts for HIS friends? Sending Christmas cards to HIS family members? Reminding him about HIS doctor’s appointments? All on me.

        Finally, on both sides, we just gave up. If he wants the toilet cleaned for the second time in one week, he can clean it. If I want his mom to receive a Christmas present, I can pick it out. But otherwise? Meh, life will ~technically~ go on if we have a disgusting toilet and his mom doesn’t get anything for Christmas. (Sorry MIL. I’m pretty sure you’ve known your son long enough to know who to blame for that little oversight.)

    • nope.

      Wait… that’s his response to a genuine request for help maintaining your shared home? Uh, no, he’s not pretty good. That’s pretty bad, actually.

    • Zoya

      Oh boy…as the certified slob in my relationship, I am sometimes guilty of pulling the same behavior your partner does. I feel a lot of shame over my terrible housekeeping skills and so I tend to immediately seek reassurance from my partner. But that doesn’t make it okay!

      • Lexipedia

        Yep. I’m the messy one in our relationship. Not unclean, but I definitely don’t do laundry until I need to and have a much higher tolerance for mess or clutter than he does. I still do most of the emotional labor – making lists, reminding of appointments, booking things for us, purchasing gifts, managing our social life – but he is primarily responsible for all of the dishes in our house.

    • Emily

      Idea for this… instead of stating you need more help with chores, try, I need you to do x, y, and z by this date. I know it’s kinda marriage therapy 101 but it’s the only thing that works for us (also having mismatched cleanliness levels)

      • RNLindsay

        Yes! I work every 3rd weekend so my husband gets a small list of chores when I work. I state they just need to be done by the end of the weekend (which he sometimes stretches to Monday morning before work….but I digress) and as long as they’re done, I don’t say anything. I’ve made the mistake of not leaving a list and just *hoping* he’ll notice the piles of crap lying around but nope, they’re still there come Sunday night. A list and a decent time frame are what work!

  • Inmara

    We never had a problem of unequal incomes as we mor or less make the same. Also we have separate accounts as it’s the most common way in our country. Where we hit the wall was the year when my maternity leave ended but municipal daycare was not available (common situation, lasts from 6 months to a few years depending on municipality) and we paid for nanny. Suddenly our income was barely more than expenses, and it turned out that I covered much of the everyday payments and recurring expenses and came short at the mid-month. In the beginning husband even suggested that I should exclusively pay for nanny because “You could as well stay home” (no, I couldn’t, both for financial and career reasons). So I employed YNAB and through some struggling we came to accept that in fact we have “our money” and “our budget” even if it’s in separate accounts. Since then we have abandoned monthly budgeting as without a nanny we earn more than spend, but the idea of joint finances has stayed (if only it was so easy with household chores!)

    • ssha

      “you could as well stay home.” I would have said “You could too!” especially since your incomes are so similar!

  • Marcone Hector Hugo

    But when there is true matrimonial love in the couple between the man and the woman, it is not disputed to use the husband’s money so that she can buy her clogs because the marital love was joined from the beginning by the money that must be shared with understanding to achieve love

  • quiet000001

    I’m pretty sure my SO would be offended at the idea he gets to spend more because he makes more. (Actually, right now due to health and family issues, he makes it all and I’m more or less a SAHM type thing.) (Less Mom-ing and more care-giver-ing but same concept.)

    We kind of stumbled into the arrangement we have now, rather than explicitly talking about it (I just started doing more for his son because someone needed to and it was something I could do, and he started paying some of my bills for the same basic reason) and at one point after a bit of that I said something about feeling bad about buying something frivolous for myself, and how I should probably look for a job, and he flat out told me that he considered what I was doing to be work just as much as what he does, just without a paycheck from an external source.

    That was pretty helpful to hear, because he clearly didn’t think about it (Like “what is the Cool Feminist Guy thing to say here?”) that was just how he felt.

    I still do want to get back to work when things allow, but as long as spending is within reason, I try not to feel bad anymore about buying myself things here and there. (Big purchases – like over $250ish – we do run past each other briefly, but it’s a sanity check as much as anything else. This item is worth this, right? I haven’t forgotten about any big expenses coming up? Etc.)

