He's got a lot, I've got a little
April 28, 2010 8:17 AM   Subscribe

How do you fairly combine incomes in a relationship with inequitable incomes and inequitable net worth?

My boyfriend and I have been dating for several years, and are very close to marriage. I make a decent salary, while he makes about 2x what I do. His net worth, in addition, is about 100x what mine is (not counting my student debt).

For the most part, we're very aligned on financial matters. Though we've kept our accounts separate, we operate as if we have pooled our financial resources. He pays for most high ticket items, such as plane tickets and hotels, as well as rent. I pay for all of my incidentals, student loans, car loan, etc. He pays for all of our meals out, while I pay for our groceries.

We're both very comfortable with this arrangement, and based on past conversations with my boyfriend, we seem to be heading towards a system of pooled money rather than separate accounts. The biggest difference we have on financial matters is that he tends to be more "spendy", while I'm more financially conservative (based on my earning potential as well as how I was raised). We pay for our own incidentals from our own personal accounts, leading to a structure where he freely spends thousands on electronics and clothing for himself, while I agonize over whether to spend $100 on a dress.

When I help him pick out clothes and give my opinion on his electronic toys, I sometimes can't help but resent (a little bit) his ability to freely spend when I agonize over much smaller spending on myself. Please don't get me wrong - I'm really happy he's able to afford things he wants (trust me, he's worked very hard for it). But while I'm generally fine with our setup, I find that it becomes wearing over time to worry about financial matters that my boyfriend never thinks twice about. I also know that, if I just asked, my boyfriend would probably not mind paying for the items I want/need. But I have a very hard time asking him to pay for what I consider my items, and my boyfriend is simply not the type to offer to pay for my stuff on his own initiative.** Part of it is that I still consider his money to be "his" money, which I have no right to. (For perspective, I get the sense that, currently, he half considers his money to be "our" money, and half considers his money to be "his" money, if that makes sense.)

Part of me also finds it troubling to feel like he has full power over the financial resources (which I have to "ask" for) when he and I are in what should be an equally balanced relationship.

My questions are mostly this:

1) Give me perspective - is it unfair for me to be jealous? Should I feel guilty using "his" money?

2) How should I handle this? Should I push for financial reform in our relationship or STFU?

3a) Since we're heading towards a situation of shared finances, how have other couples who have inequitable net worth combined their finances, and how have you broached the subject with your SO?

3b) For people in this situation, do we begin with a shared credit card, and then move onto a joint bank account? Do we set up a new bank account, or add my name to his and shift my savings into his account?

Please help me be constructive. FWIW, I've read these previous questions, but am looking for responses more specific to my situation.

Throwaway email at sharedfinances@gmail.com

**in askmefi talk, he's Ask Culture while I'm Guess Culture
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (31 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
This is exactly what my household was/is like - down to what things you both pay for.

I had to get over it a little. "How'd this iPad get here? *grumblegrumble* *fuckingloandebt*."

First, because he is quite generous with the "big stuff" like covering hotels when we go on vacation and covering the household expenditures. He could ask for 50/50 or same percentage of income or whatever. But he doesn't.

What really helped/helps me is to check myself as to what it would be like if I was on 1 income. I'd be living at a totally different lifestyle, especially in terms of housing. And I'd rather be here and grumble quietly over tech toys and magazine subscriptions than be solo. That money that you're not spending on rent can go to pay off your student loans. Think about where'd you be on your loans if you were solo.

We now have a kid and our new financial arrangement is that I buy nearly all consumables for kiddo - clothes, food, toys and he pays daycare.

If you want to chat, me-mail me.
posted by k8t at 8:30 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, my initial thought is that you guys should get married first before considering mixing up your finances. You shouldn't really be using "his" money now. If he wants to spend his money on both of you, that's fine. If you want to save your money, then save the money you're making.

I know you guys say you're close to marriage, but I think because you're not actually married and crazy things can happen, it's best to keep it all separate as possible and the money he spends on you can be considered a "gift," so you should probably not bother about this until you're engaged and hammering out a financial plan for both of you, possibly with a financial planner.
posted by anniecat at 8:30 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mrs MM and I have a joint account.

