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March 12, 2006

MyMoneyBlog: Marriage and Money: Joint Or Split Accounts?

Filed under: family — suzanne henderson @ 7:35 pm

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I was writing up information about my February finances and stumbled upon the question of budgeting and relationships. I had a good start written when I veered off track and went blog surfing and ran across this article which addresses just want I had written.

So, to write it all up again…

I don’t know if my budgeting methods are overly complex or utterly simple. I know that my budgeting technique works for me. I track expenses down to the penny and using my check card makes it that much easier to do. I’ve still not found a way to track cash and have accepted that it is simply an empty category of expense that rarely ever exceeds $20 a month. However, what is going to happen after the wedding…

I already know that I want to have a joint account and joint finances. I’ve often thought that I would never consider such an idea, but I’ve reconsidered those reservations to be geared more toward divorce protection than marriage protection. So, for me it must be a joint endeavor all the way. I also understand that I am in the at-risk position in this relationship, which is amusing since most of my life, I’ve been the one who brought along financial liability luggage to relationships.

So, knowing this from the start, I look forward to setting up a budgeting system that works for both of us. The budget form I’ve been using for the past few years has works great but I can’t imagine how I can add someone else to it. The additional income is no problem, the additional fixed expenses are not a problem either, however, how to put the spending in the proper places?

So, first off, I want to establish a monthly amount for each of us to do with as we please. Whether it be to buy heavy machines (oh dear) or to tuck away into personal account savings/investing. Budgeting items like bills, housing costs, major expenses, and transportation is no problem either. But how to manage walking around money or money spent on things like dining out apart (dining out together can be well managed), does that come from our individual budget for the month or some other category? How will it work when one person spends mostly cash and the other person uses plastic/check cards? How do I let go of my anal accounting methods in order to establish a working budget for two? Can I keep my particularities and create a system that works for both of us?

This is something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about lately. I don’t know how to solve it yet, I don’t know how to let go of my insistence of using my budget form, I don’t know what the problems are going to be. Yes, we can talk about money and we have similar views about money, but the physical act of combining things still seems daunting.

And, how will my current financial challenges affect us? Like the problem I have with being able to balance my checking account. I can never seem to get it right and so, a couple years ago, I just quit trying. I know that my account has enough in it for what I am going to spend. I know that I can exceed my budget and my account will still have enough in it. In fact, looking at it today, I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around the fact that my budget says I should have less than $100 left for this month and my account shows an amount almost equal to what this months income was. I know it isn’t a budgetal mistake, it is just what has accumulated over the many months where I stay under budget or perhaps where I have simply misadded account activity and ended up well into the black because of it. It certainly isn’t something to complain about, several hundred more in your account than you expected, but it does point out that I still have some work to do and that it might not be possible to allow discrepancies (even positive ones) like this to continue in a joint account situation.