Money for couples: The contributions conundrum

MONEY FOR COUPLES - managing joint finances and budgeting together

Joint finances for couples

When it comes to finances for couples, most people fall into two camps: The 50/50 split and the proportional split. (I’m excluding couples where income disparities are massive, for example, when one makes double what the other does – there seems to be general consensus that proportionate contributions are more appropriate then.)

I decided to go with the latter in our case for a couple of reasons.

For one, I make more. It’s not a huge amount, but it’s more than small change.

And secondly, his income varies. Generally he works quite long hours and sometimes does Saturdays, but that’s not always the case. The difference between a 40-hour week (or less on occasion, as once their systems were down and everyone sent home) and a 55+hour week is significant.

Since I’d been covering all our expenses for a few months prior to this anyway, the easiest route was to continue doing that, and just bank his contributions – barring an extra $10 a week into our “irregulars” account – directly into my savings.

My driving guideline is pretty simple: What will leave us both better off?

Flexibility, I think, is key. On weeks he brings in less than usual, then he puts less towards our expenses. It might come down to a choice between saving or debt repayment. And because the debt we’re focusing on is, well, to me, savings comes first. It’s not super-urgent nor is it accruing interest.

We recently got a $320 AECT dividend, and while I decided to leave my half as a credit on our power bill, his went toward his EF. His circumstances mean that building up that safety net is paramount, while it’s not so much of an issue for me anymore.

I do all this with an eye to the future – like I’ve said numerous times before, we’re planning for a future together, and although not all our money is merged, one day it most likely will be.

17 thoughts on “Money for couples: The contributions conundrum

  • Reply FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com October 6, 2010 at 12:01

    Different folks, different strokes..!

    I’m definitely in the 50/50 camp. I think your flexibility idea is much better than always saying that everything is proportionate… it’s what you can contribute. That’s it.

  • Reply nicoleandmaggie October 6, 2010 at 12:09

    We put it all in together and DH gives himself an allowance from it. So I guess that’s proportional at 100%? Or completely merged.

  • Reply Amber from Girl with the Red Hair October 6, 2010 at 12:17

    I pay for everything, Eric gives me $300/month from his savings. I do NOT pay for his truck expenses: gas, insurance etc. and I also do NOT pay if HE wants to go out for fast food. But if we both go out for dinner, I pay.

    This is our first time ever doing it that way but since I have a full-time, salaried job and he does not have any income right now while he’s in school it just makes sense for us! We still have separate credit cards and bank accounts though, he just gives me $300 cash every month.

  • Reply payingmyself October 6, 2010 at 12:32

    I pay for some things and B. pays for others. When we first moved in together, I listed all our expenses and tried to split them between us equally. When I showed B., he disagreed with my split because I have so much student debt and he doesn’t any. While I’m paying off my debt (and finally building some savings), he is paying more towards the household expenses. I would say he pays most of the bills while I take care of all the groceries and household supplies. He probably contributes 2x more to our expenses than I do. We take turns paying for going out for meals but don’t keep track at all. Our attitude is that we’re a team and we take care of each other.

  • Reply Money Reasons October 6, 2010 at 13:19

    We use my money for all expenses, then budget a certain amount for each of us to spend. In the last 2 years, my wife found a flexible part-time job working 8 hours a week. Now she used that money for her fun money and spending on the kids. It works out well 🙂

  • Reply Scribbles October 6, 2010 at 14:26

    We tend to split things 50/50 as we amazingly earn about the same. We’re not nitpicky about it however, bills are split down the middle but we don’t split every grocery bill or gift purchase or dining out bill and usually take turns. I have debt to pay off and until that happens we will not merge finances. Who knows what our situation will look like then?

  • Reply findingserenity2010 October 6, 2010 at 14:31

    It’s great that you’re figuring out what works best for your situation. I think some people’s personalities figure a lot into this as well. B & I are working out what will probably be an equal split, but he also might be getting a better full-time job that will pay lots more than what I make. But we both are insistent on being fair and equal and all that, but deep down we both want to help each other out and be generous – within reason. Of course, we’ll figure out the details only after we move in together … if i’m sure of anything, i’m sure things will be much different than what I expect!

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  • Reply Emily Jane October 7, 2010 at 02:18

    When we moved in together, we first started doing the 50/50 until a friend told me she and her husband did the proportionate split. Which makes SO much more sense!! He makes almost twice as much as I do, and though I feel bad he pays for the majority of the bills and food, I’m also feeling far less crippled by Poor 🙂

  • Reply Sandy L October 7, 2010 at 09:29

    We did 50/50 til we got married, but we also made about the same, so I guess I’m not a very good example. I’ve been married for 8 years and we still have separate checking accounts..just too lazy to merge. We each pay some of the bills, so one person isn’t burdened with all the icky bill paying duties.

  • Reply Life as a Purse October 7, 2010 at 11:18

    BF and I are moving in together in a month, and we are doing a proportionate split, as he’ll make about twice as much as my graduate student stipend. We were both comfortable with this, but it got a little sticky when figuring out what to do about my debt repayment (about $11k), because he does not have any debt. However, we ultimately decided he could pay more to bills so that I could work on my debt, and that would be his way of helping me. However, I also feel better about this because I know that when I have my graduate degree, I’ll be out-earning him most likely and will be able to “make up for it” at some later point.

  • Reply Financial Samurai October 9, 2010 at 15:59

    I love sugar mamas! Keep it up! 🙂

  • Reply Everyday Tips October 10, 2010 at 13:28

    Any income from either one of us just goes into one pot. We don’t have allowances or anything, and all our accounts are joint. Neither one of us are spenders, so we just take/spend what we need.

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