How much do you spend without telling your partner about it?
September 3, 2004 9:37 AM   Subscribe

For couples: Along the same lines as the previous question, what's the maximum dollar value that you and your partner feel OK about spending without consulting the other? For me it's $75.
posted by luser to Human Relations (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
About the same for us, providing it's an item for the household with some kind of purpose.

If it's a personal, nonessential item for one of us, $50 is closer to the mark.

If it's really nonessential and particularly bulky, I tend to request clearance around thirty bucks, just so I don't ever have to hear about it later.
posted by padraigin at 9:45 AM on September 3, 2004

$40 or so probably, maybe $50 if it was something special.
posted by soplerfo at 10:00 AM on September 3, 2004

I guess it depends what it is. $55.00 for Doom 3, she doesn't get consulted. $200 for a wildflower print, she doesn't consult me. $150.00 for an All Clad pan, no need to ask her. She'll spend $300.00 on garden items without needing to ask.

$200.00 for a TiVo and I need to write up a proposal and submit it for approval.
posted by bondcliff at 10:03 AM on September 3, 2004

For no identifiable reason, my wife and I mostly keep our finances apart. I mean, of course we share rent and bills, but apart from that, we maintain separate bank accounts. So I kind of buy whatever the hell I want to.
posted by Skot at 10:04 AM on September 3, 2004

Under normal financial conditions (not being poorish as we are at the moment), I wouldn't worry about spending a couple of hundred, maybe more. Amounts under $100 seem surprisingly low to me... If you needed a coat, and saw a really good one on sale for $100, would you put it off until it could be discussed, or would you snap it up? I've bought things like couches and rugs that I've found that were wonderful buys and I knew they wouldn't be there later.

My husband and I are pretty much totally alike about money though (for better or worse), and it's never an issue with us. If we have it, it's pretty much the last thing on our minds; if we don't, we eat the same potato soup.
posted by taz at 10:29 AM on September 3, 2004

My situation is the same as Skot's, and though I'm sure it wouldn't work for everyone, it works really well for us. We never fight about money. We each have our own money. I've been known to spend three grand on new computer equipment without consulting my wife. She'll do the same thing with clothes.

We also like to surprise each other with lavish gifts. My wife bought us a trip to London for our anniversary. I'm glad she didn't have to consult with me. I liked the surprise!
posted by grumblebee at 10:40 AM on September 3, 2004

I'd say $200 for personal items, clothing, a night out, whatever, unless it was something that I knew we both needed/wanted for the house, in which case maybe I'd go up to $300 or a bit more.
posted by luriete at 10:53 AM on September 3, 2004

Fifty dollars for random personal items; for household items (say, grocery shopping,) two hundred.
posted by headspace at 11:24 AM on September 3, 2004

If its something to be shared, it's handled differently than something for private use.

I wouldn't spring $100 on a decorative or household item without first getting agreement. Hell, I can't think of anything that's decorative that we haven't both agreed on beforehand.

OTOH, I can drop a hundred bucks on a good pair of walking shoes without any warning. Or a hundred bucks on some shop tools, provided I have a plan to use them.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:26 AM on September 3, 2004

Assuming you both work, I'd suggest setting up three separate checking accounts: "his money," "her money," and "our money." "Our money" would be for joint expenses and for things you decide to buy together. Paychecks get split up and direct-deposited into "his money" and "our money" (for the guy) or "her money" and "our money" (for the gal) according to the amounts each of you have agreed to contribute to the joint account.

You'd also want a separate account for joint long-term savings, and to decide on a monthly amount for each to contribute to this. Maybe more than one, of different types.

Anything above and beyond what you have explicitly agreed is joint money is "his money" or "her money" and the other person has no business dictating how it is spent. The guy can be as extravagant as he wants as long as it comes out of "his money," and the same with the gal, assuming what is bought is for the buyer's exclusive use.

Mingling all the money in a household just seems like a really bad idea to me.
posted by kindall at 12:17 PM on September 3, 2004

kindall, your comment sparked a slightly off-topic thought: why don't banks let you set up "folders" within one bank account? For instance, I would like to save $100 a month for tech upgrades. I don't want to start a whole new account just for that, but I'd like a simple way to divide my money into discrete "piles." I know I can keep a budget in Excel or whatever, but this seems like something my bank should do for me. Ideally, if I tried to then $500 from the tech folder to the vacation folder, I'd get a "Are you sure you want to do that?" message.
posted by grumblebee at 12:39 PM on September 3, 2004

we do what kindall suggested. I'm terrible with money, so I don't deal with it too much.

x amount goes to rent, savings, basic household goods (food and the like), emergency funds.

