Family Budget Time

The Conversation that No One Wants to Have

Introduction

My husband and I recently sat down for the dreaded talk: budgeting. Armed with legal pads, pens, calculators, and most importantly, glasses of scotch, we finally finished our money discussion five months after we had started it. We’ve been married for three years, together for 11, and we’ve always known approximately how much money each other makes, spends, and saves. We’ve helped pay for each other’s schooling, applied for a mortgage together, and took out a small line of credit to pay for our wedding, but never have we created a comprehensive budget together.

Joint vs Separate Accounts.

For all of our household needs my husband and I have a joint account. Each month we put the same amount of money into this account and it covers our mortgage payment, Strata fees, gas and electric bills, and the TV and internet bill. After being caught short for two years in a row for our property tax bill, our monthly instalments now account for our yearly property taxes. All of this seems like we’ve done our homework: we added up our expenditures, adjusted to ensure proper savings and don’t have to worry about our money. In essence, we created a nice budget.

But we also have separate accounts, and this is where the anxiety levels start to rise. We did discuss merging all of our assets, but independence has always been a key component to our relationship. We are people first, a couple second. I also know the type of person I am about money. While I can readily justify all of my purchases, I have trouble understanding the necessity of other people’s purchases. I knew that I would be the nagging wife, daily checking the bank account and hammering my husband as to why he spends money on a Subway sandwich when he could just bring his own lunch to work. My weekend brunch, however, is completely justifiable: bacon and eggs taste so much better when they cost $15.00.

Examples of Budgets and Bank Accounts

So what is the answer when it comes to setting up a bank account system with your partner? Every couple that I’ve talked with this about seems to have their own system.

-Trevor gives his Kelly blank cheques for her to write on; she does most of the shopping then fills in what his portion is.

– Don and Robert have been together for twenty years and still split everything equally. When out for dinner they each pay for themselves.

-Ian and Tara have one account. All of their credit cards are linked to it.

Conclusion

If there are no rules for how finances are divided, then why is the budget conversation so hard to have? If anything, after talking about money, I felt more reassured that my husband and I are on the same page. We identified the areas that we were spending too much on and brainstormed ways to cut back. We talked about the future and the things we wanted to save for. We talked about home renovations and what needed to be repaired. We are both saving more money than we are spending.

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