  • Pannorama

    When I was a kid, I went out shopping with my mom and her best friend sometimes. One day, said best friend needed to get a nice dress for some adult event — and she told my mom she needed to call her husband to get his OK. That moment has been seared into my soul for almost 20 years. I swore to my little baby self that I would never, ever ask a man for permission to buy myself something. It’s interesting to see how this does and doesn’t play out in my relationship, especially now that we’re getting married. We make about equal amounts (though I actually make more, but it gets eaten up by my student loans), but we come from very different financial backgrounds (my parents are a financial mess, and his are very much not a mess) and have very different financial reserve situations. Right now, money goes into our joint account to cover our joint expenses and the rest is sort of do-with-what-you-will, but very much in the context of being a joint household. FH has said many times that he views his savings as our savings, but I’m way too neurotic about money to really FEEL that, since it’s currently all in his name (though he definitely walked the walk on that when I was unemployed last year). I notice that I have a tendency to put off small purchases for things I want but don’t need in a way that he doesn’t. So I recently tacked a $12 silpat onto an order for a $15 roasting rack because I deserve nice things too, damnit!

  • MC

    I make more money than my husband right now, which is hilarious because I work for a tiny nonprofit org – but he’s a public school teacher so my salary is a bit bigger than his. We have fully joint accounts and get the same amount of personal money. The only thing we’ve stumbled on recently is that he has a few different opportunities to make extra money in his role – this past weekend, for example, he proctored the ACT and will get around $150 for that. For awhile he felt like that extra money he makes should be added to his personal money instead of going to other joint budget expenses or getting split evenly between our personal money accounts. His argument was that he chooses to work more hours on his own time. My argument was that my annual-ish raises don’t put more money into my personal account, so it’s not fair that his ways of earning extra money would mean he gets more. It took me awhile to articulate it accurately, but it all comes down to the fact that we are equal partners and make different but equal contributions to our household. Full stop. He agrees, but on some emotional level feels slightly entitled to that money…

    • quiet000001

      Could you compromise where he gets to do a small nice ‘reward’ for the extra (I’m thinking like getting a Starbucks on the way home from the test, or maybe getting lunch instead of packing lunch one day, something like that) but the bulk of it goes into joint?

      • emilyg25

        I think a compromise is a good idea.

      • rg223

        We do this too – I get to have lunch out on days that I’m freelancing!

    • Sonnie

      We’ve gone back and forth on this too and I can see both sides. Where we ended up is any regular ‘side hustle’ money gets put in the joint account (I run a small etsy store, my husband used to drive for Uber) but any ‘one-off’ money gets put in personal money (if I judge debate one weekend or he participates in a market research study).

  • Eenie

    We frequently have the conversation about how thankful we are to be on the same page about money. 100% joint finances, no separate spending accounts. We each keep a portion ($5k) in personal checking accounts – fuck you money as it’s called, since my biggest fear is my husband will gamble through all the money in our joint account, and I won’t have money to pay the bills (this is not a rational fear).

    Our joint spending money works like this: we put an amount in it each month – anything spending over $50 we run by each other. Sometimes we will save up for something bigger as a line item (tickets for me to fly home to visit family, new couch, clothing, etc). A lot of our hobbies are built into the budget. It works for us because we struggle with where to draw the line between personal and joint. We both drew the line very strict for our own personal money, but then thought the other person was being way too stingy with the joint money. “That shouldn’t be a personal expense.” Was the most common thing said during our budget meeting. So after two months of neither of us touching our spending categories, we moved it to a joint category and that fixed it.

  • NotMotherTheresa

    As two people with wildly different day to day spending habits, my husband and I could never do fully joint accounts. (Husband is the king of spending $5 on this and $10 on that but never splurging on the big items, whereas I’ll eat nothing but peanut butter sandwiches every day for three months, then buy myself a trip to the Bahamas.)
    Our approach is that we periodically sit down to divvy up responsibility for the shared expenses, and then whatever is leftover is that person’s money to keep. We still run into a bit of friction whenever it’s time to re-assess who pays what share of what, or when a new expense pops up that doesn’t neatly fall into one of the areas of pre-allocated responsibility, but at least with this approach, the friction is a once-every-several-months situation, rather than a ‘every single mother f*!$(&ing day’ thing.
    Also, confession time: Yes, as the compulsive hoarder of money, I ~do~ sometimes hide my splurges from him. I also hide some of my work bonuses from him. You can try to explain every day until you’re blue in the face that x number of Red Lobster lunches, $6 coffees, and $10 happy hour cocktails add up to the same amount as a cheap Rolex, but eventually, you learn that it’s just not worth the fight. Which is why we have separate accounts in the first place.
    Same with the work bonuses: As the money hoarder, unexpected expenses tend to fall on me whether it’s proportionate to our contributions or not (it’s usually not). I just count the extra $1,000 bonus here or there as having gone towards reimbursing me for the last unplanned car repair, rather than having to discuss with the husband exactly ~why~ he’s not entitled to any of that money.