y amount goes to me, y amount goes to her. If I want to spend my entire monthly budget on a computer or at the bar, I'm welcome to. I'm sure she wouldn't be too impressed, but I can.
posted by sauril at 12:41 PM on September 3, 2004

We have a pretty strict budget by choice. We don't discuss purchases under ten dollars and we make most purchases as part of our budget. Every few months we discuss discretionary spending and paterns in spending so we may adjust our budget. For the most, though, part we only discuss non budgeted purchases.
posted by sequential at 1:11 PM on September 3, 2004

why don't banks let you set up "folders" within one bank account? For instance, I would like to save $100 a month for tech upgrades. I don't want to start a whole new account just for that

I think the solution here is for banks to make accounts easier to create -- not to let users set up sub-accounts. There's no reason a bank should need for me to come in to a branch to set up a new savings account if I already have an account with them, but that's what they want.

Most banks already show all your accounts in their Web banking app, and many (such as BofA) let you name them as you like. They're 90% of the way there, in other words; they just need to make opening new accounts easier.
posted by kindall at 1:23 PM on September 3, 2004

Grumblebee: how would you access your "folders" from an ATM? Or at the cashier's at the grocery store? Why, you'd need some way to differentiate them from one another. And the way banks differentiate different sets of funds is through different numbered accounts. ;)

I think you're over-thinking things a little. Just make a separate savings account for Vacation, and one for Tech. They're free, after all (or if they're not free, you should switch banks). My bank allows you to create separate savings account with maybe two mouse clicks.
posted by bcwinters at 1:27 PM on September 3, 2004

My wife and I are trying to save as much money as possible now, while I have a good job and she's still working, before I lose mine (which varies from likely to very likely, I work for a small company and we're never more than 6-10 months from failure) and/or before she stops working to have a baby.

Anyway, the point is, we decided on an amount for "slush fund", which we each get on the first of the month. For records sake, it's $150/month. Used to be less but I got a good raise. We can take out up to one month in advance, for a total of $300 or of course save this month's for later.

Anything frivolous comes out of that. Anything hobby related, computer related, etc. It doesn't include sort of ordinary stuff like seeing movies or what not. It doesn't include clothes or other necessary items except in the case where said item is not really necessary. The rules are not strict, so occaisonally we have to consult whether something is or is not covered by the fund. But it cuts down a LOT on having to consult about something or feel guilty about a purchase. It's my money/her money. This is not dissimilar from having 3 bank accounts, one for each of you and a joint, except we don't really have multiple accounts.

Anyway, we like it. It's not a lot of money to play with (especially with my hobbies: woodworking, photography, music and hers: jewerly making/buying, clothes, other girly stuff) but, come on, honestly it's enough.

There's a lot of grey area of course. I like the kitchen aid mixer we got more than her, it's a toy to me, but we needed it so it's not slush fund money. That's actually a pretty good guideline. If it's something that neither of you need.

Don't forget, it's easy to piss away a lot of money $10-20 at a time.
posted by RustyBrooks at 1:45 PM on September 3, 2004

Just make a separate savings account for Vacation, and one for Tech. They're free, after all (or if they're not free, you should switch banks).

the problem with opening multiple accounts at the bank is they each have their own minimum balance (usually $0). if you screw up and overdraw any of them, you get slapped with a $25 fee.

use Money or Quicken to divide your checking account into different folders. if something screws up in one and it goes negative, the balance of the rest keeps your overall account above zero.

of course if you think this makes it too easy to cheet and syphon money out of your vacation budget then maybe it wouldn't work for you.

my wife and I have each recently spent over $200 on something and then been called on it, so I guess that's around our limit. We also have seperate accounts for personal spending though, so for the most part we can buy big stuff for ourselves if we have the money...which we usually don't.
posted by jacobsee at 1:49 PM on September 3, 2004

what bank is that bcwinters? is it a local one or a national one?

just curious. thinking about switching banks.
posted by fishfucker at 1:49 PM on September 3, 2004

ING Direct, fishfucker. They are a national US bank.

I just went through the separate-account-setup thing and it was more like 4 or 5 clicks and a little typing. Sorry for the "two click" hyperbole!
posted by bcwinters at 1:59 PM on September 3, 2004

I think ING is an international Dutch bank, not US. I hate that smarmy asshole they use in their commercials.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:22 PM on September 3, 2004

ING Direct, fishfucker.

This should definitely be their new slogan, it's MUCH better than "save your money".