In the past, Mrs MM earned more than me. I now earn 2x what she earns. Rather than give her money, I overcontribute to the joint account, so that she doesn't need to pay [as much] for what are turning out to be quite substantial joint purchases (like our wedding). In the past, she has done the same.

I honestly don't know who spends more or less. However, seeing as it's a partnership and all I know I wouldn't be over the moon about Mrs MM spending a higher income freely while I have to keep within a limited income and the same applies to me.

It's really a question of how deep and into what aspects you see the idea of partnership going. Funnily enough, Mrs MM also doesn't like to appropriate "my" money so we have conversations in which she complains she's had to dig deep into her savings to pay for her half of, say, a household repair as I try and ask her to let me overcontribute so she's not left cutting things too fine.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:31 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

PS, we do no shared accounts. We use the same bank so that we can easily transfer money to each other though.

I see NO reason to join accounts. If something big comes up - like a huge vet bill - that he agrees to pay for but I'm the one picking the dog up, he'll transfer the money later.
posted by k8t at 8:32 AM on April 28, 2010

My fiance and I are basically the opposite of you - I make significantly more than he does. Everything is "our money" and in a few weeks we're combining all of it into one bank account. For us, it's pretty much a non-issue since we've been thinking about our separate accounts as "our" money for a few months now. Something we plan to go to once we merge everything into one account is to each have a monthly allowance. In other words we both get x dollars a month to do with as we please (to be used for new bike gear, clothes, personal trainer, w/e). Other than that all of our other expenses are on a budget - x dollars a month for food, y for gas, z for utilities, etc. We use Mint and have all of our bank accounts, credit cards, and my roth IRA on it. It's an easy way to know "our" net worth while keeping money separate.

Please note this works for us and ymmv. This thread helped A TON and I strongly suggest you read it.
posted by kthxbi at 8:35 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

It shouldn't be a matter of pushing. Heck, you haven't even DISCUSSED it yet. There's your first step. You need to admit to the guilt and the jealousy or it will fester.

My husband and I sound very similar to you two; he's always made at least twice what I do, he's Ask and I'm Guess, he's more spendy. He's also the most generous person I know, and if I say that I want a $100 dress, if we can afford it, it's mine. This has been true since the beginning of our relationship, though for a long time I was like you. Finally I saw that I was martyring myself, like "oh, I'm the responsible one, woe is me, I can't afford the new iPod, while he gets everything he wants." I got the satisfaction of always being "right" about the finances, while he was oblivious to my upset. That's more toxic to the relationship than just spending the damned money.

It really doesn't matter how you set up the bank accounts etc if you don't have a frank discussion about what gets taken out of them. Personally, we didn't do the joint bank account thing until we got married, but that was partially out of laziness. We still also have separate accounts, mostly so we don't overdraw due to not knowing what the other person spent.

Side note: I highly recommend setting up all your accounts at the same bank and choose one that lets you do transfers between accounts online.
posted by desjardins at 8:36 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to add upon preview that as you'll see in the thread I linked to, every couple does this differently. I really think it's a matter of figuring out what works for you. Some people will swear up and down that you need to keep separate accounts even when you're married and others will try to convince you to merge everything and stop thinking of it as my money and his/her money. I don't really think there's a right answer here.
posted by kthxbi at 8:38 AM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

1) Give me perspective - is it unfair for me to be jealous? Should I feel guilty using "his" money?

No, and no. Also fair is not the way to look at emotions and relationships because it ends up making you weird and overthink-y. Is everyone as happy as can reasonably be expected? That's the best metric.

2) How should I handle this? Should I push for financial reform in our relationship or STFU?

STFU is not the answer. Talk to him about it instead of pushing, though.

3a) Since we're heading towards a situation of shared finances, how have other couples who have inequitable net worth combined their finances, and how have you broached the subject with your SO?

The net worth is a tough one. We don't have net worth so, heh.

3b) For people in this situation, do we begin with a shared credit card, and then move onto a joint bank account? Do we set up a new bank account, or add my name to his and shift my savings into his account?

Noooo! Keep your savings! KEEP YOUR SAVINGS! You are the vulnerable party here and should keep a significant portion of your money so that you have a safety net you don't have to ask for. Basically have enough money to care for yourself if you break up with him. Credit card vs bank account, I don't know. You could always just add your name to his account but don't drain your savings.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:38 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is similar to the situation my wife and I were in before marriage, although obviously I can't speak from her perspective.

