One of my coworkers likes to say that her best marriage advice is to buy yourself lots of stuff before the wedding, because once you’re hitched, it’ll be a lot more difficult to justify buying things for your own pleasure. She’s mostly sharing it tongue-in-cheek, of course, but she has a point, especially now that she’s added kids into the mix. Husbands don’t get giddy over a new pair of shoes or the perfect dress on clearance. They don’t wear makeup and don’t understand how a haircut can cost $50. On the flip side, wives often don’t understand the male’s need for gadgets and expensive craft beers. (These are total stereotypes, and I actually like good beer myself, but I think you catch my drift.)
More seriously, though, money is statistically a huge bone of contention in many marriages. In fact, a recent study found that, “Couples who reported disagreeing about finance once a week were over 30 percent more likely to get divorced than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times a month.”
Take that with as large a grain of salt as you’d like (after all, I found it via just a quick Google search), but I’d say it’s still a pause-worthy statement to consider. Andy and I have tiffs just like every other couple, but thankfully, money is one thing we’ve managed to mostly avoid fights about. I think a big part of that is having his and hers categories included in our monthly budget. This money is not kept in separate accounts; I’m not setting aside my own pennies “just in case I need to get out.” It’s all still in our joint account. But it’s a line-item in our budget that we’re each able to spend at will without consulting the other.
As an example, here are some of the things I spent my hers money on last month:
- A cup of coffee at the new Dunkin Donuts that opened on my way to work
- A latte and a muffin at a new coffee shop that opened in our neighborhood
- A movie and Chinese takeout while Andy was out of town
- A dress and a necklace on clearance at Kohls
- Lunch at Einstein Brothers’ Bagels while out thrifting one Saturday
etc, etc, etc. This month, I’ve spent hers money on a haircut, a pair of shoes at the thrift store, and some new makeup. As you can tell from the list, grabbing a cup of coffee on my way to work or lunch while out on the town is one of my favorite not-so-guilty pleasures. And I’d say it’s not-so-guilty because I know I have the money to spend! Andy doesn’t have to nitpick me about spending a few dollars on coffee, because it’s my money. And conversely, I don’t have to nitpick or even know if he buys a new computer-related toy, a new app, or a book for his iPad. By budgeting some money for each of us, we free our money conversations up to focus on things that matter to us as a couple. When it comes to spending on household items, gifts for friends and family, vacations, groceries, and numerous other categories, we make the decisions together, and that’s important. But I’d say it’s equally important that we have our fun money. I can be as frugal or as extravagant as I want to be for myself, as long as it fits within the bounds of that money. And what I don’t spend in a given month carries over to the next, so what I save builds up, allowing me to plan ahead for gifts for Andy or larger purchases I want to make.
The amount of money we budget each month for ourselves has varied over time. If you’re just starting with a budget, maybe it’s really small: enough to buy a snack from the vending machine at work or a new bottle of nail polish. Or if you’re totally set and have lots of money to spare, maybe it’s more along the lines of a new laptop or TV. Either way, think about including a little bit of discretionary money for each of you in your monthly budget. It works for me.