    • NA

      We’re like this too. Having separate accounts makes sense for us because we both have inconsistent incomes, and it’s just easier for each of us to keep track of how much we’re earning and spending than both of us keeping our eyes on a fluctuating joint account. We update one another on how much we currently have in our own accounts, so there aren’t any surprises at Christmas or when the property tax bill arrives. We trust one another to splurge on things when appropriate, but I think we both like knowing that there isn’t someone getting a notification when we decide to do so. We are both money hoarder types, and struggle enough convincing ourselves to buy expensive things we need without knowing that the other one could potentially be scrutinizing that purchase in real time.

  • Anon

    I want to ask a logistical / emotional question about the actual process of combining finances. So, I got engaged 2 months ago and we decided we want to be a joint finances couple. yay! the basic plan is we’ll both contribute our paychecks to a joint account and take $100-200 out each paycheck to our personal accounts for gifts and things like individual vacations (mostly, at our age, travel for bachelor and bachelorette parties) and gifts for eachother. It helps that we are near exactly equal wage earners – like, maybe $2-5k different per year depending on bonuses and things, but this felt like an easy decision. A bit before we got engaged we opened up a joint credit card that we’ve put all of our joint expenses on – groceries, bills, trips, dinners out, etc and it’s worked out great! no fights so far, we each pay half every month.That said, my FI has significant cash savings (think, 6 figures) and he owns the condo we live in, and I have, what I feel is a normal amount of cash savings (between ~$15k that I never touch). I don’t know how to talk or think about how we “seed” our savings. We’re moving soon for a career move for me, and he’s planning to sell the condo and will add another $60-70k to his savings. I just can’t wrap my mind around him just being like, “ok this is yours now too” and us using it to buy a house that we both co-own, and everytime I start to talk around it I negotiate against myself, leading with thoughts around a how we’d structure a prenup. We’re both young professionals, but he got a bit of a headstart in life from wealthy family (family funded bachelors and masters and large gifts every now and then vs. student loans and self-made). He understands this, and has so much respect for me, I just don’t know how to discuss it without feeling ashamed. I’m fine with everything from here on out being “ours”, but can’t wrap my head combining pre-marriage assets. Even as I write this, I’m thinking “does it sound like I just want my fiance to give me his money?” How do you get past this, and what do you do with the pre-marriage money? Or am I crazy and he’ll get to have $200k in his savings while I have $15k because that’s where we started?

    • Yael

      A and I are in a similar spot regarding savings and for similar reasons. I think he was the one who started referring to his hunk of savings as “ours” first, and over time I have started using the same terminology. We’ve also been combining all of our assets into as few bank/finance accounts as possible, and that includes moving his assets into new investment accounts, so we’ve had a lot of talks about what our goals are for that money, how risky we want our investments to be, and so on. I’ve asked him to do the bulk of the research on it, but that’s because he knows less about investing than I do and he has more free time. We’ll make the decisions together.

      It has also helped to earmark both of our savings for some joint goals. I have much more in retirement savings than he does, but he has the house nest egg. I have student loans which are paid out of my account (since all the auto pay is already set up), but he sees them as his debt as well, so he contributes by paying for our shared credit card (which was originally mine). Money is generally fungible. Having different pots can be helpful for savings goals, but if you treat the pots as joint, then it is.

      It may also help if rather than putting the house from the condo into his savings, he put it into some sort of joint retirement/long-term nest egg account that you both can access rather than into his individual savings. And then again, you can designate your savings as wedding/honeymoon/furniture/car/pay off debt fund. Whatever the two of you decide is most important.

    • RNLindsay

      I guess a question to ask is what are his goals for his savings? Will he want to put it towards another down payment on a new house? Investments? If the goals are things that will affect you jointly, then it might make sense to combine them. If you both want to buy house in your new location, then even your $15k of savings is helpful! And you both would be pooling your savings towards that joint goal.