1) Feeling jealous is perfectly natural. I think it would be weird if you didn't. While I'm sure he does work very hard for his money, there's usually nothing fair about income inequalities. Does he currently work twice as hard as you? Is he twice as smart? Cumulatively, is his work worth one hundred times more than yours? Of course not.

2) I'd suggest talking to him about this. He may not care *at all* about paying for something for you. I think the hardest part for my wife was believing me when I told her that she should go ahead and buy that dress that she wants, and that I wouldn't even remember in a week what she'd spent on it or that I'd paid. I think this got easier after we were married and had a joint bank account, but it still comes up sometimes, now with home improvements that she wants and I'm indifferent to. It's difficult to get entirely past the "my money/your money" issue.

3) We kept individual credit cards because why bother having a joint credit card? Plus, you will at some point want your own card so that you can buy him a birthday present and not have him ask what that purchase was. Although I confess that maybe this is a solved problem in the credit card world and you can have joint cards with separate bills. I say, eh. Our marriage coincided with a move and we got a joint bank account then. I would definitely recommend getting a joint bank account and paying all the bills from that. When you do this, you need to have a conversation about what is appropriate spending for both of you so there are no surprises later on either side.
posted by MarkAnd at 8:39 AM on April 28, 2010

Well, what are your shared financial goals? It really doesn't matter who spends what and how much if you are both meeting your goals. That's the conversation to have. What are your goals for retirement? Do you want to buy a house together? How are you saving for that? With the wedding coming up (presumably) how are you saving for that and your honeymoon? What is your debt load and what is your goal for getting out from under that? When you marry, your debt and your assets get combined (unless you have some sort of legal agreement that says otherwise, I suppose) so you need to have goals associated with debt.

I have a little spreadsheet I made which helps my husband and I talk about monthly costs and our budget. It includes our income and shows what percentage of the total income we each contribute. Sometimes, we'll have a short term goal and we'll earmark an equivalent amount from our paychecks toward that goal. So, if I make 60% of our monthly income then I contribute 60% of the total monthly amount towards our goal.

Out of our monthly budget, we each have a set amount of cash that is our own money to do whatever with -- generally lunches during the week, date nights, etc. Once you figure out your financial goals and, consequently, what your budget is, you should get some walking around money that meets your needs without breaking the bank.
posted by amanda at 8:41 AM on April 28, 2010

My longterm gf and I have setup a new joint account that we use for common expenses. Bills, mortgage, vacation, groceries, eating out, whatever we do together. We put into this account the same percentage of our income, and from this account both of us have to approve any expenses. Because at the start I made more than her, I put in about twice what she did, but we put in the same share of our income. The rest of our money is seperate. When I want to buy a new phone or computer, it comes out of my money, and when she wants to take a trip to visit her family on her own, it comes out of her money.

This way there's a pool of 'our' money, and pools of seperate moneys.

I don't think anyone can tell you how you should feel. That's how you do feel.

I do think you should push to resolve the financial issues. Discussing this with him is a great place to find out if he doesn't care if you spend his money freely, or if he has some other idea of how shared finances can be done to both your benefits.

You definately need to work out both of your "my money / our money" issues before you put all your money into one big account.
posted by garlic at 8:44 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

My partner and I are in the opposite situation from yours- I make much more money than he does. Our money is pooled- it's all our money. Furthermore, he is very conservative with his money, while I am inclined to spend. I'd be lying if I said this was not a source of conflict early in our lives together. What I think got us through that rough patch was to develop shared financial goals. We saved for a down payment for a house, and for a large emergency fund. Eventually, we saved to buy a new car. I found it much easier to restrain myself from spending when I felt that these financial goals were also mine, and not just his cheapness. Also, I found it much easier to stop buying toys and knick knacks once I had a big spending goal in mind.
posted by pickypicky at 8:51 AM on April 28, 2010

If I were you, I'd wait until you're married to actually share finances, but I'd talk about it first and figure out what makes sense for you. Once you're married, it really is your joint money, so you can figure out a way to share the money that works for you. You make choices as a couple that have many implications for you as a couple, financial and otherwise. For example, suppose one of you becomes a stay at home parent. Will the stay at home parent not have any money for fun stuff? In theory, you could decide as a couple that he needed to leave his high paying job in favor of a job that gave him more free time, or you could decide as a couple that you needed to leave your job in favor of a job that would contribute more to the joint financial picture. And as a couple, you'd deal with all the implications of those decisions.

