How to Practice Financial Intimacy

How to create a joint budget that hits goals and avoids fights.

Ah, the joys of marriage! Someone to share the king-size bed with. Someone to share the household chores with. Someone to share the…joint checking account with?

When people start dating, they often waffled about the financial arrangement that would make the most sense for them, as a couple. Are they a totally separate, totally together, or “yours, mine, and ours” kind of couple?

But that is only the first of a series of decisions to make, and it leaves couples with a big question:

How do we decide how to spend our “joint” money each month?

Money is simply a representation of what you value, which makes determining what to do with it (particularly a “joint pot” of cash) a delicate issue.

Here are a few key strategies that can be helpful when creating a budget together:

  1. Begin with the easy, fixed expenses. It’s likely your rent/mortgage, car payments and insurance, and utilities are more or less fixed. Those expenses don’t require much discussion, because they simply are what they are. Build the foundation of your spending plan with the “of course” items and that will build some momentum.
  2. Collaborate to determine the "save rate" you wish to achieve. Before you move on from the "guaranteed" expenses, to the sushi delivery and vacations in Tahiti, determine what portion of your income you want to save. Set that aside before diving headfirst into Discretionary Land, so you know what you're dealing with.
  3. Add “Whatever We Want” categories for each other.  Usually, a couple needs an amount of money that they feel free to spend, without checking with each other first. Whether it's $20 or $2,000 per month, there must be room for personal spending choices within a couple's budget.

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