      • OP

        Yeah, he wants to buy a house in a few years when we’re sure we’re going to stick in that location. TBH, he didn’t intentionally save that amount, he just makes decent money, lives how he wants, and saves the rest. His parents give him money a lot, but it’s random and he never asks for it. They’re paying for our wedding in full as well, so that will be another windfall. I think that’s the plan (pool our savings towards the house), but it just feels WEIRD.

    • emilyg25

      No it doesn’t sound like you want your fiance for his money. I think you should just start talking about it. What are his plans for that money? What are his long-term goals and wants? What are yours? How are you going to achieve them? Does he think you need a pre-nup?
      The more you talk about it, the easier it gets.

      • OP

        He wants us to buy a house in a few years when we’re settled in where we’re going to live long-term. Our careers take us to high COL areas so we’d probably need to spend at least $800k on a decent house so his “nest egg” isn’t far off for a down payment. I wouldn’t have that much to contribute to that, which is solely because I’ve paid off $200k of debt from undergrad, and I can tell you he’s definitely happy I’m not bringing that debt to our marriage.

        Besides that, he pretty much buys everything he wants – TBH we both do. We don’t really budget, besides talking about individual events and things and seeing if they’re “worth” it. We have a joint credit card we each pay half of every month that collects points we use to travel together. We’d like to travel more but are constrained by vacation time, not finances.

        Everytime we talk about finances it’s a little awkward because he’s like, “oh we’ll just combine money, and then we’ll buy a house, NBD”. He definitely comes from a wealthy family where talking about money is “gauche”. I know every asset and expense my (middle class) parents have, but he has NO idea what his father’s salary was or how much money they have. When they offered us a check for the wedding, FI was shocked at the amount because he had no idea they had that kind of money laying around. It’s very strange to me and I want to hammer out more what married life looks like financially, but FI is super cavalier about it. He fully understands the concept of “i have more money in my savings than you because I had no debt and every once in a while my parents give me $30k for my birthday”, but I still feel weird about combining two disparate financial positions even though we are “equal” wage earners.

        • Different Anon

          I don’t know if this is helpful at all, but I am sort of in your fiance’s position in my relationship although in some ways it’s very different (my parents are not wealthy, I actually love talking about money, I just had a much much better job than my fiance for a few years)–but I have way more savings than my fiance does (although most is in retirement or taxable investment accounts and not cash) and decent equity in a house, but it just literally is a non-issue… to me there is absolutely nothing “weird” about us becoming a family and all the assets belonging to the family. I have never wanted a pre-nup. Maybe I am naive because my parents aren’t divorced or something, I don’t know! If we get divorced, we can split it, I don’t care. It also probably helps that we aren’t too far apart on general spending habits and values (and we’ve been together for 7+ years, living together for 5+) so if that’s also the case with you guys maybe he just trusts you with shared money, feels like you have shared goals, and really sees it as a non-issue. These are all good and important things to talk about, though!

        • Jan

          It sounds like your fiance already sees his savings as your savings. The issue is in your own head. And, that’s okay! It’s understandable. You just need to take the leap and suggest you pool your savings into one common pot, to achieve these goals that he has (and that you hopefully share).

          IMO, financial conversations are most successful when you frame them around what you’re both hoping to achieve, and on what timeframe. “We want to do X, so we should consider Y in order to get there.”

  • Anon.

    Yay Meg. I cannot believe how many of the comments here are based on the idea that “extras” (like frivolous pedicures, extra lipsticks, etc) are individual purchases! My husband and I don’t have separate accounts or allowances and never micromanage each other’s purchased. Now that we have kids, the whole idea seems ludicrous to me. I mean— I had to be pregnant and needed a massage and now nothing fits and my body is “ruined” and I’m supposed to feel bad that I get 80$ haircuts? Dude owes me IT ALL FOREVER. And we budget! But still.

    • Jan

      Cool, cool. But sometimes people do micromanage each other’s purchases, and it’s best to set up a system that puts a cap on that. Or, sometimes you just want some things to be kept separate. It’s not really a commentary on what is/isn’t owed; people just have different perspectives and needs around money stuff.

