It's the first Monday of the month my friends! That means we're taking another question from the Marriage, Kids and Money Community.
Today's question comes in from Kat …
My name is Kat. I recently got married, actually 12 days ago. It is both our first marriage and also our first time living and sharing the living expenses with a spouse. We decided to not merge everything together, but to have our separate accounts that we had before we got married and also open up a joint checking. On top of getting married, we also got a condo together.
We went through the Financial Peace University through our church 3 years ago. We both don't have any credit card debt or any other loans besides the mortgage. My question is or rather, me seeking advice is, what's a good percentage for us to contribute to our joint checking account? We don't make the same amount, therefore, I felt like putting a percentage rather than an amount would be ideal. I'm just having trouble figuring out what other couples do who are in our same situation.
Thank you and I look forward to listening to your show.
Congratulations on your new marriage! Enjoy every minute of this first year together. It's a really special time.
I don't have a ton of experience with not merging finances together. Nicole and I combined our finances after we got married and for the most part it has worked out pretty well. We still have disagreements about money every once in a while, but all in all, it's been a good arrangement for both of us.
Actually, I decided to consult my lovely bride on the answer to this question. We came up with two options for you to consider:
Option 1: Create Three Accounts (Yours, His and a Joint Account)
- Add your Take Home Pay (THP) and his THP to find out your Combined THP (ex. $60,000 + $40,000 = $100,000)
- Divide your THP by the Combined THP to find out your contribution percentage into joint checking (ex. $60,000 / $100,000 = 60%)
- Divide his THP by the Combined THP to find out his contribution percentage into joint checking (ex. $40,000 / $100,000 = 40%)
- Decide together what will be your joint family expenses. Are these the big things like mortgage, taxes, insurance, groceries, gas, utilities, etc? Do you lump the cars into this number if you both have your own car? What happens if/when kids come in the picture? What falls in the joint expenses category is something you'll have to decide early on to avoid confusion. (ex. $5,000 per month)
- Decide what is NOT included in this number. Are cell phones personal? Are they joint? How about haircuts, etc? How about retirement savings? (ex. $1,500 per month each)
- Once you've determined what is and is not a joint expense, then multiply your contribution percentage by the estimated joint expense total. (ex. 60% x $5,000 = $3,000 for you and 40% x $5,000 = $2,000 for him)
- You could break that up the amount for each month so you're falling in line with the percentage split.
For me, describing it this way might seem “fair” but it also feels like a lot of work. That's just me though.
Here's another option to consider!
Related Podcast: How Do I Get My Spouse on Board with Budgeting?
Option 2: One Account with Budget Categories
- Combine all of your earnings into one joint checking account
- Create categories in a budgeting system like Mint (or fav), Tiller, Personal Capital or Honeyfi that allow you to have the same freedom and autonomy as separate checking accounts without all of the hassles of having separate checking accounts.
- Talk together about what expense you feel is most important in your relationship first. This will probably start off with something like paying your mortgage, paying your utility bills, groceries, car payments, etc. Since you did FPU at your church, perhaps giving or tithing is important to both of you. Savings goals will probably come up as well. The point of this exercise is to decide what is most important to you as a couple and then prioritize the expenses from top to bottom.
- Both of your opinions matter. What's important to him might not be important to you, but that's okay. Find the small expenses and goals that you do agree on first and move on to the next one.
- Leave yourself a healthy “Miscellaneous” or “Fun Money” or “Whoops!” category to reduce money fights. One for each of you, that way the two of you aren't nitpicking at each other on small purchases each month.
Communication is the Key to Success
Whatever you chose to do, there is no right or wrong answer. Try something out for a while and if it doesn't work, try something else.
I'd highly recommend getting together periodically to discuss your finances, your budget, and your financial goals. Nicole and I get together once per month for our “budget party“. We have some pizza, if it's nice out we sit outside while the kids play, sometimes we go to a restaurant … and we have ourselves a little money chat. It's really helpful for us to plan out our month and it helps us to stay on the same page financially.
You two were smart to take Financial Peace University when you did. That will really help you to start your marriage off on the right foot. The communication aspect of that class did wonders for our marriage as well.
Kat, I hope this advice helps you! Congratulations again on your new marriage!