So what we do is we agreed on an equal allowance per month that we can each spend without any constraints. (I happen to save some of this 'fun money' for a rainy day when I want a pedicure or want to buy him an expensive surprise. He spends it all on beer.) The rest of the money goes to bills and savings, and it's irrelevant where the $ comes from. At the moment, we make about the same amount as each other so there aren't issues about where the money comes from, but at one point I made twice what he made, and there were still no issues because we employed the same system. This way, no one is jealous or resentful.

So, in a nutshell, all our money except the allowance goes into the joint savings account and bills are paid out of the joint savings account.

Personally, I think dating is generally too early to feel entitled to any financial parity. If he wants to be generous, then so be it. If he wants to hord his extra money until you're married, then so be it. You could leave him over that if it were a big deal, but it's not your right to take some of the money he earns to buy a $100 dress if he doesn't want to share. You DO have the right to say that you can't afford to go to such and such fancy restaraunt as a couple or such and such vacation as a couple, and if he won't pick up the tab then you go somewhere you can afford as a couple. But I know everyone doesn't share this viewpoint (or the pooled $ marital finances theory above, for that matter.)
posted by n'muakolo at 8:53 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is just so so individual between couples. You are going to have to sit down and lay it all out with each other - attitudes to money, plans for how it's organized, all that. Maybe with a third party involved? Money really does have the potential to break a relationship more readily than almost anything else.

Since you asked about what people do?
My husband and I have a significant income disparity - I make decent mid-high 5 figures, but he makes about 3X that. We have one kid. People above see no reason to have joint accounts? We see no reason to have separate accounts. What's his is mine and vice versa. We (and we have explicitly discussed this) consider that our individual happiness informs our shared happiness as a couple and we don't want to get into a funk if I have to... whatever, borrow money from him to buy a new pair of jeans or something else equally as irrelevant in the greater story of our relationship.

The reason this works, for us, is that we have similar spending habits. Neither of us are likely to go off and spend $500 on a new toy without consulting each other. Also, we both have student loans to pay off (and his are considerable) so we are not exactly going wild and crazy with our income.

But yeah. Our money goes into one account. We save some of it and spend some of it, and because we discussed all our habits and attitudes ahead of time we no longer worry about it at all. I can't conceive of being married and having to keep track of who pays for this and who pays for that. (I mean, I can for other people, because it works for them, but it would be just so much of a PITA for us.)
posted by gaspode at 9:07 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

My fiance and I do what Suze Orman recommends (and some other people who have answered).

Here are the details. Just as amanda stated above, if one person make 60% of the total household income, they should contribute 60% to the bills.

We have a joint account (PNC virtual wallet, very nifty and free!) and we also have our own PNC accounts. It makes moving money back and forth a breeze. I highly, HIGHLY recommend you set up a joint account and make a budget of everything you have to pay per month. You want to be paying for everything "together" to avoid feelings of unfairness.

My fiance and I also add on an extra ~20% (I can't remember the exact amount) to our overall budget to account for "joint" emergencies/household upgrades/vacations. So if our overall budget is $2000, we contribute an extra $400.

Good luck!
posted by Lizsterr at 9:12 AM on April 28, 2010

We pay for our own incidentals from our own personal accounts, leading to a structure where he freely spends thousands on electronics and clothing for himself, while I agonize over whether to spend $100 on a dress.

Take my advice with a grain of salt since I've never been married, but here's my gut reaction FWIW...

Considering that he pays for your rent and plane tickets and hotels and the pricier restaurants and (presumably) a bunch of other expensive things, and that you're not married, it seems petty to object to the fact that he's not also giving you even more disposable income for, e.g., augmenting your wardrobe.

Agonizing over spending $100 on one article of clothing is what most people do. It's not something he's obligated to rescue you from.

If and when you get married, it would make sense to pool the money so you both benefit from his enormous net worth. But for now, when you're just in a relationship and don't know if you'll get married, you actually benefit from not having him pay for everything for you. (I assume you realize this since you mentioned your concerns about maintaining overall equity in the relationship.)