  • Sarah Rubenfeld

    I am the sole breadwinner in my family, while my husband is now the household manager (hopefully to be a stay at home dad soon). When we met in law school we had roughly equal earning potential (although he came in with student loans and I came in with a small nest egg). He lost his job shortly before we got engaged, and never really recovered his career. Turns out that he didn’t really like being a lawyer, and neither of us have any great ambitions or callings otherwise. While we were still in NYC he did some hourly short contract work, which made solid money but had horrible hours and was exhausting. When I got a great big opportunity and we moved back to my home city, he talked about changing careers and learning something new, but we decided in the meantime he would keep house. About a year later we decided to try to have a kid (which is taking way longer than expected, but oh well), so it seems I will remain the sole earner.

    It’s actually been fairly seamless. Thankfully we make enough that we don’t have to worry that much about budgeting, but we also have similar ideas about money and approaches to spending. He has had some issues with feeling like he shouldn’t have as much of a say as I do in our finances and spending, which I have tried to assuage. Thankfully he’s a very staunch feminist who doesn’t have a lot of self worth tied up in his career, but it’s taken a few years for him to get comfortable with the idea of being a homemaker as his job, and not just as something he’s doing while figuring out his next job. I worry mostly about what happens if we were to divorce or something, as he will have a long time out of the workforce. If I were still in my high stress former job I might resent him staying home, but now I’m just happy to have someone other than me cooking, cleaning and running errands. I basically never meet anyone with our setup, and I’m sure all the other parents will judge us if we do have the kid, but it works for us.

    • Anne

      Hi – just wanted to say that your setup is basically exactly what my parents did when I was growing up! Right down to the meeting in law school and dad having more trouble with his job afterward. I’m sure it wasn’t without bumps but it worked out pretty well for them, and I loved having a stay-at-home dad. I think other people’s judgment passes quickly when they see that you don’t care and it’s working for you and your family. Or if not then it’s their problem.

    • Anon

      I think my fiance and I plan to do something similar. We are in the same field (finance), but I love it and he does not and I’ve had more success moving up. We make about the same salary right now, but it feels a bit different considering he has 5 more years of experience and a masters degree that I do not. He’s also really engaged in fulfilling hobbies – he plays and writes music, loves team sports, and he draws and paints. I hike sometimes, but I’d be mostly bored at home whereas he can find ways to feel fulfilled. I need my career to feel fulfilled. He’s also very neat and clean where I’m the certified slob – only thing is that I cook and he’s not great at it, but we’ll figure it out. If everything goes according to plans, we both agree that he’d be a great stay at home dad and I’d be the breadwinner – I’ve also never met anyone that actually does this, so it’s great to hear it’s working out for you. I already anticipate everyone basically treating him like a saint and me like a monster for not wanting to stay home with my kids, but hoping we can deal.

      • Jan

        My partner would love nothing more than to be as stay-at-home-dad. The very idea bores me to tears. I would absolutely love to afford this arrangement, but on my salary, it’s just not feasible. *frowny face*

    • Blue_eyes

      I could see my husband and I being in this situation at some point. We’ve both agreed that if either of us were to stay home with kids, it would definitely be him. He enjoys being a homebody and I would be bored out of my mind staying at home. He’s also less ambitious and career focused than I am, and his job lends itself better to working from home or part time at odd hours – so he could potentially be home with kids and still bring in some money.

  • Penny7b

    I earn more than my husband. I get slightly more to spend, mostly in recognition that I need a professional work wardrobe and makeup and the pink tax makes my expenses higher than my husbands. We try to keep things pretty much equal, but also recognise that sometimes one person’s needs are greater than they other so they should get a bit more. We do budgets together every year where we work out our various expenses and goals for the year and where all our money (that mostly I earn incidentally) should go. We end up with three budgets, one for shared expenses, and a personal expenses budget for each of us. That way we can work out how much we each need to pay for everything that is important to us.

  • Sam F

    My husband earns more than twice my salary. He also owned our house before we met, thanks to a generous deposit from his parents. Our salaries go into a joint account, we each get the same spending money and everything else is shared. I’m currently on maternity leave (in the UK so I get a reduced salary for a year) and I do feel like I should do more housework as I’m here and it would be nice for him to come home to a tidy house after a long commute. Not because I owe him. I had my uterus cut open and my body seriously impacted by creating a human so I figure the dude owes me! Having said that, our baby is twelve weeks old and I haven’t yet managed to do any housework so I guess my grand plans have come to approximately nothing!

