Here’s an idea if you’re ever at a friend’s dinner party and the conversation dries up: ask the group how they and their partners split their finances. It’s a question that every long-term couple can relate to, and it’s surprising how many different approaches are taken.
Some people split everything 50/50; others contribute a set amount each to a joint account; still others choose certain household expenses to cover out of their own pocket. Some people maintain completely separate accounts and calculate expenditure, payments made and payments owed down to the last penny, exchanging handfuls of cash to balance the books each week; others only look at their joint account when they’re overdrawn. When I had a permanent, full-time job (before going freelance), Juan and I worked out proportional amounts of our incomes that we contributed to joint expenses. However, post-Oscar, we’re kind of winging it, with me covering nursery fees and him dealing with the mortgage and regular bills. Supposedly we are going to address who pays what and how much once we know roughly how much I can expect to earn each year.
I clearly remember the day Juan and I set up our joint account. We popped into HSBC more or less spontaneously, and it was only when the cashier started asking us in detail about how we wanted the account to work that it became apparent we should have discussed our decision in much more depth. Having grown up in a household where my parents had one account containing all of their money, it seemed (in my naivety), only natural for me to tell the cashier that we wanted all of our wages to go into our joint account each month. Juan looked at me incredulously and spluttered, ‘But I earn more than you!!’ We then proceeded to have the discussion we should have had in the privacy of our own home before arriving at the bank.
Speaking of people who out-earn their partner, I also have friends whose husbands have set up an account for them and deposit a monthly allowance into it – which is kind of reminiscent of the recent stories about wifely bonuses that have been circulating.
There are 101 ways to skin this particular cat, and really it’s a case of whatever works for you. But trust me, hardly anyone splits their finances in exactly the same way – which is why it’s such a fascinating topic of conversation…
How do you manage your finances as a couple? I’d love to hear about it!