I received an email not too long ago asking if I could write a blog post about how RD and I manage our household finances. As you may know, we keep our personal savings and retirement account separate and I’ll never blog about RD’s personal finances (so this post is really an incomplete picture of our overall financial management), but we do have joint accounts for managing our everyday spending. And that I can talk about. :)
Just a few notes about us if you’re new to this blog:
- We are in our mid-30’s with no debt other than our mortgage
- We make roughly the same amount of money
- This is obviously just what works for us, and is not necessarily going to work for every couple.
Before we combined our finances
When RD and I first moved in together, we kept our finances separate for the most part. RD would write out our monthly rent cheques, and we would put all of our joint expenses (groceries, household, travel, etc.) onto my credit card because of the rewards points. Then, at the end of every month, we’d reconcile all of our transactions, and one of us would transfer money to the other person depending on how the expenses came out that month. I liked it this way because I had a record of all of our everyday purchases so that I knew exactly how much we were spending. And RD liked this method because he wasn’t super interested in any of that information. :)
We kept our finances like this for the first 18 months we lived together. It was an easy system to work with, and also it gave us a sense of financial protection should our relationship not work out. Not that we were planning for the worst, but we both felt strongly about maintaining a level of financial independence, especially in a new relationship.
Related: We are home owners!
Creating our budget
When we decided to buy a condo together, that’s when we decided to open up a joint account for our shared expenses. I wanted to have a set amount of money that we deposited into this account bi-weekly – that would cover our mortgage, maintenance fees, property tax, insurance, groceries, household expenses, as well as a decent amount of buffer money that would also act as our joint household savings account. And because we had 18 months worth of data to draw from, I did what I do best, and created a spreadsheet. Ok, multiple spreadsheets. :) I averaged the last 18 months of our joint expenses, probable mortgage and housing costs, included a buffer, and came up with a magic number that we would each auto deposit into our joint account on payday.
Related: Why I don’t want to burn my mortgage
In the last 6 months, we’ve adjusted our magic number once – by just $20 – because our condo maintenance fees increased after our AGM, and we have another mouth to feed ever since we adopted our beautiful cat Zoey from the SPCA. :)
Who manages the money?
Me. This actually works out perfectly because you know I love budgeting and spreadsheets and numbers. Nothing makes me happier than burying my nose into a good spreadsheet or reconciling purchases and paying bills. It’s not because RD isn’t good at this type of stuff (he’s never had debt and he always pays his bills on time), but I like taking a more in depth look at our money. It was actually a huge step out of his comfort zone having me take on his part of our joint finances, and I appreciate that.
I also tend to take on any paperwork regarding our joint finances and negotiating any bills that need to be negotiated (like our internet), but only because I have a more traditional desk job and access to a phone on a more regular basis.
We do make sure to check in regularly with our finances, and he has access to our joint accounts so that he can see our balances and transactions whenever he wants.
Who spends the money?
Me, mostly. :) We have that joint credit card that he puts gas onto or if he buys anything for the home, but I do almost all of our joint household shopping for groceries, cleaning supplies, toiletries, pet stuff, etc. This falls into our division of chores, because I like shopping and comparing prices and products. I also feel a sense of satisfaction in having our pantry and linen closet stocked with essentials. I also pay our credit card balance every month, and any other random bills that might come in, but most of our household bills are automatically deducted from our joint account.
I’m curious – who manages and/or spends the money in your relationship, you or your partner?
I’ve always kept my finances separate from my significant other. This was in part because my past relationships just never got to the point where we needed (or wanted) to combine our money, but it also has to do with the fact that over the last 10 years, I’ve become fiercely independent when it comes to my finances.
Ten years ago, I was in a lot of debt. It was stressful and gave me a feeling of hopelessness – that I’d never be able to fend for myself because I was too much of a disaster – especially when I hit rock bottom and realized that I had to rely on someone else (my boyfriend at the time) to help me with bus fare. BUS FARE. I didn’t have money (in cash or credit) to get to work. I cringe just thinking about how horrible that was.
When I eventually started paying attention to my money, I promised myself that I’d never be back in that situation again. I worked hard at my finances, saved up enough money for a down payment on a townhouse, and built up a modest retirement portfolio. I also wanted to be seen as an equal financial contributor in every relationship I’ve been in, so I always insisted on paying for my fair share of everything, even if I made significantly less money than the person I was dating. I didn’t want to be seen as someone that a man has to take care of financially.
This mindset has had both positive and negative consequences, as you can imagine. The pros mostly stemmed from my own personal satisfaction that I’ve gotten to a stable place financially. It made me feel empowered! But some of the cons were that I never really considered someone as a long-term partner unless we were on somewhat similar financial terms, and I still have a hard time letting someone treat me to something as simple as dinner – I always have to make sure that I take care of the bill next time. So that it’s fair.
