The very first step that Jesse and I took to gain control of our money was to partially combine our finances. According to Dave Ramsey, you should never ever do this until you get married. However, he would also probably say that you shouldn’t live together before marriage. I tend to disagree. So shortly after we started renting a house together in 2012, we opened a joint checking account. We totaled up our rent and monthly bills, and each contributed half of our costs into this account each month. We also chose to keep our separate personal checking accounts (another choice that Dave would disagree with, he says once you’re married, all funds should be combined). Some people have found that combining everything is the best option for them. Some interesting thoughts on that option, here. While I can see the potential benefits to the “what’s mine is yours” philosophy, we’ve found that having personal spending accounts works well for us. This way, we contribute equally to be sure our living expenses are covered, as well as the shared savings funds that we’ve set up. We pay our individual student loans separately out of our personal accounts. Beyond that, we both have our own hard-earned spending money to do with whatever we please. Sometimes I will buy new clothes or get a haircut and color that costs $140, and Jesse may splurge on a video game or upgrade some parts on his bike. I should also say that we communicate very well, so it’s not like we are buying things secretly and avoiding financial transparency. We have just found that it works for us to have personal accounts that we each have control over, we respect each other and don’t have to question the other’s purchases.
For the majority of our money, however, we share accounts and financial goals. Here are some of the things we’ve done with our shared finances that I would recommend for anyone in a long-term relationship:
I’ve mentioned a few times that Jesse and I like to geek out together over money. It’s so odd to me that money is the top reason for couples to argue, as well as the #1 predictor of divorce. We all know what they say, that money can’t buy happiness. I agree with this to a point, but I think it certainly helps maintain a peace of mind. On the other end of the spectrum, money has the power to tear relationships apart. Not the case for us, we’re total dweebs in love! Jesse and I have found that talking about money is actually fun, and probably one of the biggest strengths in our relationship. It’s not because we’re loaded (we’re not), and it’s not that we’re financial geniuses, or have always been naturally “good with money”. In fact, we haven’t. Both of us can think back to a time when we were pretty much broke, and couldn’t comprehend having such a thing as extra money in savings. There was a time when, for either of us, an extra $100 was more likely to mean “new clothes!”, or a few extra rounds of drinks at the bar, than an extra payment towards anything remotely long-term. Don’t get me wrong, I do still occasionally engage in some retail therapy, and I believe it is important to reward yourself for a job well done or a milestone reached.
1. Host a ball drop to ring in the new year
Ok. This one doesn’t really count. I am a bit late with the new year’s post, so I wanted to share. It was probably approximately 5 degrees out at midnight on NYE. Luckily, we had thought ahead to host a party, and we had our own ball drop in the living room! A couple of wire hangers, the Christmas lights we had used for our tree, and my handsome husband standing on the coffee table. voilà.
1.2 Make a plan
J and I have an idea that we’ve been talking about for awhile now, so we’d like to start putting something on paper to figure out how to actually do it. Until we get a little further with that, no spoilers.
Let’s jump back to September of 2012. I had been living in Wyoming for just over two years, and we were just winding down one of the hottest Cheyenne summers on record. We survived nearly triple digit temps (I say this facetiously, but here’s a fun fact: it’s NEVER been over 100° F in Cheyenne. Check it: Cheyenne Climate. So we broke down and bought a window AC unit. I say “we”, because, things were getting serious with Jesse. I was living with a boyfriend for the first time ever, which was a little bit daunting at first.