Why We Didn’t Merge Finances After Marriage

Why We Didn’t Merge Finances After Marriage

Happy Memorial Day! We are grateful to the men and women who have fallen while serving our country!

We took advantage of the long weekend by camping at a family farm and playing three disc golf courses. The trip was totally free other than the ice cream cones we bought one afternoon when we were caught in the rain and sought shelter at a little convenient store. We sat on their porch and watched the storm roll in while enjoying our treat. Two cones for four dollars!

Coming home this evening and unpacking our camping gear took quite a bit of time. We had to wash dishes, start laundry, make a grocery list, and sort out all our dirty gear. I ran to the store to stock up on groceries for the week and I returned to find that S. had used no less than six clean bath towels to dry Ranger off after his bath. They littered our house like a crumb trail back to the bathroom. But I chose to be grateful that S. gave Ranger a bath, instead of crabbing that he used all the towels and left them all over the house! Ranger hates baths and it really is a difficult task, he was caked in three days worth of filth, and I came home to find him all clean and downy, snoozing on the sofa. Job well done, Steve!

Living life by our rules

Around here we try to never forget that we’re on the same team. And our team operates the way we want it to, not how other people think it should. Ahem, society!

The worst thing we can do for our marriage is hold it to a golden standard that harkens back to the 1940s. We all seem to have this idea of what marriage should look like: 

You both trot off to your 9-5 in the morning at the same time

Dinner on the table at 6:00 pm

Laughing over a show on the telly together in the evening

Retiring to bed at the same time for some pillow talk before falling asleep side by side

And if we aren’t two people orbiting through life on the exact same path than we feel like we’re somehow not doing it right. Our marriage looks nothing like the above, by the way.

Our wedding chapel

We go to work at different times

We forgo our dining room table to have dinner at the coffee table in the family room, often as late as 9:00 or even 10:00 pm

And I go to bed much earlier than S. because I wake earlier for work each day.

Yes, you become a team when you’re married, but it’s not like that family reunion game of having your legs tied together with the task of running across the lawn without falling flat on your faces. 

You’re two different people with different interests and its ok to take trips without each other, have separate friends and hobbies, and even keep your finances separate. For some people, combining finances when they tied the knot made sense, but it didn’t for us And rather than subscribe to some notion that we need everything to be in a certain order to have a healthy marriage, we decided to, as we do with most things in life, go our own route and do what worked for us.

I’ve outlined the seven main reasons our finances are still separate after being married for 10 months

1. We dated for seven years, and successfully kept everything divided 

Over seven-year relationship evolved over time and so did our finances. In the beginning money only came up on dates, and who would split what. Eventually, we spent more time at each other’s homes and so the question of who would buy the groceries that evening became a topic of discussion frequently. Later, we moved in together and over trial and error managed to come up with a plan to pay our rent and bills that made both of us happy.

As with almost everything in our relationship, we split everything 50/50, an easy task to do when you bring in very similar incomes. We also split the household chores evenly, like the task of caring for our dog (I’ve got the morning walk, Steve does the night shift, and we both care for him in between). We threw out gender roles and subscribed to an equal party system. It’s worked so well for us that we haven’t seen any reason to change it. It also took years to iron out this system

2. My student loans

While Steve had a very, very minimal balance of student loan debt that is now paid off, my student loans have always numbered in the thousands. When we were dating the number hovered around 35k, and since then I’ve been able to pay the balance plus interest down to just over 11k. 

While S. doesn’t contribute to my loan payments in the standard sense of just forking over money each month, he goes above and beyond to help me reach my goals of paying down my debt. He’s taken on our frugal lifestyle with verve and is very cautious about money himself. He does all, and I mean all, our home repairs which saves us a fortune. He just replaced a support beam on our deck when it crumbled. He’s also okay with not going to fancy dinners, not traveling to crazy expensive places, and all-around living very simply. He never, ever complains about it, either. I’m just so, so thankful he didn’t incur similar debt to mine. Neither of us have any other debt, or consumer debt, so I think we’re trucking along okay. I feel like I’ve been in battle with these loans, and it’s my war to win. 

3. Freedom from each other’s personal decisions

I worked in retail long enough to hear other women talk about hiding shopping bags in their trunks, or they’d sign a $2000 receipt while mumbling that their husbands were going to kill them. I never wanted S. and I to have to hide purchases from each other, or feel that we were under scrutiny. As much as I talk about saving money and putting everything into my loans, yes, sometimes I mess up and buy the pretty dress on the sales rack, or the handbag I don’t need, or another round of drinks we all could have done without. Having separate checking accounts and credit cards means that we are in charge of our own spending, and if S. wants to buy something frivolous, well it’s of no concern to me. 

4. Too Lazy

Okay, after seven years of managing our finances this way, I’d be lying if I said maintaining the status quo didn’t have just a little bit to do with being lazy. I have two reward credit cards and a checking account, and Steve has his own checking account, as well. Repapering these accounts is just not at the top of my to-do list right now. 

5. Our finances are separate, but our dreams are the same

Yes, we spend individually, split our bills down the middle, and manage our own bank accounts, but we talk regularly about our long term dreams which include things like eventually putting more work into our house and making it more attractive to a buyer, having children, and how we’ll pay for one of our cars when it finally bites the dust. We have fun dreams, too, like living on a houseboat or a tiny cabin in Asheville, making our home into and rental and traveling on the income. 

6. We share a savings account

Although we keep everything else separate, we do share a savings account into which money we received at our weeding went, and any savings either of us can scrape together at the end of the month. Right now, this fund is mostly just a rainy day/emergency fund. While still paying down my debt, investment goals have been a little stifled, but we still squirrel away what we can. S. was recently in a hit and run accident and had to draw a little from this account to repair his car

7. I saved the best reason for last: it works for us

Keeping our monies separate works for us right now. And maybe it’s not what our parents did (but hello, we both had stay-at-home moms so of course they had to share their money), and maybe it’s not what Todd and Jessica down the street are doing, but it works for us. I cannot reiterate that enough. Couples divorce every day, and finances are the number one reason. If what we do looks strange to someone on the outside, well, tough, our marriage is intact and we’re both happy with the arrangement. 

Over time it’s likely that what we are doing right now might evolve into something totally different. Marriage after student loan debt is totally uncharted waters for us and I’m excited about how it will change our finances. We’ll have much more money left over each month to allocate elsewhere. At that time, we’ll evaluate, discuss, and act. Until then our finances are operating relatively on autopilot, which frees up time and brainpower to do stuff we love! 

Back to Top