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Arguing About Money? Here’s How 6 Couples Seamlessly Split Their Finances

They range in age from 22-72. They have different salaries, responsibilities, and hobbies. But there’s one thing all these couples have in common: they’ve totally figured out this money thing.

By Madeleine Kim

Now that all of my friends are vaccinated, I get to live vicariously through my single friends who have started dating again. The beginning is always fun—you meet someone, find out that they share your same highly-specific coffee order, and agree to a second date. As things get more serious, you fall in love, meet each other’s families, and move in together. Maybe you even get married. But there’s something else you need to do with your new partner that isn’t very romantic: At some point, you need to sit down and ask them how much debt they’re in.

Not wanting to talk about money is incredibly common. We’ve been conditioned to see it as a taboo topic, but if we’re not honest with our partners about how we like to spend, save, and manage our money, it’s inevitably going to cause tension. In a recent poll we conducted on Instagram, 78% of respondents said that money-related issues (how much someone makes, their debt, etc.) impact their interest in a potential partner. Meanwhile, 22% of respondents said they had broken up with someone over money issues at least once.

“Keep being honest even if it’s awkward. It won’t resolve without communication,” wrote one person in response to a call for advice for people dealing with money issues in their relationships. This advice was echoed throughout the long list of replies: “Start talking honestly now.” “Be open with each other and discuss. Make a plan together.” “Write it down, see it, and talk about it.” 

The consensus is clear: If you’re in a serious relationship, you need to talk honestly with your partner about money. But that can be hard to do without knowing the details of how other people make it work. I asked six couples, ranging in age from 22-72, to share how they successfully manage their finances. Here’s what they had to say.

Arina, 22, account payable representative & Peter, 22, finance blogger

“To date, we have had no money-related arguments or tension. Each month, we examine how much money we make and split it accordingly in our budget plan. Before getting married, we heard a lot about finances being a huge factor for divorce in America. To combat this issue, we talked about our plans and expectations for life and how we should spend our money. 

We do this by preparing a zero-based budget: taking both of our incomes and splitting the money according to our needs (and sometimes wants). Even if one of us earns more money that month, that person doesn’t feel entitled to spend more than the other. 

We both have fun money each month, which we can spend on whatever we want without questions from the other half. It’s limited to $50/month for now, but as our incomes grow, the fun budget will grow, too. For shared expenses like food, eating out, date nights, and savings, we discuss how much to spend based on the money we make. This keeps us from making impulse purchases since we keep each other in check.”

Ella, 29, teacher & David, 32, finance writer

“While Ella’s income is fixed, mine varies, because I offer freelance services. Each month, we move a specific amount into our spending account, and that is the money we will spend throughout the month. A fixed part of our remaining income goes into investments, both real estate and stocks. We always keep these contributions equal so that we each own exactly half of whatever it is that we invest in. Any remaining amount stays in our account as savings. If we have any extraordinary expenses, we plan to adjust our monthly expenses so that we don’t have to touch our savings. But if that doesn’t work, we just take the money from the savings. 

We are transparent and open with each other about our income and expenses, and there is absolutely no disagreement on how we spend our money. If anything does arise, we are always able to solve it without causing any grievance to each other. Managing our money like this helps us keep our expenses under control, while also saving for the future.”

Corritta, 31, small business owner & Mea, 31, stay-at-home mom

“My wife and I have very different trains of thought when it comes to money. We’ve always lived on my income. When my wife was working, we saved all of the money she made. It was easier to live on my income and save hers, especially since my income was significantly higher. 

We aren’t as open as we should be with one another about money. I am open about my finances, but my wife is more reserved, especially after she decided to stay home with our son. There is some tension about her student loan debt, which is currently an ongoing issue in our marriage. I paid all of my debt several years ago, but she has outstanding student loans that are putting a financial burden on us.

We decided early in our relationship that I would manage our finances, because I am good at it. We’re working on communicating better and being more open so we can conquer the student loan debt.”

Charlotte, 36, a software engineer and blogger & Josh, 40, a logistics manager

“I am a software engineer and blogger based in Chicago, and I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) in 2015. Although money was initially a big issue and caused a lot of arguments, we quickly developed ways to better manage our finances and ensure that we made decisions that were mutually beneficial.

In my opinion, smart budgeting as a couple is next to impossible if you don’t start a joint account in addition to your individual ones. Have a very clear conversation on which expenses will be shared and which expenses will still come out of your individual wallets. Set an amount as a monthly contribution to your joint account—ideally, a percentage of your income, because splitting everything 50-50 will cause issues if there’s a large disparity between the incomes of each partner.

Equally important (although this will initially seem very silly) is the practice of ‘money dates.’ You should always find time to talk to your partner about your current financial situation, any worries that either of you have regarding expenses, and what you both think are the best ways to deal with any financial crises or unforeseen expenses that have popped up. And most importantly, do not put all your eggs in one basket. You must always have an exit strategy planned in case there is a breakup, divorce, or any sort of falling out.

Finally, I believe that questions and disagreements regarding finances should be resolved at least two or three months before you move in together. Within this time period, there will definitely be something or the other that gets in the way of what you have planned, and seeing how your partner responds shows a lot about their general attitude toward money and personal finance.”

Kris, 46 & Steve, 48, small business owners

“My wife and I have been married for 25 years. We are pretty old school by today’s standards: We don’t split anything up, we have joint accounts across the board (checking, savings, etc.), and we pay all of our bills out of our joint accounts.  

We are very open about our spending. Neither one of us has to worry about the other one going on a crazy spending spree. If there is something expensive we want or need, we talk about it. We make our money decisions together.

The one thing we have never really seen eye to eye about is how much we should have in an emergency fund. She wants to have the bare minimum, and I prefer more of a cushion. We came to a compromise with the help of our financial advisor, who played the role of ‘referee’ for us. She helped me understand how much money we ‘should’ have in an emergency fund versus what I wanted to have, and she also helped Kris understand the value of having a decent cushion in an emergency fund available in case something were to happen. Kris’s view is that we never get to use the money in the emergency fund, and honestly, we hope that is the case. But I think she understands that it is important to have a good cushion and that we can access it when we retire if needed. In the end, we met in the middle.”

Carol, 71, writer & and Ronnie, 72, retired

“When we got married 48 years ago, like most newlywed couples, we had to find a way to manage our money. We were both serving in the Air Force at the time, and I quickly learned that my sweet man had different ideas on how to manage money than I did. Having been raised by a mother who survived The Great Depression, it was important to me that we paid our bills on time and had good credit. 

We decided we would pool our money so that we always knew how much we had to work with. We both put two thirds of our income together and retained one third to save and use as we each saw fit. Our first hurdle was having a joint checking account and both trying to write checks. I jotted down every check I wrote and asked my husband to do the same, or at least tell me how much he wrote one for. This notation didn’t always happen, and I frequently found myself on a first-name basis with the teller at our bank due to overdrafts. So, we decided that I would keep the checkbook; he would tell me how much he needed, and I would write it out and give it to him. We also agreed to discuss large purchases—cars, furniture, etc.—before actually purchasing them. Any extra funds are spent paying off bills, saving a bit, or treating one another. Agreeing to this way of life has kept us from ever fighting over money.”

Some names have been changed at the requests of the sources.

Written By

Madeleine Kim

Madeleine Kim is the Senior Brand Manager at M.M.LaFleur, where she started out as a stylist. She loves developing styling-focused content and creating newsletters that bring the M.M. community together.

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