    I know lots of long term couple who have kept money separate, which is great if it works for them, but pooling our money makes me feel really connected to my husband, and that we’re a family unit, all working together to support each other because we love each other and our new baby!

    • emilyg25

      Caring for a small human all day is work too.

  • MEG. This does not contribute AT ALL to this very important discussion, but I just wanted to pop by and say that I knew I missed your voice over the past year, but I didn’t realize just how much I missed you until now, when we’re seeing you all over the place again (especially in the comments!). I am SO GLAD to be hearing from you on a regular basis again!

    • Lisa

      I thought the same thing about seeing Meg in the comments! I know she’s incredibly busy, but I loved the early days when we’d have conversations with her. She was the one who gave me the courage to fight the name fight, and I owe her a lot for that.

  • ebass

    Question: What about the proposition that women should have MORE spending money because it is literally more expensive to be a woman?

    • Eh

      Others talked about this in the comments, for example that haircuts and personal care are a shared expense. So instead of the wife being given more spending money to make up for it, it’s in the pooled costs.

    • Sarah E

      Yeah, it’s hard for me to talk about it in terms of spending money, because getting my hair cut is a personal care item, not “fun money.” I don’t wear makeup, so I have a harder time around that expense. But most things that are more expensive for women is part of regular grocery bill (soap and stuff) or I make a category called “wellness” in the budget and that’s where the facial cleanser or whathaveyou come from. Clothing, again, is not really our “fun money,” it’s separate budget category. I could understand that some folks’ different shopping habits could affect how they categorize clothing expenditures, though. But we both pay for both of our underwear, jeans, t-shirts, whatever. If I were shopping for clothes as a leisure activity, I can see how the conversation might change.

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  • JLily

    This is such an interesting perspective to me, because I have actually had to work to not consider the money I earn as spending money just for me! As we plan to have kids soon, I have been reflecting on how growing up I knew I wanted to make enough money to support myself, but didn’t consider it my “job” to support a family. Not that I had a distinct thought that the man should support the family, I just only really ever considered myself at all. I earn slightly more than my husband now (although student loans, commute costs, etc make our disposable income more or less the same), and our earnings will likely be on par throughout our careers. It’s taken work for me to think of my money as “ours” and make sure that any raise I get is thoughtfully allocated for the good of the family unit, rather than rewarding myself with an increased travel or clothing budget (i.e. running out to buy new bryrs)!

  • Jessica

    After reading this article yesterday I decided to finally sit down with my fiance and hash out our combined budgets. This has been a sore topic for us because he’s grown up with quite a bit more money and much more giving parents. He has no college debt, thanks to his parents, while I have a sunstantial amount. I have credit card debt due to lack of understanding how that actually works since I was offered credit cards too young, while he has none. The first two years we lived together he either didnt work or only worked part time due to school and his parents provided for the income gap left, while I picked up fun money slack. His most recent job that he had he saved up money due to being a contractor. He oversaved and now he has a good sum of money. When combining our finances, I asked if we could use that for our emergency fund since, you know, we’re getting married. He said he wants it to just be “his.” I’m having to cut into my spending money to combine finances since I outearn him. Im talking, I went from having 200+ a week to 75 a week. And he gets to keep thousands of dollars because he feels “punished” because he was “responsible.” We stopped fighting last night, and halfway apologized, but I don’t feel resolved or okay. What should I do?

    • anon

      This is exactly what premarital counselling is for…. highly recommend.

      My thoughts: From what you wrote though it seems like he blames poverty on bad choices instead of privilege (his parents paid his cost of living so he could save money, but yours couldn’t…… so now he has more money, but it’s because he was “more responsible”? yeahhhhh I’m not buying that). That conversation gets deep REAL fast and honestly it is an exhausting conversation.

      Welcome to the wonderful world of “behind every woke male is an exhausted feminist”….. you’re about to become that feminist. That extra money isn’t because he’s “more responsible” than you, it’s because he had parental financial support and education (e.g. knowing not to take credit cards) that you didn’t….. and now you get to figure out how to make him understand that having family support is an entirely unrelated thing from ability to be responsible. He’s punishing you for coming from less privilege, is what it comes down to. Whether or not he realizes or admits it.

