So, you’re trying to figure out how to manage bills as a married couple, huh?
This is one of the first dilemmas many married couples face, simply figuring out how to divvy up the bills. Do you do this thing together, based on how much one gets paid, or something else?
What starts out as a simple line of questioning can turn into a major source of contention if you aren’t careful.
While there isn’t a one-size fit all solution when it comes to managing your money, it’s best to consider ALL of the options regardless of the many opinions out there on how you should do it.
Keep in mind, what works for one couple may end up being the worst decision you could make as a couple.
Rather than just simply giving you my opinion on what you should do and consider it to be the holy grail, I’m going to share a few ways you can manage your bills as a married couple.
Hopefully, one of these options will help you develop a budget you both will love and help you move on to work on the next piece of your financial journey together. So, without further delay, let’s dive right into a few different ways of managing your bills together.
Related Reading: 4 Misconceptions About Married Couples and Separate Bank Accounts
How to Manage Bills as a Married Couple So You’ll Both Love The Budget
The “You Pay Your Bills, I Pay My Bills, We Pay Our Bills” Method
I hear many couples talk about this method often and honestly, I can understand their reasoning why it works so well. I mean, here you are out here leading an independent life prior to meeting bae and you simply figured you’d continue holding it down like you always had.
You’re sitting here like, “what’s the fuss?” Why can’t you just continue handling the responsibilities you had prior to marriage and just split up any bills you incur as a couple?
The logic is simple, but then again, it really isn’t when you think of what marriage really is. When you get married, you are joining a union and the whole “what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is yours” comes into effect. That’s unless you have a prenup or something.
Also, let’s not forget that a marriage is a business decision too. While your consumer debt won’t be merged together, you’ll share just about everything else when it comes to your finances.
If you purchase a home, that will be shared debt and it’s a bill you’re both on the hook for. You’ll have utilities for your place of residence and even if only one of your names are on the bill, you both will be using those utilities. And if something happens to you, your spouse is still on the hook for that debt and those other bills.
So, the whole, “you pay your bills, I pay my bills, we pay our bills” method is only going to work up to a certain point. You can pay your consumer debts, he can pay his debts, all while managing household expenses together. But here’s something you both should consider. How much quicker would you be able to achieve your financial goals if you worked together and did double-time on your individual debts?
Now, of course, I understand it’s not fair for you to have to work on paying someone else’s debt. He racked up that credit card debt (probably on his old boo) long before you all got married. Why should you have to pay for it?
I get it sis, really I do. But unless he hid it from you, it didn’t stop you from marrying him, did it?
Have a conversation about these things because I’m sure that you have some things you would like to achieve together. How would you like your life to be in five to seven years?
Will your individual debts stand in the way of you living that desired lifestyle? Here are twenty questions that will help you and your spouse get on the same page when it comes to your goals.
Once you have that discussion, you both may decide you want to do this together rather than individually so you can achieve your goals more quickly. I’ll elaborate more on this method in a little, for now, let’s talk about the “base it on your income” method.
The “Base It On Your Income” Method
This method causes quite a stir and I can certainly understand why. If your spouse is making $25k more than you are, splitting bills 50/50 would hardly seem fair, right?
This could lead to a lot of hurt feelings and resentment. One spouse will feel like they never have enough money for the things they want to do. Meanwhile, their partner has a copious amount of disposable income.
Well, in this situation the couple would need to simply figure out what is fair when it comes to splitting. For example, the total cost of your household bills might be $3,000 or something like that. The total income for the household each month is $12,000, with one spouse earning $8,000 and the other earning $4,000 per month.
If you were to split this thing 50/50, one spouse would be left with a lot less of their monthly income after paying their portion of the bills. But, if you base it on your income and split the expenses based on an equal percentage, you could make it work.
For example, divide the monthly income of each spouse by the total household monthly income.
Then just divide each partner’s income by the total income as shown below…
$8,000/$12,000 = 67 percent
$4,000/$12,000 = 33 percent
These numbers would give the percentage of the household expenses each spouse should be responsible for. In this case, it would mean one spouse would pay 67 percent ($2,010) of the $3,000 in total household expenses. The other would pay 33 percent ($990).
Even though the couple earns a different amount, they could still use this method to effectively manage their household expenses together. But even still, it’s not the method I decided to go with and we’ll soon discuss why. But first, let’s go over the very last method…
The “We’re In This Together” Method
This is the method my husband and I employ and we’re not alone. While we haven’t obtained financial independence (yet), I recently reached out to a colleague to weigh in on how this method helped her and her husband get out of debt.
