Lately, every time I open my Facebook newsfeed, I see people getting engaged, married, moving in together, having a baby…
When did we grow up so fast? People I had sleepovers with as a 12 year old are posting pictures of their precious baby boy on FB. Whoa.
This leads me to believe that a post on couple finances wouldn’t exactly be irrelevant. Having been with the same guy for four years (today is actually our anniversary) I feel like I know a bit about sharing resources. First though, let’s look at some prerequisites to sharing incomes.
If you’re in a serious, long-term, committed relationship (such as marriage, or common law partnership) you may want to share incomes. Just a note– common law partnerships usually automatically happen after a couple years (depends on the state you live in), if you and your partner share finances (have a joint bank account, have a lease together), and if you, ahem, consummate the relationship). Now, if you’re living with someone and living with someone, and you’re not interested in having a common law partnership, then don’t share income.
Now, assuming you and your significant other have moved to the stage of your relationship where you want to be together forever and ever and have babies together and a house with a white picket fence, let’s move on to some helpful tips on how to get started and make an easy transition into coupledom.
As I was writing this blog, it became evident to me it needs to be a series, as there is just so much info to cover. For now, we’ll start with the very basics:
Whether it’s toilet paper, a joint checking account or a house, you’ll need to talk with each other before doing anything with your money.
See, you think I’m kidding about the toilet paper, but I’m not. There are so many landminds in the discussion of what toilet paper to get. You might think it’s silly, but hear me out: He likes Charmin Ultra with Aloe Vera. She wants to get the cheapest, no-name 2-ply because it fits the budget. What’s to be done? He could giggle and give in, thinking it’s no big deal and there’s no reason to fight about it. But then comes the time where he will be in the bathroom for 10 minutes after Indian curry and he will regret giving in. And resent it if it happens again. Six years later, they’re divorced.
Because it’s not just about the toilet paper. It’s about spending personalities. Even if your personalities are the same–say you both agree that Charmin Ultra with Aloe Vera is the only toilet paper you could ever buy–sooner or later, when you realize you’re in debt because you couldn’t control your spending habits, you might find you’ll start taking your frustrations about your finances out on each other.
It’s important to figure out how you feel about money and about how your partner feels about money. Try to find a good balance. If you’re a saver and she’s a spender, try to save enough and spend enough to make both happy. You have to actually talk about money; what you want to buy, how you want to spend, where you want to keep it. I know it’s not exactly romantic, but it’s absolutely necessary.
If nothing else, Pride and Prejudice has taught us that despite having no fortune, we can be with that special someone we love. That love is better than money. And it is. But let me give you some perspective: After Bingley and Jane get engaged, Mr. Bennet remarks that he thinks they’ll do well together, but that they’ll be so kind and generous and get cheated by their servants that they “shall always exceed their income,” to which Mrs. Bennet replies, “Exceed their income?! He has 5,000 a year!” In that age, men looked over the accounts and kept the books of the household. So if the exceeded their income, Bingley had no one to blame but himself and no one in his way of changing things except himself. In our modern times, things are a bit different.
Darcy has 10,000 pounds year. That’s at least $300,000 a year in our terms. If I had $300,000 a year and my beloved made $30,000, I’d hire a bookkeeper to figure out all the details and my sweet hubby and I would only fret about where to stay in Europe for the Winter. But that’s not what this blog is for. This blog is for people who are just starting out, and who will probably never see $300,000 in a year.
So get ready you cutesy, PDA-ing, honeymoon phasin’ kids! We’re gonna figure out how to keep your relationship well-funded, so that you can have and enjoy moments like this: