I didn’t get married until I was 36. Many people tell me I was smart to wait. But, in some ways, I think getting married older made for a more difficult transition. I had been finished with my education and had been working in my field for 12 years by the time I got married. I had lived by myself during most of that time. I came and went as I pleased and spent my money as I liked.
I know couples who keep separate accounts, and divvy up the bills. But, I believe Dave Ramsey gives good advice, and he says you should combine your money to have a real partnership. This was important for us because giving up some independence and becoming part of a couple, and eventually a family, required that I jump in with both feet in some areas.
But I didn’t want us to have to discuss every little purchase, so I had an idea that we tried early in our marriage (I think the very first month!) and we are still using 7+ years later.
I suggested that we share accounts and pay all bills and make family purchases from that shared money, but that we each get a monthly allowance. As you know, money is one of the biggest areas of conflict in a marriage. While this helped us to avoid many arguments, in the beginning, we still frequently argued about what we should have to use our allowance for, and what warranted using our joint resources. But, as trust has built over time, these arguments have become rare.
In addition to minimizing conflict over money, I found that I was much more frugal. When I was single, I went out to eat frequently. With limited money for those luxuries, I started to really do the math and realized what a tremendous waste that was!
I’ve told people about this system and they sometimes ask the amount of our allowance. In the beginning, we were each getting $300 per month. We realized pretty quickly that was too much to set aside for personal spending, so we cut back. After two job eliminations within a year, and now living on a more modest income, we each get an allowance of $150 per month. This is pretty lean. . . if we come into some extra money (a tax return, for example) we usually get a little extra that we agree on. I find that about $200 per month works best.
This works quite well for us, and over time, having the majority of our resources combined has forced us to discuss how we spend our money as a married couple, and even helped us to articulate our values (how much we set aside for charity, etc.).