It’s been on my heart to write about money, because it’s something that I see pulling at couples before they are even married. Believe me, I remember the moment that I had to accept that marrying my husband meant taking on his student debt. There was a day in the midst of joining finances that I realized we would be repaying his loan for many years.
Although compared to many it was a small amount, I was tempted to feel resentful that he hadn’t been better at working toward paying it off before we met and now I would have to “help” him pay it off. But in that moment I knew marriage was joining everything- the past was in the past, our finances were becoming one, and we would pay it off together.
For many couples who have been living together for years before marriage, keeping separate accounts seems normal. It’s how they’ve been managing it up until now and it seems to work for them. There might be a joint account for shared household bills, but then they had personal accounts for their own use.
I’m going to go as far to say that these separate personal accounts are contrary to the whole purpose of marriage. Marriage is a union of man and woman where, through their consent, they give themselves totally to each other. “The two become one flesh” in a self-gift that compliments and fulfills one another. We were not meant to live alone, and therefore I think we can say we were not meant to manage our money individually.
The Catechism describes marriage as “the matrimonial covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life.” CCC 1601 Partnership of the whole life. Such as, shared bank accounts. In marriage, the couple becomes a witness of Christ’s love for the Church and has been raised to the dignity of a Sacrament. Remember what a sacrament is: a visible image of God’s love. Do you think Christ would withhold anything for himself, for his own personal gain? I don’t think so, as he gave it all for us on the cross. In the same way, we sacrifice ourselves and lay our own wants down for the good of our marriage and for our family. In this way, we image Christ’s love in that total self-gift. We bring our earned money and lay it at each other’s feet, metaphorically speaking, and say, “All I have I give to you. What’s mine is yours.”
When the other comes first, it’s easy to see why joining money is a good idea in marriage.And even if you disagree on how to spend money, joint accounts force you to work out an agreement. I think we started that way – on totally opposites sides of spending and saving. We fought a lot about money those first few years as we tried to navigate our growing family.
But now, I think by working out our finances, it has brought us closer on a deeper level. Not that we never argue about money anymore, but we know how to work it out until we come to an agreement. It has deepened our communion and built our trust in one another. We truly work as a team when we tithe, spend, and save our money together.
In contrast, if you disagree on how to spend and save and decide to each do your own thing, where is the unity, the partnership, the goal of marriage to witness to Christ’s love? “You do it your way and I’ll do it mine” is not a good mantra for marriage. The two become one flesh. Your debts become my debts, your savings become my savings. We share it all in common! By avoiding these difficult money conversations, your accounts become a ticking time bomb ready to explode your relationship.
A couple recently emailed us trying to defend their decision to put money into a joint account for bills and save the rest in their personal accounts for their own spending such as haircuts, eating out, etc. Here is a part of our response:
“Separate accounts gives a barrier - something that is mine and you can't have, or often times the other doesn't even have access to. Sometimes this can lead to resentment or conflict because one person makes more money than another, or one spends more than another. Right now for you, it is simple enough. But what about when the kids come and you start spending more money on your kids than yourselves? Do you split the kids clothing, doctors visits, and grocery bills then? Or what about your vacations -do you pay for them equally out of your own separate accounts? Or, like us, Allison is mostly at home with the kids and Nathan is the breadwinner. So really the money is "his", but Allison spends it on groceries, the kids, the house, etc. By joining our money, there was no keeping score or wondering what the other person was hiding or doing.”
When you pool your money into one account, everything can flow through a budget from there. You each can have a line item for your own spending money, but it doesn’t matter whose paycheck it came from. Big purchases over your budget limit need to be decided together as a team. By budgeting, you should order your money in this way:
- God (tithing)
- personal spending money
Only what is leftover is for the extras like getting your nails done and going on vacation. Budgeting in this way demands self-control. Well, so do most things that are good for your marriage such as NFP, waking up on time for your job, practicing good communication, raising your kids with discipline. But again, the shared accounts are worth it for the way it brings you closer and reflects the partnership that marriage is about.
God, Marriage, and Money, Discovering Your Money Mindsets, by Jon and Evelyn Bean at Compass Catholic Ministries
Take the Money Couple quiz, it is free and takes about 10 minutes.
An example of budget.