Managing finances as a couple

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This is a guest post from Peter King at King of Your Money on how he and his wife are managing finances as a couple.

Peter and Vanessa King on managing their money as a couple

Our journey started over 8 years ago. We moved in together in January 2012, and we have always said that we regard ourselves as married and fully committed to each other, but it was never an official marriage. This all changed last year when we decided to prevent any “legal issues”, especially regarding finances, and we tied the knot. Officially married on 31 December 2019.

We have a perfect relationship wherein we recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses and are not dominating each other in any way.

This is the basis for our financial management as well. Vanessa recognizes the fact that I am the one with much better knowledge and control over financial matters and leaves virtually all decisions to me. She, however, knows one of my weaknesses being procrastination and will keep me on my toes when financially (or otherwise) related matters need to be addressed. That being said, Vanessa is not ignorant about financial matters and is fully aware and in control of her pension fund status, beneficiaries and financial matters relating to her.

How we’re managing finances as a couple

We each earn a salary and it is paid into our own bank account. Just after the money has been deposited, I assess any debit orders and automated transfers (including her R 2 750 towards her tax free savings account) from her account and transfer the remaining amount, barring a small amount for some discretionary spending, to my credit card. Vanessa has a secondary card on this account and can use it for anything we need (or sometimes want). I also push my excess funds into the same account after all debt, debit orders and commitments are accounted for.

We don’t really budget, but rather work on a maximum allowed spend per month and don’t break it down into individual items. Neither of us are spenders or shoppers by nature, but out of courtesy, we inform each other if we want to spend on something out of the ordinary or if the amount is relatively large. I keep track of the balance of the credit card and if I see we are spending more than normal, we will discuss it and just cut down on extras to bring us back on track.

Large items, such as buying our house, the building alterations we did the last few years, our garden shed, greenhouse, small vegetable garden building works, cars, holidays and expensive electronic items will be discussed in more detail. Based then on our financial position and the progress we have made in killing all our debt, a decision will be made jointly. I have to apply some self-control at times, because Vanessa will allow me to buy just about anything while she postpones a haircut a few more weeks to keep spending down.

Disagreements

Our most debated topic around finances is something that makes Vanessa a wonderful person but can also be a weakness. Helping friends and family members financially. This is an amazing trait being helpful and supportive, but unfortunately it can sometimes be detrimental to our own finances. We don’t fight over it (we never fight about anything – as unbelievable this might sound), but sometimes I need to pull up the handbrake and keep this spending to manageable levels.

Tracking our expenses

I am an Excel freak. I will put anything in a spreadsheet. Our financial workbook must have about 40 sheets by now. The most obvious ones are keeping monthly track of our debt, our investments and associated graphs to see it visually. Then there are the projection sheets and graphs and various other analysis sheets.

I use 22seven extensively to keep track of investments, bank accounts and expenses. Although we don’t actually budget, I keep track of the budgeting section on 22seven and will analyze why we went over the monthly average in each item and see how we can catch up or fix the problem. (See another budgeting app called YNAB – Brendan)

With my retirement date approaching fast (October 2025) and without enough investments to be financially independent by that date, every effort is made to get as close as possible. You can read my story on my blog at www.kingofyourmoney.com and get regular updates on our progress. The blog is still very new, but our progress so far and regular updates will be added soon. I would love to hear your comments and criticism of what and how we are doing it.

Closing thoughts on managing finances as a couple

There is no perfect solution for any couple when it comes to personal financial management. Each member of the household will have a unique personality and the combination of the two personalities will also be unique. My advice would be to determine a strategy that will work for you regarding your finances, based on your knowledge, interests and personality. Maybe it is just me, but if I am forced into doing something I don’t want to do or don’t like to do, I either don’t do it at all or do the opposite. If neither of you like doing personal finances, the possibility is always there to
get a money coach or financial advisor to work out a financial path and process for you.

There are numerous ways for successfully managing finances as a couple, being it a single account like we do or each person having his/her own list of monthly payments to look after or having a joint or separate budget or taking turns to pay certain accounts or any other method that might work for you. I do however suggest that if you each manage you own finances with split responsibilities, to get together and compare notes on a periodic basis. Especially on the investment side, a segregated approach can be less effective.

Our relationship and marriage might seem like utopia to many of you, but bad financial management and financial stress is in many cases the start of relationship problems. Focus on getting this fixed and life will already be so much better.

Proper personal financial management has a very simple starting point:

Spend less than what you earn and after debt has been taken care of, invest the rest.

The question of when you should start?

The answer is “yesterday”.

If you left it too late on the investment front like we did: Start NOW.

Rather late than never.

Please share your thoughts