How Do Healthy Couples Budget Together: Eight Couples Share Their Stories

I've shared two posts recently that talked about financial abuse. One, a woman's story about how getting divorced improved her finances, due to the financial abuse in her marriage, and then another, where six women shared their stories of financial abuse, to help educate people about this not too often discussed topic.

After my posts, someone reached out to me and told me that now that I spoke about what financial abuse is, can I write a post about how happily married couples healthily deal with finances, so people can know what to do, and not just what is bad. Which is a great idea and all, but since I didn't have a healthy marriage, hence divorcing, I wasn't the right person to talk about this. But I reached out to my friends and asked them to share their stories, about how they deal with finances in a healthy way in their marriage.

Here's eight stories. And you'll see, everyone does it differently, but the basic underlying premise is that they all communicate and everything is done as a team; even when its not completely as a team its because that's how both people in the marriage want it done. No one is telling the other how to do things, but they work together with teamwork.

First Couple's Story

Katie and Calvin, mid-30s, one child, one dog, slightly below average household income for where we live.

My husband and I are very on top of our budget. Before we met, he was a saver, and I was… less… but I always earned enough to support myself and never went into debt. He’s a bookkeeper by profession, so he’s used to balancing budgets. For the past few years, we’ve been tracking our expenses in a shared Google sheet that is divided into categories. We both have credit cards that link to the same account and use as little cash as possible. This way we can periodically compare our credit card statements online with our own tracking to make sure that things match up.

Part of our monthly budget includes the equivalent of around $300 that we set up to automatically get deducted and go to savings. This comes off right after our paychecks come in. At the end of the month, anything we have left goes to either our emergency fund or anything else that we are saving up for (vacation, sinking fund, large expenses). I am less financially inclined and investment savvy than my husband, but he insists that we make all decisions jointly. So he explains our investments to me often because he says that I need to understand how these things work because they are also mine.

Honestly, we see our shopping around and savings on groceries as somewhat of a game. We congratulate each other when we find great deals. We love comparing our spending to previous months and take pride in how we can make our money stretch. While our income isn’t the highest, we live well. We are both good cooks and have learned to imitate, and improve upon some of our takeout favorites. We travel occasionally, eat out occasionally and splurge occasionally, while staying without our monthly budget.

In the past year, we've made several changes to our lifestyle. We became homeowners for the first time. I got a new job and earn more than I did before. My new job is walking distance from our home, so we sold our car and I now walk to work and otherwise rely on public transportation. And just this month, our daughter started public school, which saves us a small fortune on childcare. We hope that our increased savings can go toward paying off chunks of our mortgage in the future.

This type of system requires teamwork, mutual respect and dedication. We are constantly revisiting our expenses and improving upon or changing our budget as needed. It is the product of years of effort and evolution and didn’t appear overnight.

Second Couple's Story

I think it's important to take an account of you and your partner's skills and talents. If you're not yet in a relationship, it really is something to consider. My husband and I are both very creative and capable in different, complimentary ways. We decided to renovate our apartment, and between the two of us, we saved a lot of money doing things ourselves. We design and make furniture that suits or needs and our space, and if things break, we are thankfully able to fix them most of the time rather than buy a new one.

We split up chores in similar ways, and they always get done in an efficient way. Are we necessarily considered "frugal?" Probably not, but we DO share a similar view on money and what it's worth spending on, and that's also important in making things work. Ultimately, we do most of the time end up getting a lot of value from our efforts in comparison to what we spend, and the satisfaction from that is worth a lot to us.

