Monday, August 10, 2009

Bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a (separate) pan

At the risk of opening myself up to a lot of possibly critical commentary, I'm putting something out here out of sheer curiosity. I'll start and end with the same question: how do you handle money in your household?

When Guy and I moved in together back in 2001, it was for two reasons: 1) to spend time together in a convenient manner, and 2) to save money that was being wasted living apart. I was spending way too much living in a loft in downtown Denver, and Guy helped me realize that I could save money now and in the future by investing in a little real estate. So, I bought a condo on the edge of downtown Denver and we moved in together about a week before 9/11. Thing is, my credit was in great shape while Guy's needed some work. He had credit card debt, car loan debt, and student loan debt; I had literally none of those. I used my investments (from my leftover inheritance for my Dad dying in 1997) as the basis for getting a good mortgage, and I got the Happy Kitten Highrise. (I have since refi'd twice, more recently getting a 20-year fixed rate for less than 6% and only raising my monthly payment about $25--score!)

So, the house was in my name, hence I made the mortgage payment as well as the power bill, groceries, phone, and cell phone. Guy took on the HOA payment for the condo, as it was at the time about $100 or so less than his previous rent, and the cable/internet bill, and he began paying down his other debts aggresively. He eventually took on the phone bill and later even the cell phone bill once he got a cell phone added to my plan. About a year or two into our living arrangement, he began splitting the cost of groceries with me. In general, our other expenses were split pretty evenly, like vacation travel and hotels, dinners and evenings out, and so on. When Guy left Design Associates, he went onto my healthcare through DA, which is really good and rather inexpensive (about $25 every few weeks). However, we paid our own medical copays and dental bills out of our own pockets. And biggest of all, we had no shared bank account.

Fast forward a few more years into 2009. Guy makes about $20,000 more than me, and between a big bonus he got at work a few years ago and his own diligent work, he has paid off all of his major debts (you know, the ones you can't take off on your taxes). He has taken over nearly all the bills except for the mortgage; that one's still mine, and the condo is still in my name alone. When we bought a new (used) car in 2006, we saved up for it and split the cost 50/50 (which was also awesome cuz we paid flat cash for the Civic-another score!), but he recently paid outright for the new laptop he found on a super sale that will replace one of our old desktop models, and he also paid for the new wireless router for the HKH that allows me to connect to the internet and write this blog from the living room instead of from the guest room computer. I purchased the Microsoft Office software, and I still buy the weekly groceries, though Guy is the one who pays when we make a run to Sam's Club.

He told me recently that he thinks he's been jobbing me for a couple of years and not paying his fair share, especially since he makes so much more than me. For him to offer to contribute more to the household financially almost felt rude, but I got over that pretty quickly when I realized that he sure as hell made more, and him tossing a little more into the kitty would allow me to a) better fund my retirement and b) better afford my every-five-or-six-weeks massages and spa visits, and you know a Shorty likes to get her spa on. But it also occurs to me that when it comes to retirement, I'm already ahead because I have my leftovers from the inheritance--Guy's been playing catchup for the past eight years, and he's seven years older than me to boot.

But more than all this, we still don't have joint bank accounts, and that's for the same reason that we almost didn't even get married: we don't see a point. Guy and I are committed to each other for the long haul, and getting married didn't make that "official". We got married in order to preserve our legal rights and to benefit from the sweet tax breaks it gives us; we don't need a piece of paper from the State of Nevada to prove that we luuuuv each other and share a deep, lasting commitment to each other. And so, we view joint bank accounts the same way. Having a joint bank account is one more thing we have to keep up with, and it doesn't really represent that we're a team financially. What makes us a financial team is that we regularly discuss what we're doing with our money, how things are working, if this week or month is going to be tight because we sent money to our moms or had a big expense of some sort or our architectural license fees came due during the same month we had to renew our NCARB record, etc. Even though many financial advisors and planners call our arrangement symptomatic of a lack of trust, and that if we really were a team we'd share a bank account, we're just not seeing it. It doesn't make sense for us.

So, I ask again: how do you handle money in your household? How do you deal with roommates, partners, whatever?


Emma said...