Money Master of the Week
Congratulations to Matt from Canada for creating a chore and reward program for his daughter, Gemma. He's spending time with his little girl teaching her the importance of spending, saving and giving.
After reading Smart Money, Smart Kids by Rachel Cruze, Matt was inspired to start this system to help Gemma have the best life possible.
Gemma already knows how to contribute to household chores, save up for larger purchases and give to a neighbor in need.
Matt from Canada is our Money Master of the Week!
You can learn more about Matt’s personal finance and parenting advice at Method To Your Money.
If you have a financial victory you want to share on this show, please leave me a voicemail (or email) and include the following: name, location, your big win, how you did it and your plans for the future.
Your story will inspire others to save more, make more and plan for their family’s future.
My challenge for this month is to become average. Yes, you heard me right! I want to work hard, change my ways and become average.
Okay, let me elaborate.
According to an incredibly motivating article by ZenCents, the average American my age (36) donates 2.34% of their annual income to charitable organizations. The average American overall donates 3.32% of their income – some give 0% and some give upwards of 40% … 3.32% is the average.
Let's just say, I'm below average.
I'm challenging myself to adjust my current annual contributions so I can meet my age group average immediately. And then my stretch goal for the month will be to adjust my budget to reach the average American charitable level by the end of the year.
Why Do I Want To Do This?
I want to be more giving.
There are millions of people around the world that lack the basic needs to live and I’m concerned with how quickly I'm being served at our favorite restaurant. It’s all about perspective and priorities.
I want to be someone who cares about their neighbor and lends a hand to someone in need.
I want my kids to become more giving.
If I want my kids to be the best little humans they can be, then I need to show them how. As I learned from Matt from Method To Your Money, our kids are always watching us and learning from us.
I don’t want to be below Average!
Being below average has never been something I’ve enjoyed in the past. Why would I want to be below average with my giving? It’s time for a change.
How Am I Going to Do This?
Analyze my current giving
Luckily, Nicole and I have been using Mint pretty consistently for the past 5+ years so pulling up the data was pretty simple.
Our below average giving rate is a dismal 2.27% – no good!
Review My Budget to See areas to Trim
I’m sure there are areas I can trim back … Audible comes to mind! That’s $15/month right there. I can go to the library instead. I’ll find some more “Audibles” and make some changes.
Related Resource: Save $1,000 Without Leaving Home
Find New Money
I can take my own challenge that I came up with last year about finding and saving $1,000 in three easy steps.
Set a Specific Short Term Goal
Since I was only 0.07% away from becoming an average giver for my age, I was able to take care of that right away. We adjusted our recurring donation to Charity: Water to jump over the average giver (for my age) mark!
Plan My “Average Giver” Goal
This is going to require a little more organization and planning. I need to set my recurring donations to hit an annual level of 3.32% of my income.
With a little planning and some collaboration with Nicole during our budget party this month, I think we can get there.
Decide Who’s Getting the Donation
Is more going to my church? Or other organizations we’re feeling passionate about lately?
For the past 6 years, we’ve donated to World Vision through their adopt a child program. Each of our kids has a child that matches up with their birthday so they will remember to think of others in need. Maybe we give more to World Vision?
Figuring this all out will be the fun part.
Set a Recurring Payment
I recently read the Automatic Millionaire by David Bach and one the last chapters in the book talked about “Automatic Giving”. It was the most inspiring chapter in the book for me.
Once we know how much we can give and who we want to give to, we’ll make it automatic. This will be similar to our retirement accounts and our monthly savings.
This way it becomes a habit.
Related Article: 7 Free Money Tools That Will Help You Build Wealth Today
Who's Going to Join Me?
Every good challenge is more fun with friends. Who’s willing to join me in this month’s MKM Challenge to become a more giving person?
If you’re interested, here’s what I’ll ask of you:
- Do the calculation to see how much of your net income you’re actually giving to charity
- Compare that to the average for your age group, income level or just the national average
- Have a discussion with your spouse, significant other or, if you’re single, someone you trust. Share your thoughts and feelings about increasing your giving.
- Decide what level is right for you. Can you give just a little bit more than you’re giving today?
- Contact me and tell me if you did this! I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on this topic. I’m new to being a more generous giver and I want to improve. Having folks do the challenge alongside me will be fun.
The challenge has been laid down my friends … Who is in?
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