I'm all in favor of the higher-earning partner spending appropriately more money on things that the couple shares together, but it seems like you're a bit too eager to shift to a marriage-like situation before getting married. I wouldn't at all look down on a couple that had mutually settled into that kind of arrangement before marriage, but that's not the same as suddenly asking to switch to that arrangement after years of being together out of your feelings of jealousy. However, I think talking this over with him and seeing how he feels about it would be more useful than reading my opinion.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:18 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

As said above, this varies by couple. What's worked for me is to have three accounts, the main one is joint, and is where bills and big ticket items get paid. Then a separate account for each partner for discretionary spending/saving. The amount that goes into the separate accounts is discussed, as does how to split up unexpected windfalls between savings and discretionary accounts. That's worked great for us (18+ yrs), but you'll have to figure out with your partner what works for you.
posted by forforf at 9:22 AM on April 28, 2010

Personally, whether you go for joint accounts or keep them separate, I think each partner in a de facto or de jure marriage should feel entitled to roughly the same amount of discretionary spending money. What works for some couples is to set up a formal discretionary "allowance", while for other couples it can be more flexible--there's X for nondiscretionary spending, and Y set aside for savings, and then you both just make sure that there's enough of the remaining Z to accommodate your nondiscretionary purchases before you make them, and that you're not routinely spending all the "fun money" so there's nothing left for your spouse.

If you're getting close to marriage, it's an extremely useful exercise to sit down and work out at least a rough budget to figure out what those Xs and Ys and Z are. This doesn't mean you need to commit to tracking expenses for the rest of your lives, but it is a big change, and it's important to get a grasp of the big picture of your income and expenses.

In our situation, our premarital incomes were not grossly disproportionate, but I did have a somewhat lower income combined with somewhat greater financial burdens (2 kids, no CS from first marriage). Our assets were also unequal. So he was used to being able to spend somewhat more freely, and I was used to having to agonize over every $50 purchase that wasn't strictly necessary.

Over time (we're coming up on our 5-year anniversary), things have evened out. His house became our house. The money in his pension plan is now part of planning for our joint retirement. We even made a conscious effort to stop referring to them as "his car" and "my car", and now I probably drive "the car formerly known as MrDrLith's car" more than he does. If you both operate in the spirit of good faith and fair play (and nothing you say seems to point to this being an issue), over the course of making more and more joint purchases and joint plans, this all becomes more natural.

Every now and then, I'll be talking about something I've got my eye on, and he'll jokingly tell me "you have my permission to get it." Or he'll let me know that he is totally supportive of my spendy new hobby, or planning college savings for my kids/his stepkids. In short, a lot of little reassurances that it's all OK WITH HIM.

In practical terms, we joined our checking account first. We wound up adding him to my premarital account and shifting his cash monies over, simply because they made it easiest for us to do so. We didn't have a compelling reason to merging credit card accounts, although theoretically I did add him to one of my accounts.
posted by drlith at 9:23 AM on April 28, 2010

Noooo! Keep your savings! KEEP YOUR SAVINGS! You are the vulnerable party here and should keep a significant portion of your money so that you have a safety net you don't have to ask for. Basically have enough money to care for yourself if you break up with him.

posted by salvia at 9:25 AM on April 28, 2010 [6 favorites]

Shared expenses go into a shared account, with him putting 2x as much as you due to the income disparity.

After that, he has his money for his things (or he can save if he wants to) and you do too.

Nobody should ever resent what their partner earns or spends under this situation.
posted by eas98 at 9:26 AM on April 28, 2010

In our house, we keep our accounts separate. I make far more than my wife, and pay all of the day-to-day and month-to-month stuff. She mostly pays for capital improvements (furniture, sewer, etc.), since she has little out-of-pocket expenses and is good at saving. (An exception to this is that I just bought her a new computer.)

We pretty much buy our own clothes, other than gifts to one another.

Our retirement outlook is 95% resting on my assets.

There is a lot of built-in inequity, and arguably some cause for resentment, both ways. I work full time; she works part time.

Mostly, over the years, we have let go of our concerns because it WORKS. We are secure, if not affluent and have what we need to live a non-upscale life. We have not *fixed* anything, but we have accepted what's there, and I think we both appreciate what the other brings.