Third Couple's Story

I am main breadwinner, but I know very little about our finances. Only recently did my husband convince me to download our bank app on my phone so I can check the balance. I guess it is a good idea, but practically, it makes little difference to me.
We track expenses, its not exactly budgeting. Meaning, we want to know what category we are spending on, and when necessary, we then know where we can cut down. I give all receipts to my husband, and he is in charge of entering them in. Of course we both can buy anything we want, whenever we want, but I usually ask him before making any big purchase. Not because I have to, but because I like to make sure it is the right financial timing for such a purchase. He usually doesn't check with me though. I am OK with that, because I trust his judgement. Plus, often if its expensive, he prob bought it for me.
My husband does all the supermarket shopping, so he knows how to shop for best prices, and when we can splurge more on special items. I do clothing shopping for myself and kids, so again if a few items here and there, I don't check in, but if doing a massive clothing shop, I'll check if it makes a difference to wait a week or two.
My husband also manages our investments.
Every three months or so, we sit down together to look at our quarterly expenses and trajectory of our investments.
Also, randomly I sometimes ask how we are doing in any given month.
What makes me feel comfortable is that everything is tracked, and any time I ask a question, I get a clear detailed answer.
It may not work for everyone to be so oblivious to their own financials. Sometimes it does feel I live in lala land. But it comes down to trust. Neither of us are big spenders with expensive taste in designer items. We generally agree on the areas worth splurging on, and when we don't, its usually not on large amounts, so we let it go.
I do hope to become more aware, and I know I can of I wanted to. Managing financials is time consuming, and its just not something I want to spend my time on right now.

Fourth Couple's Story
Generally we are both frugal. When we got married, we used to sit together and budget either per year or after that, every time our financial circumstances changed so we both had a sense of expenses and what we were making.
I'm more restrictive by nature and he's better at arithmetic ie mentally keeping track of what's going out vs coming in so if he says we can afford it, I trust him and defer. I do have to make a case for home repairs; he tends to be willing to live in more threadbare surroundings than I am. I'm more frugal about food; he grew up very skinny (as are our kids) and was taught whatever the kids want, they eat.
Generally, though, we are on the same page. On occasion one of us wants to spend a lot of money that the other person disagrees with; in those cases we will usually save up for 2-5 years to get it. During 'lean years' we tighten up, during 'fat years' there is more flexibility, but we usually first build up savings before spending. We have conversations about long term goals and short term desires.

Fifth Couple's Story

We have learned to respect each other's upbringing. When I was growing up, if I went out for pizza with friends, my parents would say, "Okay, you want to order 2 slices and a soda? Here's 4 dollars, Bring us the change." That's how I was raised. My husband was raised as, "You're going with friends for pizza? Here's $100. Keep the change." Ironically, my parents and in laws are in the same income bracket, just very different views on finances.
We both came into the marriage with our parent's attitudes towards money and have learned to ease up a bit along the way. I don't freak out or make a big deal when my husband decides to buy a $5 drink as he shops, and he's learned to think twice before making a silly purchase. Additionally, there's no "my money" or "his money". We both have joint accounts in America or joint accounts here. We both work very hard for our salaries and I would never tell him he can't buy something big that's important to him because I know he would never say that to me. I'm more in charge of the finances than he is and that works for us.
We also took a 6 week budgeting workshop together recently. Not because it's necessary, but really just so we could be on the same page and have discussions about the class and tools being taught.

We don't have a strict budget. I find it difficult with teenagers because every day someone needs something out of nowhere. But we are very much on top of our income and expenses (that's something my husband had to adjust to) and we discuss finances very regularly. Things like what should come out of what account on what date, how much should be moved into this account for that future expense, etc. We plan together. How much should be put into the accounts for our kids' college funds. How much should be put into accounts for the kids' weddings. Preparing for the future was also something he had to get used to. It took work because our backgrounds were so different. The course we took specifically talked about 'money scripts' and it was an eye opener. It took work but now we're on the same page in a very respectful way.

Sixth Couple's Story

We have pretty limited resources, and we both value the "little things" that show care for each other. When we go shopping we usually get something small for each other, a candy or small gift (I got him a $2 back scratcher once).