In my family, my husband covers mortgage, property taxes, car insurance and maintenance (for both cars), utilities, grocery, and his fun-money; I cover day care, tuition, my fun-money, charitable donations, and savings (retirement for both of us, education fund for the kid, and an emergency fund). We each use separate bank accounts for our regular banking (direct depost paycheques and direct debit bill payments), but have an online joint account for accessible savings (higher interest rate than regular banks) and transferring money when cashflow is a little weird. So even though we don't work from the same account, our budget treats all income as one family and all expenses as one family. We track things using a google spreadsheet, updating it as we get paid and pay out (about bi-weekly). We also use a common credit card on his account for most purchases, but I have one on my account for my fun-money or things that I want to keep private (usually, gifts for him).

He makes about $20k more than I do, but both of our incomes are necessary to maintain our current lifestyle.

wilderness gina said...

When I was working we had separate accounts mainly because we were at different banks to start with. He needed a bank that had a no hassle direct deposit. B of A had that. They have such an easy to navigate on-line banking system I closed my account with Fag Bank and we pooled our cash. Now his income is all we have. We got married cause I lost my stinkin' lousy job and needed insurance. If I ever have income again I'll consider a separate account if for nothing else but ease in keeping track of said income. I will however always contribute to the joint account. Is only fair.
Can't believe Guy wants to do more around the house. Even if it's paying for more stuff, it beats what most men do. I know of a case where the guy swore his ex wife was getting the lion's share of his check, when in truth he was getting it in cash and blowing it on god knows what. Guy is a sweety.

BaxtersMum said...

you are my heros.

That is such a good way to handle it - it gives you both the autonomy of making your own money, while feeling like you are BOTH making a contribution.

If Guy wants to spend more, I'd direct him to his retirement account - something he can adjust as emergencies come up. Because Shorty don't need to be paying for his adult diapers. Even though she could.


LMH said...

My husband and I have separate accounts and then one joint account for household expenses. We put a fixed amount in every month and pay rent, utilities, buy groceries, gas, meals out and us fun with that money.

We each have our own accounts for our personal uses and our own credit cards. We're in grad school, finishing up in a couple of months, so our income should triple soon, and we may need to re-evaluate.

The plan is to live like students for as long as we can and pay off college loans as soon as possible. They're substantial, and we'd like to take care of them before we get into a house.

Don't let anyone tell you that your system is problematic. If you are comfortable and it works for you, they can stick it in their patootie.

Mile High Pixie said...

Thanks for the input and props, my peeps. Miz Scarlett, my maw-in-law thinks your comment about adult diapers is funny. She changed his baby diapers, so she oughta know what kind of mess the man can make.

xtine said...

Matt and I are figuring this out.
He literally makes 10x what I do at the moment; we anticipate that after I graduate, we move, and he starts teaching, that I will be the breadwinner.

Part of why we married now, instead of later, is because he wanted to "take care of me"; namely, get me on his insurance plan, and for him to have access to USAA (which = awesome insurance. Phenomenal.)

We started by merging the car insurance and all that onto USAA. Now we have a joint checking, and it's moving to the point where I'll be taking over paying bills soon. I've finally drawn us up a formal budget, and we're seeing if it's a livable one. I'm the frugal one, by far, so my contribuation towards household money lies in saving as much as I can, wherever I can, and then using volunteer work and donations to reduce his significant tax liability.

We still have 'his' money and debt, and 'mine'. Eventually, we'll move it so that it's all 'ours', but we're in no rush. We live by the same principles as before: be responsible, and don't mooch.

I will always consult him on money, but he defers to my judgement. I'm smart with money because I've always had to be, and he's not bad with it; he's just not as good with it as I am.

Did that help?

faded said...

I have been thinking about your question about who pays for what. My wife and I both work. We use joint checking and saving accounts. After 30 years of marriage we have found it does not matter. It is all our money not money or her money.

Think of your marriage as a relationship where you give yourselves freely and with out condition to each other. When you think like that, you will view how money flows thru your relationship in a completely different way.

By sayingy ou will pay for this and he will pay for that you are actually foreshadowing the failure of you marriage. When times get hard you have the plan that facilitates failure.

Give yourselves away to each other, it looks much riskier on the face of it but when the hard times come you will be so invested in each other that you will find the way to make your marriage succesful.

Miss Kitty said...

The Colonel gives me money. I suck his dick. End of story.

(Sorry about that coffee on your monitor now)