So, if I have advice, it is, on a day-to-day basis, go for what works and if it looks like you are in it for the long term, don't agonize overly much about it.
posted by Danf at 9:31 AM on April 28, 2010

This could be a book, and this thread could be mined for lots of possible approaches to the issue. The one thing I would add is: whether you decide to keep separate bank accounts for each, with agreement on who covers which expenses (which I would recommend), or throw everything into one account, for estate planning purpopes, it's a good idea to make all account joint accounts, whether you both use them or not. So Mrs. Beagle and I have two checking accounts, both joint accounts. My name is listed first on mine, her name is listed first on hers. Same with savings accounts, and they are all at one bank for easy transfers.

The reason to make them all joint accounts is: Should one of you be run over by the proverbial truck, the advantage of having them all be joint accounts is that there's no rigamarole for the survivor to get access to the money. No, you don't want to be thinking about mortality while planning a marriage, but it's good to be practical, since trucks do frequent the roads, and bad things sometimes happen. Visit a lawyer and draw up wills, as well.
posted by beagle at 9:37 AM on April 28, 2010

my X girlfriend and I were in a similar situation. where she had near to no income but I did. I paid for almost everything for a couple of years. we had a joint account that I'd put money into and she would occasionally that was both our spending money.
but I guess i'd occcasionally buy myself something out of my savings.

It was a bit of an issue as she felt quite vulnerable. But there was no real alternative. Even now that we have broken up I don't really resent supporting her during those years. I'd just use his money. its only money. it will be spent eventually.
posted by mary8nne at 9:40 AM on April 28, 2010

You have gotten good advice, but I have to say for the nth time, STFU is not the way to go. Have a conversation with him about it before you get married. Money disagreements can break marriages.
posted by Silvertree at 9:44 AM on April 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Should I push for financial reform in our relationship or STFU?

What has worked for my husband and me is that half of each person's paycheck goes to a joint account and the other half to a personal account. This changed somewhat with one of us being unemployed, but when we are both working, it works for us--as long as half of paycheck1 plus half of paycheck2 covers our bills and financial plans, we're very happy in this arrangement. However, I think a key factor for us is that we're open with each other about our financial strategies--we talk about how we decide what to spend, talk about goals, talk about retirement savings, etc. I wouldn't want to have personal accounts going without knowing that each person is on the same page. I'm a total cheapskate and my husband is not, so we spend differently, but not so differently and not so separately that he's secretly in debt while I have no clue, and I'm not sneaking off to a vault somewhere to visit my piles of gold coins he doesn't know about.

Whatever joint/non-joint/combined joint and personal accounts arrangement you come up with, I'd urge you to get in the habit of talking about money frequently enough that you each know how the other is doing, what the other is thinking, and can agree on some general long-term goals together. You don't have to audit each other's purchases, but it's good to keep each other apprised of the situation. If someday your boyfriend earns less than you, or otherwise ends up in reduced circumstances, he may need your help in learning how to curb his spending--and that'll be an easier conversation to have if you're already in the habit of checking in with each other about finances, including the financial choices you make separately.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:05 AM on April 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with Meg_Murry - the key is for the two of you to start communicating frequently and candidly about money, and everything else will fall into place from that. My husband and I seem to talk about money every day, but it helps us avoid any potential problems with our set-up (full and part-time, differing salaries and spending habits).
posted by ukdanae at 11:51 AM on April 28, 2010

Yeah you guys need to talk about this. It's not good if you start walking around with resentment on your chest.

There's some income disparity between my husband and I, but not as great as that between you and your man. I look the other way on a lot of his personal purchases, but I've drawn the line in a few instances.

Here's an example: We needed a new dining room table; the one we had was a piece of junk. He went out and spent $3k on a new computer for himself. This made me very angry. The crux of the issue was that the dining table was important to me; the computer was what was important to him. When it comes to things for "us" (like a dining table), we agreed that he doesn't get to make the final decision on where that $3k gets spent just because he's the one who earned it.

In other words, he doesn't get to make the final decision that we are going to live like frat boys simply because he has more earning power. I get a say when he makes big purchases.

