Q/A My Money His Money Our Money
Q: I have several money questions. I am recently married. Is it alright to buy myself things without checking with my husband? Is it alright to spend my spouse’s money on things for myself? Should you spend your spouse’s money even if you can afford it with your own money? Is it wiser to just have your own separate bank account to deposit your money in?
A: To get to the root of the issue, we need to change the questions. Healthy couples set up a system for handling finances that enables both to feel safe. Household expenses and other necessities are clearly defined along with goals for saving and giving. Surplus money can be allocated for luxuries or travel and other mutually agreed upon items. Marriage is about “oneness” and walking in agreement. When we marry, we make a covenant with God and take on each other’s identity. Our lives are no longer mine or his, but ours. We celebrate together, we mourn together, and we carry each other’s burdens. If one spouse is sick, the other steps up to take care of them. We would not say, “Sorry you are sick, but you are on your own. Hope you feel better soon.” If one spouse has a problem they are dealing with, the other spouse does not say, “Sorry about your problem. Have fun solving it.”
In marriage, there is not my money and his money. If the mother stayed home to take care of the children, and the husband was the breadwinner, would the mother not be allowed to spend money because, technically, the husband earned it, thus making it his money? As a couple, we contribute to the greater good of the marriage and family through shared contribution. This might include salary, house chores, yard maintenance, cooking, cleaning the dishes, on and on. Both husband and wife bring their contributions to the marriage in different ways.
If you take a “my money/his money” approach, how would this next scenario work? The wife agrees, with her salary, to save for their child’s college tuition, while the husband, with his salary, agrees to save for the house mortgage. Mom receives a pay cut due to hard times and cannot save as much. Would dad say, “Sorry, daughter, you cannot attend college because, mom wasn’t able to save enough.” In marriage, we do life together. We are partners. One of the top struggles in marriage is finances. Some maintain a hers vs his mentality. When we do this, we have not merged every aspect of our lives. We are still living as two separate people. This is what roommates do, not spouses. Why would we combine every other part of our lives, but when it comes to money we say, “Oh, no, you don’t! I made this money. It is mine and stays in my corner.” If one spouse brings debt into a marriage, the other spouse does not say, “Have fun paying that debt off.” Instead, they tackle the debt together. My burdens become my spouse’s burdens.
Couples need to look at their combined income, create a budget (we call it a spending plan in our family), and agree, together, what the goals of the family will be. Does this mean you have no freedom to splurge on your own? Of course not. We all need that freedom, and we do not need a spouse staring over our shoulder. But that decision should be made as a couple. If you have $1,000 of discretionary money remaining each month (after savings and giving), then you might agree that each of you take $500 for yourself. You do not need to then ask each other if it is alright if you buy something with your $500. You have agreed, together, that it is yours to spend as you wish, and the other spouse should not question this.
If you find the next month you only have $600 of extra money, then you both need to tighten in your belts, regardless of who’s income went down. Money problems is one of the top reasons for divorce. It is something that needs to be worked out. If you and your husband struggle in this area, you may need to address the need with a counselor or respected third party so the problem can be defined, and a reasonable solution found. Dave Ramsey is a leading expert in the field of finances and marriage. Here are 2 articles that talk about marriage and money. I highly recommend diving into his resources for healthy examples of marriage and money: www.daveramsey.com
Knowing how to handle finances is important for the relationship. When you use the correct tools to set up a healthy system, you will be amazed how this helps your overall marriage.
Patti Hatton and Lisa Lou