Here are Ashley’s thoughts on the subject…
“My husband has a completely different approach to handling money. To his credit, he’s naturally frugal, but he believes if he works hard (which he does) he deserves to get the things he really, really wants. Needless to say, when we were first married we COULD NOT talk about money without getting into an argument lol.
This caused us to make really poor financial decisions, and accumulate debt. When enough was enough, we came up with a plan to tackle the debt. He was on board but would spend money without checking the budget or the overall plan. So, here’s what we did:
1. We worked with 3 bank accounts. One for the bills, one for his fun money, and one for mine. Every time he got paid, $20 would get auto-transferred to each of our fun money accounts (now it’s 5%).
This way, he could spend his money however he wanted, but it didn’t impact the budget or overall debt payoff plan. We also agreed that I would manage the accounts, and have monthly budget meetings.
In my professional opinion, I think getting the overall banking situation sorted out is one of the first steps to take for couples trying to merge/work on finances together; especially debt repayment.
It’s very hard to tackle a big goal when everything’s split down the middle, or if one person is accountable for transactions while the other isn’t.
Maintaining a sense of individuality while working as a team is especially important because we each have our own perspectives and financial personalities. Dealing with the bank account situation can help with that.
2. We automated the bills, especially the mortgage and auto loans. Automating bi-weekly payments on installment loans helps to pay the loan off faster, but it’s also an effective way to tackle debt even when one partner isn’t completely on board. Over time, you can gradually increase the bi-weekly amounts. To your partner, it’s just another bill that’s set on auto-payments.
3. We stopped pointing fingers, and figured out where we each could improve. That was the root cause of our financial arguments. Once we started focusing on where we both could improve, it became a challenge and actually kind of fun!“ – Ashley Narcisse
As you can see, Ashley and her spouse weren’t concerned with who made more or what belonged to who, their only concern was creating a way to manage their bills and debt in a way that would help them achieve their financial goals. They worked together as a team.
Related Reading: How 7 Women Got Their Spouses on Board to Pay Off Debt
Working Together as a Couple To Achieve Financial Independence
Like I mentioned before, my husband and I went with the “we’re in this together”. It made more sense to me since we both share the same financial goals. We’re trying to build a legacy together and we work better as a team.
We still maintain our sense of independence where our spending habits are concerned, but we create a budget to keep both of us in check and we maintain a certain level of respect for each other where our finances are concerned. With that said, here are a few things to keep in mind that helped us tremendously over the years:
All income is our income.
I do freelance writing, blogging, and I’ve also had several side hustles over the years. Regardless of me being the one doing the work, I’ve always considered it our income. My husband keeps the kids busy when I have calls. He’s helping around the house when I’m writing.
There’s so much that both of us do to keep our household running and it wouldn’t be fair to say he isn’t the one earning the money. He may not be performing the services in exchange for money but he’s supporting me and without that support, I wouldn’t be able to do the work.
All bills are our responsibility.
We pool all of our money together to handle all of our expenses because seriously, who wants to sit around and calculate who should pay a fifth more for the electricity because one person makes more? I know I don’t!
As far as our spending money goes, our budget dictates what we should allocate towards our individual spending. Bank account automation assigns the money to our accounts so we can handle whatever it is we need to do in any given month.
Debt holds us back regardless of who it belongs to.
I came into our marriage with student loan debt and my husband didn’t. Pointing fingers at who brought the debt and who should pay it off doesn’t make it go away. It just makes for an unhappy life.
We both spend time reflecting on how to increase our income so we can pay off the debt that’s holding us back. So, basically, it’s our debt until the balance reaches $0. Working together, that’s going to happen a lot sooner than it would if we were at odds with each other about it.
Wrapping Thangs Up
As you can see, there are many ways you can manage bills as a married couple. However, figuring out one that will help you create a budget you love is the tricky part.
Consider (or even try) all of these until you come up with a financial solution that works for you. Just because the “we’re in this together” method works for me doesn’t mean that it will work for you.
Once you open up the lines of communication with your partner and get this part of your finances settled, you’ll be in a much better position to achieve financial independence.
Be sure to grab the free pdf with 20 questions to ask your partner if you’re having trouble getting on the same page financially. Click the image below.