      He also clearly doesn’t see your guys’ finances as truly joint. From what you wrote, he doesn’t seem to want to ‘take one for the team’ – and it’s not like you’re saying “give me your money!”…. you’re saying hey, here’s this way the money could help both of us….. and he’s saying NO MINE. Are you guys good at working together as a team towards the same goals? If he makes double the money you do, does he expect you to have half the discretionary spending? What if it’s reversed?

      All in all, this is definitely stuff that’s easier to discuss with a counselor.

      • anon

        additional note, if you’re cutting down on your fun money to join finances…. how are you splitting your finances? And why join at all then? If you’re willing to go fully joint at significant expense to your own quality of life, but *HE ISN’T*……. that’s not okay. Maybe going joint right now isn’t the right choice. Because you’re sacrificing lots and he refuses to budge with anything.

    • Amy March

      You should be glad you learned this before actually becoming legally bound and go to counseling. What he is proposing is deeply not okay.

    • Jan

      It sounds as if he wants you guys to pool your income and expenses, but not your *resources*. And, that’s a problem. Your life together is your life together– all bits of both of you, combined, including everything that happened before you met. He doesn’t get to just take the bits that happened after you decided to get married.

      I agree: counseling.

  • kaskanator

    Yes to all of this! I would also encourage feminist couples to think about the retirement contributions you are making as individuals. My husband and I pool our resources, which is great! We have very clear shared goals around finances, and we treat the money as ours. When thinking through our retirement contributions, I realized that 10% of my salary over time would not put me in the same place as 10% of his salary over time. Add to that the potential for me to go back to work part time, even for a bit, if we have kids, and all of a sudden we have brought the patriarchy into our ability to retire when the time is right! Obviously my plan is to still be with my husband at that time, but this is 2018, and if anything happens to the two of us, I don’t want to be screwed because I was planning to pool my money with him, only to find an insufficient retirement account on my own. Spending is one step, but it is super important to remember that life is long, things happen, the divorce rate is high, and women often make financial decisions based on their partner’s income, only to be really screwed when that income is no longer going to be a part of their lives. I hate to get cynical about it, but our ability to be realistic about the many possibilities that lie ahead has allowed us to figure out a good spending and saving partnership (I save 12% of my salary for retirement, and he saves 10%).

    • Lexipedia

      One of the first things I did when we (quite recently) combined finances was significantly up my retirement contributions. He finished grad school and entered the workforce 5 years before me, makes almost 3x my salary, and has similarly disproportionate retirement savings. With our funds pooled I can afford to make higher contributions I could when I was single and I want to even things out a bit.

    • Ashlah

      FWIW, it isn’t necessarily the case in divorce that your retirement accounts stay solely with the person whose name they’re under. I’m sure it varies by state laws, but they’re often considered and split in the same was as other accounts. Obviously, that doesn’t mean the whole pot will be split 50/50 either, though, so I still think it’s important to consider! My husband and I currently set aside the same dollar amount per month, not percentage, so it’s equal in that way. My company match, however, has been much more generous, so I’ve wondered if we should increase his contribution for a time to “catch up” in a way.

  • Jessie Buckmaster

    Free time and paychecks are definitely de-coupled, though sometimes not straightforward. I’ve always made more than my husband, and worked longer hours, and he’s typically handled all the “necessary” chores (we have a standard of cleanliness/tidiness, if I want extra then I do that). Recently I started doing my job from home, similar hours, but no more LA-traffic-commute and he is going back to school. He’s not bringing home a paycheck, but he’s full time enrolled and doing homework, so I’ve started sharing chores around the house. We’ve had joint accounts since we were married, I’ve oscillated between feeling like I can spend money whenever since it’s all my paycheck or asking/notifying him about purchases. He has NEVER made me feel guilty about spending money and always tells me I don’t need to ask his permission since “it’s my money”, he jokes about how smart he was to marry me. But we are a team, with financial goals, and it’s important to check in.

    I constantly come back to the “mental load” when it comes to chores too. This post is burned into my brain, and I see it in SO MANY of my friends’ relationships: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/26/gender-wars-household-chores-comic

  • “And as someone who has always out-earned her husband, I can tell you how the world looks at it when women earn more….People suggest that I should keep it a deep dark secret that I earn more… that I should defer to him so he feels better about who earns what”

    I said this in another comment, but I would like to hear so much more discussion about what the balancing act looks like when women earn more. We don’t talk enough about it, because it’s taboo. It’s definitely not as simple as the lower earning partner does more housework, because that is usually not the case when women earn more. The gender inversion never works out that way. Men who make less than their wives are often not stay-at-home dads but are still working on professional goals, so the sliding scale of paid work/housework/spending habits look very different. And maybe because it’s less precedented and because we don’t talk enough about it, it’s a balance that i (as the higher earner) struggle a lot with.

