Mr. Steward and I have differing views on finances. I’m not talking monumentally different views. Mr. Steward is not maxing out credit cards while I eat beans and tearfully balance our checkbook. We agree on the big stuff: debt is bad, we want a secure life for our family, and we want to retire someday. Nonetheless, Mr. Steward is a spender, while I am a saver.
There are a lot of rewards to be had when two people both get really intense about saving, as some of my favorite heavy-hitting blogs like Frugalwoods or Mr. Money Mustache show. Our marriage is not that marriage, though, as I suspect many (most?) people’s marriages are not. Case in point:
Good chat. So, how do we deal with our money differences? Do we hash it all out in polite conversation every month until we come to consensus? Ha! No. Have we completely separated our finances so that we each control our own earnings? Nay! I argue, friends, that there is a middle way, and that way is the spending money account.
What’s a Spending Money Account?
The concept is pretty simple. We earmark a certain amount of money per month for each of us that we can spend on whatever we want. (We do this in Mint, because that’s where we do all of our budgeting.) Anything we don’t spend rolls over into the next month. That means I don’t criticize Mr. Steward when he spends all of his money on a huge stack of movies, DVDs, and books every month, and he doesn’t say a word about the amount of money I spend going to events with my bestie, paying library fines, or adding to my Roth IRA. It’s ours to do with as we wish.
Our spending money covers any money spent on hobbies or events. Basically, any discretionary purchase that isn’t from the grocery store, for our child, for a date night, or for work clothing has to come from this budget line.
Assuming there is enough wiggle-room in the budget, I could see this working for any couple that disagrees on how much to spend versus save. In my biased opinion, it is the perfect compromise. Whatever amount you were arguing about saving versus spending is essentially halved, then you can each do as you like with your portion.
A word of caution: I can tell you from experience that the halved part is essential here in order to avoid resentment. There is no argument you can make to not halve the discretionary money without denigrating your partner. It’s a one-way ticket to resentment town, regardless of whether you “make more,” or are “more responsible,” or any number of things that will tumble from your mouth to try to justify your reasoning, but will only hurt your partner. So, please, just don’t do it.
You Can Still Learn From Each Other
I expected separate spending money accounts to hamper our ability to learn money lessons from each other. Fortunately, it has been the opposite. Having a hard-and-fast budget for his hobbies has made Mr. Steward more open to trying frugal tricks to get what he wants. He shops at deep-discount bookstores, he has found legal ways to get free music online, and generally seems more willing to wait for certain movies to come to Netflix. I’m still working on getting him to better utilize the library. He also, and anyone who knows him knows this is pretty shocking, routinely sells items he no longer wants or needs to raise funds for other entertainment he wants.
I have also learned from Mr. Steward. Having guilt-free discretionary money has made it easier for me to not err on the side of cheap rather than frugal. For instance, when a friend offered me a fabulous deal on the laptop I am currently typing on, I knew that I could take buy it with little hand-wringing, because the money was there and mine to do with as I wished.
Are any of you married to someone with different ideas of money? How do you overcome your differences?