Earlier this week, RD and I got pre-approved for a mortgage (!). We aren’t actively looking, but we wanted to be ready just in case something amazing comes up. But one of the items that our mortgage broker wanted was a void cheque from the account we wanted our mortgage payments to come out of. So all of a sudden, this kinda–far-into-the-future-conversation of combining at least a portion of our finances was something we had to talk about now.
When we first moved in together, we were keeping track of our shared expenses and totaling them up at the end of the month. Then to make up the difference, an e-transfer would be made to the person who spent the most. It was a bit of a clumsy system because it meant we were each combing through a months’ worth of expenses to try and remember what was shared and what was personal. So for the past 3 or 4 months we’ve been using a joint (travel rewards) credit card. That has really helped because I just total up the expenses at the end of the month, and RD sends over his portion of the rent plus his half of the monthly expenses.
Over the past few months, we’ve gotten good at figuring out what expenses are shared and what are personal, so the next step is opening up a joint chequing account (which we did yesterday through Tangerine!) and linking our existing individual chequing accounts to it. We’ll still keep our own accounts because we both agree that maintaining financial independence is important, and will just transfer in a TBD amount of money into the shared account every time we get paid. :)
It’s both scary and exciting to incorporate shared finances into our relationship, and I imagine some tweaking to our system will happen along the way. For readers who also incorporate some sort of shared finances with their significant other, did you have any hiccups and modifications to make when you first started out?
Recently I read a blog post by a woman who refuses to date men who make less than six figures. “I am all about living life, and not about working to pay for it,” she wrote. At first, I was outraged because shouldn’t we all be striving for our own personal financial independence? It’s the main goal of this blog! But now that it’s been a couple of weeks since I first read that post, I have to admit that I kind of get where she’s coming from.
I’ve never specifically laid out financial requirements for a potential partner, but I’ve always gravitated towards men who were ambitious and financially capable of supporting a certain lifestyle. I’m not talking about flying first class or living in penthouse apartments – I just mean being able to enjoy similar interests, vacation styles, comfortable apartments, and early retirement goals.
And in my previous relationships where there was a financial disparity? It sometimes caused friction. So seeking a partner who made a good income just seemed like an easy solution, and I felt like it would be less complicated. Because the number one thing couples fight about is money, right?
Yet, if I had made that a hard rule – if I refused to ever consider anyone who didn’t make at least an equivalent salary to mine – I would have missed out on so many amazing adventures and happy memories in my life. And as for some of the relationships I’ve had with men who made good incomes? They ended up being incredibly messy. Because while it’s true that our finances and lifestyle compatibility were less complicated, I wasn’t completely focused on the bigger picture. Did I love them – or did I just love the idea of them?
As my last relationship was winding down, I learned a lot about myself and what I was looking for. I learned to look outside the box of what I would normally want in a partner – because the path of unsuccessful relationships I was on was not very fun. I needed to stop checking boxes, and I needed to trust my instincts instead. As for financial compatibility, I decided that all I needed was someone who was good with the money that they earned. It didn’t matter what they did for a living. And whether their salary was $40,000 or $400,000 – as long as they were happy and living within their means, what more could I ask for?
Related: Why I can’t afford to start dating
I consider myself extremely lucky to have met my boyfriend. While he cares (a lot) less than me about his finances, he has a stable job, zero debt, savings in the bank, and is really good at pretending to be interested in the latest evolution of my budgeting spreadsheet. :) He is ambitious, yet realistic in the fact that he took a significant pay cut to take a job that would make him happier in the long run – and I think that says a lot about someone to know exactly what they want.
Even though I understand where that woman in the original article may have been coming for, I don’t support her reliance on someone else to create the life she wants for herself. Because you certainly don’t need a 6-figure salary to live a good life. I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to earn my financial independence. I’m not super smart or well educated or even a very good writer. But I’ve worked hard for the life that I have.
When I was 28, I bought my first home. I saved for the down payment for years, and in the 5 years I owned that home, I paid my mortgage payments on time, traveled to over 20 different countries, and stayed on track with my retirement savings. Maybe this is a super cliche way of thinking, but my financial accomplishments felt like even bigger accomplishments because I was doing everything as a single female.
I don’t really understand why anyone would look for a relationship that includes being financially supported. Sure I understand if you fall for someone who just happens to be wealthy (and also provides you with all of the other things you need in a healthy relationship), but to specifically seek it out seems wrong. I guess I just don’t get why you wouldn’t to experience that amazing feeling of making it on your own. :)
Would you date someone who made significantly less than you?
Would you ever refuse to date someone because they didn’t make enough money?