Just like there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to a happy relationship, the same goes for managing your money as a couple.
For proof, look no further than these six couples, who are tackling their money issues in their own ways. Here, they share their biggest tip for keeping spending in check, having money talk and keeping the peace.
Break long-term goals into bite-sized chunks.
Debbie Todd, 54, and Doug Todd, 73, of Woodland, Washington, married for 34 years
"When Doug and I got married almost 35 years ago, we blended more than just our families — our financial lives came together, too. Since we were raising five daughters, the needs were many and money was often tight. And with so much of our income going toward the everyday expenses of raising our family, it was easy to get caught in the minimum-debt-payment trap.
So we sat down and identified the long-term goals that mattered most to us: getting debt-free, setting aside funds for the girls' college and weddings and saving for retirement. From there, we came up with target numbers for each, then broke them down into individual line items on our monthly budget, making them much easier to digest. I'm happy to say that our strategy has helped us hit every goal!”
Use a cash-only diet to keep spending in check.
Mitchell Walker, 62, and Suzanne Walker, 56, of Mt. Pleasant, Texas, married for 24 years
"In the early months of our marriage, Suzanne and I had no financial plan in place. I'd brought nearly $100,000 of debt to the relationship, and we were essentially flying blind and overspending. After being late on two consecutive car payments, we knew it was time to address the elephant in the room.
We broke our spending into two different categories: regular bills that never fluctuated (rent, car payments, insurance, etc.) and bills that varied from month to month (food, clothes, gifts). In our checking account, we deposited enough money to cover all our fixed bills so that every dollar had a purpose.
For discretionary spending, we adopted a system where we put cash into a separate envelope for each category. When the money was gone, it was gone, which all but eliminated our overspending. We've been doing this for over two decades and have put five kids through college with no debt. Our retirement is also looking pretty bright.”
Keep some things separate.
Ruby Escalona, 33, and Peter Prokaj, 31, of Jacksonville, Florida, married for two years
"Peter and I are definitely a united front when it comes to our finances, but we do maintain separate checking accounts. Our individual paychecks are direct-deposited here so that we can spend our 'fun' money without judging each other. If he wants to grab pizza and a movie with his buddies, he can do it. And if I want to go on a day trip with my girlfriends, it's no big deal. We also split all our bills down the middle.
For bigger purchases, we do create a saving plan together. This may mean giving him some of 'my money' or vice versa. Since we share similar interests, like traveling and exploring new restaurants, we usually end up working toward the same goals.
Our little hack gives us some autonomy, and since we have a joint savings account for combined savings goals (like a down payment for a house or a car), we're still building our life together as a team. It's a win-win."
Have regular dates — to talk about money.
Caleb Backe, 26, and Jamie Backe, 26, of Riverdale, New York, married for one year
"Every Tuesday evening, Jamie and I have a date, but probably not the kind you think. It's more of a financial catch-up session where we check in on our money. It entails recapping the previous week, pinpointing where we overspent and tweaking our budget, if necessary. We also chat about any big-ticket items on the horizon, like planning for an upcoming vacation.
It's extremely casual and more of a way to keep our financial health in check. Our little money dates help us stay on the same page with our finances because we're working together toward our goals and holding each other accountable. It also prevents fighting over money since our spending is transparent and out in the open. It requires a good deal of honesty and open communication, but it's been worth it."
Handle money as a team.
Jocelyn Paonita Pearson, 27, and Donny Pearson, 30, of Curaçao, married for two years
“For the first two years of our marriage, Donny and I maintained separate checking accounts with smaller joint accounts for mutual expenses. This seemed like the obvious solution to potential money fights, but all it did was prevent us from really moving the needle on our financial goals — like retiring early — because we weren’t on the same page. We decided we would make more headway if we handled our money as a team.
We blended our finances over a bottle of wine, then created a joint budget. We even made a timeline for achieving our biggest financial dreams, breaking down how much we needed to save each month to get there. The energy instantly shifted from ‘me’ to ‘we.’ Combining our finances also built in more accountability without feeling too restrictive — the perfect balance!”
Create a new budget that fits both your needs.
Kallie Branciforte, 30, and Michael Branciforte, 33, of Centerbrook, Connecticut, married for two years
"Michael and I have been together for 13 years, so by the time we got married, we'd experienced some trial and error in the budgeting department. Before walking down the aisle, we'd created budgets that never stuck, mainly because they weren't built on a strong understanding of our money. This made paying off debt and building up our savings harder than it had to be.
After our wedding, we sat down and looked at every penny that we'd made and spent over the previous four months. Then we created a fresh budget that was much more aligned with our actual spending habits. It was only through tracking our income and expenses that the picture became clear. We adjusted our spending accordingly and stuck to our new plan. Almost immediately, we began paying off our debt and saving more money."