For payment of the mortgage and other expenses that are for "us", we worked out how much money we had when we added our incomes together. From that combined income, we worked out what percentage was his contribution, and what percentage was mine. Now when it comes to paying the mortgage and bills, I contribute my percentage, and he contributes his. Warning: this method involves math.
posted by cleverevans at 12:50 PM on April 28, 2010

I think that after you marry you should pool everything. I think too many men who earn more money smugly go on buying expensive toys, while their lower earning women save up for clothing and shoes for the kids because they have no choice. From this thread it also sounds like women who earn more than their spouses are happy to pool resources get the same "fun money" per month each for spending.

I think marriage should be a complete partnership, unless there is some compelling reason beyond "he works harder and/or is more intelligent so he should get extra toys". If the woman doesn't work and takes care of the kids should she bill him for it? Should she charge him for being his cook and cleaner?

Penalizing the lower income spouse is archaic and a nasty form of control and showing your superiority. You might argue you earned it so it is yours - I think that is very selfish. Circumstances change too, people lose their jobs, are in accidents, get sick - a strong equal partnership will carry you through it without anyone feeling bitterness.

I am the higher earner in my marriage by a significant margin btw, but also female so we happily pool it and get the same fun money. ;-)
posted by meepmeow at 12:57 PM on April 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

I dont get it....he already pays for your rent, hotels, high ticket items, etc, you pay for the groceries and your expenses.... If you werent with this guy you would have to pay for the rent so you would have even less money to spend than you do now.....I believe you should have that talk and dont bite your tongue in regards to it but if and only if you two are indeed getting married and only after that event happens should you start pooling your money as one household instead of having a semi-equal division.
posted by The1andonly at 1:36 PM on April 28, 2010

my bf/now-husband total up our bills, and we pay them proportionately to our income (he makes about 60% of our household income, so he pays 60% of the bills/mortgage/etc). I pay for my own clothes, gas, car stuff, medical/dental, although if a really big expense arose he would help me (and has).

nthing all the above--talk to him about it.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:32 PM on April 28, 2010

The way my boyfriend and I deal with our finances is this:

1. He makes 60% of the household income, and I make 40%. So all the household bills, except for food, are split 60/40.

2. He likes to sit down and pay bills, I do not, so we averaged the household bills for 3 months, worked out 40% of that, and each month I give him a check for that plus a little extra to tide us over for Just In Case things (like discovering that the sprinkler system had a leak by an extra-high water bill). We're slowly getting a joint account set up, and once it's finished I'll set that money as an automatic transfer every month, and he'll transfer his 60%+a little extra into that account as well. The extra that builds up in that account, we haven't agreed on what to do yet. He's all for splitting it 60/40 each month, I'm for leaving it in the account to serve as a cushion for unexpected household expenses.

3. Restaurants and groceries, we more-or-less alternate paying for. I tend to pay for the less expensive trips, so it comes out to roughly 60/40. We don't keep track of this closely - when one of us feels that we've paid for too many previous trips, we just ask the other one to pick up the bill.

4. Household expenses are renters' insurance, rent, electricity, gas, water, internet and TV, and maybe a couple of other things I'm not recalling at this instant. We pay our own car notes and insurance (and have paid off the cars). I pay my own student loans, and the vet costs (for no good reason other than I forgot to add them in when setting up this system, and if I asked him to pay 60% he would, but I can afford it so I don't worry about it)

5. Household purchases like a rice cooker, fan, etc. tend to be paid for by the person who wanted it. In the cases where it's a joint purchase, we tend to adjust the amount I give him for household expenses each month up or down by my amount, depending on who paid for it.

6. Electronic toys are individual purchases by whoever wanted it, although they tend to be joint usage - i.e., he bought a PS3, I bought a Kindle. We each bought our own iPhones, and we each pay our own phone bills, because we had those plans before we moved in together and at the moment the amount we'd save by combining them to one plan isn't worth the hassle of doing so. (We eventually plan to, just like we eventually plan to combine Netflix accounts.)

6. We're planning a vacation this fall and are splitting those costs evenly. It never occurred to me to ask for a 60/40 split on that, and I don't really see a reason to - we're doing what I can afford. If he wanted to add something to the trip that I couldn't afford, I'd ask him to pay for it.
posted by telophase at 10:36 AM on April 29, 2010

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