    • ManderGimlet

      I would love to read more about this too, and not just earning more but also when you are the one with the higher prestige job/more promotions/etc etc. My spouse not only earns a lot more than me (which I consider a win for us both) but also has a MUCH better working environment, gets unlimited PTO, lots of praise for his work, on and on. I would love to see more about balancing/communicating these disparities.

    • LindseyM

      Me as well!

  • Emma

    I’ve heard Captain Awkward suggest that both people in the relationship should have similar amounts of free time. So if you look after kids and the other person works outside the home, you should split chores so that both people have similar amounts of leisure time outside of that work. I think this is one of the fairer ways I’ve heard about. It takes into account work that isn’t paid or isn’t paid as well, despite being important / interesting / just what you happen to do.

    • Sarah E

      That’s a really interesting re-framing, I like that.

  • Ladera

    Thank you, APW and Meg, for putting this approach towards finances out into the world. I wanted to explain myself when my generally refreshingly-feminist boss acted scandalized when she discovered that my partner and I share money equally, even though we’re not married. But I dodged, because my thoughts weren’t organized plus I hate defending my long-term unmarried status against the institution of marriage.

    • Jan

      My partner and I combined finances before we were married or engaged and people thought it was weird. I don’t get what’s so weird about it!

  • Jan

    Money has been a real stressor right now because my partner has had a hard time finding his next gig since his last contract ended, and my salary only barely covers our monthly costs. He has some part-time contracts but it’s only bringing in a pittance. So, it’s an interesting dynamic: I am currently the breadwinner, but I am also the only one with debt (student loans), and while he has never made me feel weird about that, I still have Feelings about it. Ordinarily we make roughly the same amount.

    Our current situation has also led us to have some serious conversations about housework and emotional labor. I’m generally the one who keeps things together more (I’m a stress cleaner). When we are both working he contributes a fair amount, but a couple months back I got really frustrated that his level of contribution to our housework hadn’t increased at all since being out of work. It’s not that I think that the person making less money should do more of the housework; it’s just a time thing. Since we addressed it, though, it’s been waaaaay better. I’m thankful for that!

  • Jean

    I’m not sure if this is a contrarian view or not. I agree
    with the thread of this discussion that work done in the home is work, fun
    money should be distributed equally and financial decisions should be made
    jointly.

    But I’m stumbling over what seems to be an assumption that contributing
    to a partnership financially isn’t a – well, a contribution. Work outside the
    home is work, too. The career decisions people make impact their partners. And
    to put it bluntly, working full time and bringing $100k into the house is a
    greater contribution, all else being equal, than working full time and bringing
    $40k into it. That’s especially true in a region of the country like mine where
    $40k isn’t a middle class salary.

    Now, the higher earner may not mind. It might be the case
    that her career is a pleasure and the lower earner is dragging himself to work
    to help provide a little bit of extra money at the only job available to him. Circumstances
    vary.

    But I’ve seen examples, and actually sort of am in one,
    where one half of the couple is essentially giving the other one flexibly to
    pursue a passion at some cost to his or her own stress level or economic security.
    It’s not okay to make that higher earner feel they’re not being generous. No adult
    is owed long-term financial support, regardless of gender. It’s really the
    question I had reading a post on this site that asked if allowing yourself to
    be supported by a husband was feminist. While there’s no shame in being
    supported, I thought a better question would how a long stretch of radically unequal
    earnings impacted her partner (assuming it was a significant length of time)?
    Is he feeling overwhelmed or pressured?

    I’d propose that a long-term lower earner ask whether he or she
    is being fair. Are they willing to take a less enjoyable job to support a partner
    if the partner wants a turn at flexibility? Or if that’s not possible because
    of circumstances, would they instead cheerfully accept a lower standard of
    living that could be supported by two equal incomes?

    Again, incomes don’t need to be equal just for the sake of
    equality. If everyone is happy with the status quo that’s really fortunate. But
    I don’t think it’s unfeminist to be aware that, just as you’d want
    acknowledgement for your contribution to the family, your partner deserves the
    same respect for theirs.