My husband is my best friend in the world. I’m sure I’ve caused several cavities just by saying so, and can hear a few of you making gagging noises through my computer screen right now. But hey, it’s true. He’s amazing and he understands me better than anyone. He’s the only person who doesn’t annoy the crap outta me after long periods of time, and he laughs at all of my jokes. He’s also totally hot and you should all be extremely jealous.
That said, I have absolutely no desire to share my spending habits with him.
We both have our own sets of money-related issues — borne of past experiences and reinforced by current habits — and we agreed before we got hitched to keep the majority of our money separate. We both contribute money to a joint savings account for vacations and home repairs, and a joint checking account for the mortgage and bills, but everything else is individual. At any given moment, he has absolutely no idea how much cash I’ve got on hand, and I have no clue if he’s flush or broke.
I never thought this system would work, and there are times when I wish we shared our finances a little more closely. But every time I hear one spouse checking in with the other over some insignificant purchase, the more I appreciate keeping my money to myself. Here are some of the reasons why this works for us:
Less Judgment: Shared money is naturally contentious. It’s human nature to feel protective of a joint pot of dough, and when one contributor seems to draw more than the other, things can get judge-y. My husband is a photographer, and although he doesn’t fritter away his money on gear, he will drop several thousand on a new camera, lens, or computer every so often. If he had to clear those purchases with me, it would strain our relationship, no doubt. As for me? I’m the fritterer. I have a collection of shoes that is slowly taking over our tiny 1925 bungalow and a nasty thrifting habit. My husband isn’t a judgmental man, but he’d have every right to judge me for my purchasing behaviors if they put his financial safety at risk. Separate bank accounts means I never have to hear him say, “But you already HAVE shoes.”
Fewer Fights: Financial issues cause fights, no two ways about it. And I’d be lying if I said that my marriage was money-fight-free. My hubby and I have the occasional spat about which home improvement projects are worthwhile, or how much of our upcoming vacation should be covered by shared savings. But since the joint money goes toward joint activities, expenses, and needs, neither of us feels ownership of it. We’d be far more likely to monitor each others’ actions and pick fights if all of our money was shared.
If Feels Fair: We contribute equally to our joint savings account, but the joint checking contributions are based on percentage of household income. This means that we both feel we’re contributing what we can to support the team, AND that anything off the top is ours to save, spend, or invest as we see fit. Using individual money for individual needs and wants just feels natural to us both.
We Are Both Slightly Bratty: My husband doesn’t like being told he can’t do something. I like it even less. We are both wont to rebel against such mandates, regardless of their source. This means that, if we shared our money and started forbidding certain purchases, all hell would break loose. If he told me I could never buy another pair of shoes, you can bet I’d be binging on Zappos within the hour. And I’m quite sure he’d react similarly if I pointed out that his current camera still worked just fine. By maintaining separate accounts, we actually behave in a more dignified, adult manner when it comes to our money. We don’t feel scolded, so we don’t rebel. Savings accounts grow, and everyone’s happy.
I’m certainly not saying this system would work for all couples. Every partnership has its own unique dynamics, and some folks can share money all their lives and never squabble. But if you’re a little twitchy about your personal cashflow and about to enter a long-term partnership, consider separate accounts. Marriage is about shared burdens and supporting each other … but there’s nothing wrong with maintaining a little financial independence. Especially if you’re addicted to shoes.