A couple of months ago Renee posted a blog entry on Marriage and Finances. That struck a chord with me and I thought I’d share a bit about how Benjamin and I recently changed our financial pattern to the benefit of our marriage.
For the past several years (4? 5? I lose track) B and I have shared a joint checking account where all income gets put into and out of which all bills get paid. Being the Quicken- (now Moneydance-) centric person that I am I’ve always been the one to pay the bills each month — a task I didn’t mind nor did B mind that I was responsible for. Last year finances became a bit tighter than they were previously with tuition going up, buying the house, and installing the A/C into the house. The unfortunate consequence of our system and this tightening is that I became the controller of the purse strings.
Knowing the “pulse” of our finances and the running tally of disposable income in my head I was giving B some very mixed signals: “oh sure, we can buy item A” might get followed up the next day with “no, we can’t afford item B”. This situation was taking a toll on both of us as I was stressing about managing our expenses to within our means and B couldn’t find the pattern to my mixed signals. After one heated conversation it came out that while I was really stressed out over our finances, B wasn’t stressed out at all (and why should he have been — I hadn’t been sharing enough information)!
I thought about it some and after a discussion with B we decided to move to an envelope-based system for our discretionary funds. One weekend on a trip to Target we purchased a small whiteboard, hung it in our kitchen, made a column for “money left”, and wrote our month’s total discretionary budget at the top of it. Every time we make a discretionary purchase we subtract the amount spent. If we get down to zero before the end of the month we’re stuck at home eating bread and water for the rest of the month. If we get to the end of the month with a positive balance we divide it in half and get to spend it however we want.
This approach has made me much less stressed out and, not surprisingly, has given B a healthy amount of stress and awareness about our finances. The entire process has improved our relationship and enabled us to stop arguing over money.