Most of the time, I'd think that the maximum either my husband or I would spend without discussion would really depend on what the item in question was (if he, say, walked in the door tomorrow with a $3000 widescreen TV, I'd say "Here, let me help you with that"), but even then, I'd think it only warrants discussion if it came out of joint money, rather than personal money (kindall's suggestion is how I've always opted to share earnings). I think a lot of it depends on your relationship, most of the time I don't see any reason to discuss purchases, since most of the time anything more than a couple of hundred dollars' worth of spending will likely have been discussed in some way anyway.
posted by biscotti at 2:55 PM on September 3, 2004

I'm sort of in the same boat as bondcliffe ... though I think I'd get hassled if I spent that much on a frying pan. (In fact, though I understand the idea behind it, spending that much on a single pan is enough to drive me looney, let alone my wife.)

I still haven't heard the end of it when it comes to the $900 laptop I bought to replace the old one, and which is more a business expense than anything else. I guess maybe I should have talked to her about it before I pressed the submit button.

We keep seperate accounts, too. We split the rent, and she pays the utilities, and I buy the groceries, and it seems to be equitable.

She's a bit more of a tightwad than I am, and I'm more of a spendthrift, but as I get older, the accumulation of stuff doesn't seem to be as important to me as it once was. In fact, the older I get, the more I'd rather just divest myself of all the stuff I spent my 20's and 30's accumulating.
posted by crunchland at 4:14 PM on September 3, 2004

My wife and I keep separate accounts. I think that as long as our personal spending doesn't get in the way of our financial obligations (which we split about evenly), anything goes. Of course, right now money's a little tight for us, so we can't go too crazy. But I can't imagine her checking with me before buying a fancy pair of shoes, for example.
posted by adamrice at 5:07 PM on September 3, 2004

Assuming you both work, I'd suggest setting up three separate checking accounts: "his money," "her money," and "our money."

I'm surprised that any couple would do it any other way in this day and age.

It also simplifies things somewhat in case of death or divorce.
posted by rushmc at 7:39 PM on September 3, 2004

My wife and I have shared a single bank account since before we were married (9 years); it never even crossed my mind to partition the money into 'his' and 'hers' boxes. I'm mildly surprised to see so many feel that's the wrong way to do it. I mean, I understand the reasoning and all; it just never occurred to me before.

Neither one of us is a big spender, and we've never had to make any particular effort to live within our means, it just naturally works out that we spend less than we earn... so maybe that's the difference.

As for how much we spend without telling the other: if it's something for the house, that we're both going to have to live with, then it doesn't matter if it's $500 or $0.50, we'll check with each other and probably make the purchase together. If it's personal, clothes or books or what have you, no limit, really. It's likely that if either one of us was planning to spend more than $300ish on something nonessential, we'd have mentioned it to the other at some point -- but it's not like we're asking each other permission.
posted by ook at 9:34 PM on September 3, 2004

My soon-to-be-wife and myself maintain separate and a few shared accounts - a shared checking for bills and such, and a shared high interest savings that we try to keep a moderate balance in for things like the wedding and our new house and such.

We never really had a "how are we going to deal with our spending", it's just evolved from our five year relationship. We both had accounts when we met, then when we moved in we got the shared checking for rent and utilities, and then when we started dedicating money for wedding and house and future largish expenses we opened the high interest.

Our division of expenses works similarly to the way Skot's sounds. As long as we're both paying our share of bills and doing what we can for shared savings, we don't pay any attention to each others' day-to-day finances.

grumblebee, I've had the 'folders' thought before too.

Not that interest is something that banks seem to be, well, interested in these days, but I'd much rather be able to keep all my money in one account to gain interest on the whole. With minimum balances required for gaining interest, having multiple accounts would cost me the few cents I make every year.

It's probably to some degree institutional babysitting -- I can do everything I want to as opening accounts is a few clicks away for me too -- but it'd be a nice service.

Explaining it to their customer base might make it tricky for banks though.
posted by cCranium at 7:08 AM on September 4, 2004

Maximum amount? Probably something on the order of $500 or so. We consult each other mainly to prevent multiple large-ticket purchases from being made at the same time, especially on credit, so that balances can be paid down to zero during all billing cycles. It's a cashflow management thing more than anything else.

For cash purchases rather than credit, something on the order of $1000 or so would be the upper limit on unconsulted spending. Beyond that and we can get into cashflow problems again.

We maintain separate cash accounts (although the credit accounts are all shared), so the general situation is something like Skot's: we trust each other to make purchase decisions without a bunch of micromanagement. If I truly felt it was an appropriate use of the money, I could conceivably walk out the door right now and come back unexpectedly with a $7000 motorcycle without much more than "it's pretty!" in response.

This is an interesting question -- the huge variety of responses points to the different ways people trust (or don't trust) each other. Writing up a proposal for a Tivo? shudder.
posted by majick at 8:44 AM on September 4, 2004

I could conceivably walk out the door right now and come back unexpectedly with a $7000 motorcycle without much more than "it's pretty!" in response.

She's a keeper, majick
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:34 AM on September 4, 2004

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