Ever heard that expression, “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine?” When it comes to couples and money there is often some truth to that statement. Often, one partner is a spender, the other a saver. One partner takes the lead as the money manager, and the other couldn’t care less about managing money.
Couples Have to Respect Each Partner’s Money Boundaries
So how do partners that do manage their money well, and actually enjoy creating budgets and watching the household dollars, get the other partner on board with their financial plan? Often, it is by allocating a small sum of “my” money with which the partner is free to spend whatever their heart desires, with the understanding when it’s gone, it’s gone, until the next paycheck.
This is actually a pretty good idea for both partners. When my wife and I were still our snowball debt reduction plan, we often set aside an amount of money, maybe $50 or so, that each of us could spend from a paycheck without answering questions, justifying the purchase, or planning for it in advance.
The only rule was that the money could not be spent on household bills – groceries, utilities, debt repayment, etc. (unless of course we were in bad shape that particular month and just had to spend it on the household). The money was to be spent on something each of us enjoyed.
We often pooled our money to buy something for the house, or to enjoy the occasional dinner and a movie. Other times my wife bought a couple new books, and I would spend mine on some frugal camping gear, or maybe a new tool I had been eying.
We both enjoyed having a little “my” money, and as our finances have improved, we have increased the amounts a bit, too. Of course, we are quite content and often struggle to find ways to spend the money.
We did recently relax the rules a bit (we did set the rules, after all), and can now opt to add our money to savings (or to my personal favorite, the pay off the mortgage early monthly payment) if there is nothing we are interested in buying.
A Word About Stay Home Spouses
The plan outlined above works particularly well for stay home spouses with no income of their own. My wife has been home with our kids for over ten years, and for most of that time we were living on one income.
My wife and I make joint decisions on just about everything we buy, but one day my wife explained that she would like more freedom to buy things without prior discussion. I was actually relieved because I shared the same feelings.
For example, my wife felt silly asking to spend $50 around my birthday to pick me up a present, and a little something from the kids. I reassured her that I didn’t think of my income as my income, rather it was our income. But I could understand how it made her feel.
When we started setting aside an amount of “my” money every paycheck, it made gift-giving much easier because we could both simply save and spend a bit of our own “fun money” on each other.
Even though I brought up our scenario of one spouse staying home, I see other examples where couples and money don’t mix well. Often times both partners are spendthrifts, and rather than facing their financial problems, they both stick their heads in the sand and ignore them until they are forced to pay attention.
Other couples I’ve been around in the past are both so tight with their spending that they seem to challenge each other to see who can spend the least amount of money, and make each other miserable in the process.
Face it; we are going to occasionally give in and buy something we want. After all, life is to be enjoyed. The key is to find a balance that works for you and your partner. Enjoying success as a couple is often about compromise. And allowing each other the freedom to spend a bit of money each month on things they enjoy is a worthy compromise in your family financial plan.