Something very heartwarming (I think, at least) is that when we first got married and we were struggling a lot with money, even more than we do now, my husband said he'd do the grocery shopping. This was great for a few reasons, the biggest one being that I'm kind of an impulse shopper sometimes and have a hard time sticking to the list. We were on an extremely tight budget back then, so every dollar counted. He used to tell me to put things I wanted on the shopping list and he'd find a way to make it happen. Then based on what I wrote down, he juggled the rest of our essentials to make sure we had what we needed, but he didn’t tell me the details so that I wouldn't feel deprived by knowing what things we gave up that week in exchange for the other things. Him doing the shopping also helps with that, because then I don’t get sad seeing all the extras I would want to buy but couldn't.

Right now we work around the things we can't change. Mortgage, car payments, etc. Then we figure out what else we need and prioritize accordingly.

We used to write it out, but now we both know the basic plan. If there's a question about anything out of the ordinary (something costs more than expected, or the opportunity for something expensive is on sale or whatever else), we'll usually send a quick text or phone call to check in with each other. It's never really an issue; thankfully we don’t fight over money.

Seventh Couple's Story

My husband and I both grew up not having a lot of money, so we both understand the need to live frugally and the importance of budgeting. He makes all the money at the moment, and I take care of the house. By choice. I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. He is in charge of paying the bills, mostly because he wanted to and I didn't care that much, but also because he speaks the local language better than I do.
We made a budget together, and reviewed/updated it together when he got a new job and bigger salary. We do have a shared bank account, mostly for convenience, but we've talked about me having a separate account when I have a steady income.
We trust each other. We don't have to tell each other everything we spend money on, but we do usually ask each other's opinion on anything significant. We also both know that mental health is very important, and that, while we need to be careful with money, freaking out about every penny spent is extremely unhealthy.
Also, we budget dates. Not as often as we would like, things come up, but we try.

Eighth Couple's Story

There are a number of things which I feel are strong in our financial relationship:
1. Budgeting: we know what our monthly expenditures are and thus can plan more carefully with our extra expenditures
2. Budgeting long term: We think about what large costs may come up and put money away for them.
3. We watch our budget. We check to see where we are with the extra expenditures on the 20th and 1st of each month before the credit card bills get paid on the 10th.
4. We communicate about big expenditures.
5. We communicate about limits so that we know when we need to discuss the smaller expenditures
These are the guidelines that we follow so that the money is not stressful. We know what we have, where we are and where we do need to watch more carefully so not everything is a discussion but the discussions do happen before they become a problematic situation.

Budget in our terminology is the amount of money that goes through our account in a month. It's based upon our salaries, regular bills, the amount we put into savings from the salaries and the amount of other expenditures we have.
Regular bills are known ahead of time. Those are consistent every month as well as the savings. For everything else we look at what we need (money, stuff for the kids etc ). If there is extra we put it into savings.
For big expenditures I tell my husband how much we need and he decides how to divide it based upon general expenditure each month.... For example, some regular bills get paid every two months so we budget more for it the other months. And right now summer camps for next year are our current discussion point. I am doing the research to determine how much we will need.
We have pretty general grocery lists and replace items when we run out. We don't make large meat purchases often, mostly we eat chicken and eggs and ground beef. Each month our grocery bill stays within 20-40 dollars.
Our big flexibility is family trips.... When we have the extra money we go to places we need to spend and when we don't we hike.

The big thing is communication. We watch throughout the month where we are so there are no surprises. We save for surprises that can't be avoided and we budget ahead for large purchases that we know we will have. We don't really disagree ever. My husband says "this is where we are on finances at this point please be careful". Yes, I'm cool with him telling me that. It's reporting facts. What is there to not be cool about? We have a set salary amount per month. I understand the need to be careful because it's my money and savings too.

Would you say you and your spouse have a healthy way of dealing with finances? Would you like to share how you do it?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. These husbands all sound so kind and respectful and reasonable. I hope you find one like this someday. Me too. My daughter and her husband are like couple one.

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