Budget As A Couple
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[PERSONAL] How We Budget As A Couple: 3 Things That Worked Really Well!

Studies say you don’t necessarily need to be married to be happy, but in my case, sharing my life with my partner is one of the best experiences, I’m enjoying it 🙂 He’s a good man – I guess my approach to dating worked 🙂

So, obviously, as a married couple, we now run a household together, and jointly responsible for our finances. This article breaks down how we decided to budget as a couple, in a way that works for us. Under no circumstances I want to imply this is the best way for everyone, just the best way for us. Here are 3 things that worked really well:

#1 – We took the Financial Behaviour Test

Money as a topic comes up often during the dating stage (it’s not like he didn’t know he was dating a personal finance blogger…), and we had a lot of conversations about it, including on camera, when we did a Boyfriend Tag: Should We Combine Our Finances? & Other Money Questions video.

However, everything really came together when we both took The Financial Behaviour Test. It was an amazing AHA moment for both of us – only then we understood why we behaved the way we did with money.

The best part was the Financial Behaviour Comparison Report, showing his and my tendencies side-by-side. I am very happy to discover that we are mostly aligned – we are both low risk takers, savers (as opposed to spenders), and happy to pursue a content life (as opposed to an extravagant life) 🙂

financial behaviour report

In fact, it was because of his high score in financial relationship management (second line) and preference for financial advisors that I got him a professional financial planning session as a birthday present. He loved it <3

I would happily recommend the Financial Behaviour Report to everyone. You can even turn it into a date – Buy the Financial Behaviour Report for you and your partner and go through your results together 🙂 Individuals can do it too and learn more about yourself.

EDIT: The Financial Behaviour Report – Couple is unavailable until July 2021. Individual still available 🙂

Buy it here >> Financial Behaviour Report (Individual RM49 /Couple RM99)

#2 – We decided on ‘I pay for this expense you cover that one’ approach (for now)

There are so many ways to budget as a couple. Some swear by joint bank account, some do the ratio approach based on income, some give total financial responsibility to the husband, etc.

As mentioned in my Thoughts I Have About Marriage (and Money Management) article, both of us were raised in families where all the women and men earned money, so we are now living the DINK lifestyle (dual income, no kids), with shared as well as individual expenses.

Individually, our financial situations are healthy, but different:

My situation:

  • Self-employed so income fluctuates a lot – some months three figures, some months five figures, most months four figures
  • Multiple sources of income
  • Healthy amount in savings, no consumer debt
  • Well-funded but extremely high-risk investment portfolio; additional funding via lump sum method – every six or so months

His situation:

  • Employed with stable income
  • Single source of income; currently learning additional skills
  • Healthy amount in savings, no consumer debt. Paying for mortgage (yet to receive key) and car loan
  • Building up investment portfolio; additional funding via dollar cost averaging method – monthly deductions

We thought of having a joint account at some point, but at this stage, while we’re waiting to move into our permanent home, we have decided to split our expenses this way:

  • Me: Cover Groceries and Rent (plus the bills – electric, aircon, water and Indah Water)
  • Him: Cover Mortgage and Car loan (plus petrol, parking and car maintenance)
  • Both: Cover other individual expenses that we have

This separation works well – we don’t have to transfer money to another account and responsibilities are clear. Later, after we move and no longer have to pay Rent, we’ll probably have another chat about shared expenses and maybe set up that joint account, if necessary.

#3 – We organised our financial documents

Conscientiousness describes doing one’s work well and thoroughly; the ability to be orderly and organised when required because it gets the job done.

Which is kind of important for personal finance, and as it turns out, is one of the best traits in a partner and in a marriage too.

Honestly, I would have married him anyway even if he’s not particularly conscientious, because boi I fell hard for that face and love makes you stupid in, like, a biological way. However happily he turns out to be quite organised as well, so guess who had a genuinely fun date night just compiling our insurance policies in one place??

How do you budget as a couple?

Obviously, we are not going to pretend we have this whole thing perfected. I am very well aware that as newlyweds, we have much to learn about each other, and go through together. Maybe the way we handle expenses will change in the future, but I think we have a pretty good start at it 🙂

And now I would love to hear some advice from readers with longer experience. Married/cohabitating partners, what method(s) do you use to budget as a couple? What worked, what didn’t, and what changed over the years?

Please leave your wisdom in the comments section below!

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8 Comments

  1. Thanks for the article. It’s a good read.
    As a couple, we approach the budget using the boss-worker mindset. Just like a worker who brings value to the company and the boss pays for the work done.
    Except for personal expenses that we gladly foot our own bill, as a couple with so much work to be done/bills to pay. We ask only 2 questions.
    1) Who is willing to do the work?
    2) Who is willing to pay for the work?
    Example:
    House-related matters: The one who’s not good at doing housework/ maintaining a liveable condition will pay for mortgage, utility bills etc
    Food: the one who’s not good at cooking and cleaning will pay for marketing n groceries
    Child care n education: The one who thinks the other partner can do the work better will pay

    Conclusion: As a couple, we can either choose to pay or do the work hahaha
    However, there are also occasions where the work is too overwhelming especially the never-ending housework. That’s when the person who’s responsible for that part will outsource n pay for it

    Of course, it’s not all the time like that, there are also times where we are happy to pay and do the work as well usually during special occasions when we want to make our partner feel happier 😁

    So far, so good and this approach serves us well for more than a decade 😊

    1. Thanks Vivien for commenting here 🙂

      Very interesting way of simplifying finances in relationship. And hey if it works, it works!

      Wishing you and family a lifetime of happiness <3

  2. We combined finances fully. Got married Saturday, his side’s event on Sunday and Monday we were back home and I sat him down and went through our finances. I’m better at managing finances than he is but I’m glad he’s open to listening and changing. We use YNAB which was a new concept to him but he’s a happy user now. By end of this year, we should settle all our debts aside from our mortgage. We both have allowances that we can spend for whatever we like without having to check with each other. This would also allow for surprise gifts to each other and so on.

    This works for us 🙂

    1. Thanks meowmix for the comment and congratulations on your marriage! All the best in your debt repayment plan. I also love the allowances idea 🙂 Enjoy your newlywed period <3

  3. Good read, Suraya. Will you be doing a follow-up on the areas that require more work than expected from the perspective of a new couple – finance-wise? 🙂

    1. Hi Preetha 😀

      Hmm, areas that require more work than expected. Can’t think of one right now. Can you expand what could be some examples? Perhaps this is my blind spot

  4. Love this topic! I found that it is not discussed enough especially among the Malays.

    During our first few years of marriage, my husband and I were both working full time earning about the same amount of salary. Both of us contribute the same amount and we maintain an excel spreadsheet that records all our monthly contribution and joint expenses (house and car loans, groceries, bills, gas, etc). So practically, we split our joint expenses 50/50 and my husband will pick up the tab when we dine out (which cost a lot at that time because we did not have time to cook). Other than that contribution, we manage our personal expenses (personal care, office lunch and coffees, shopping, etc), savings, and insurance separately on our own.

    After a few years, my husband started to earn significantly more than me, we changed our model to deciding who pays for what and how much every month. He started to pick up a bigger portion of the household expenses. I think now we are at about 75/25 of household expense. No more record keeping, every month we just pay what we are responsible for. Not to mention the amount has grown significantly bigger now with addition of two kids too >.< We still keep our personal finances separately and I am now able to grow my own savings and investments. For the kids, my husband pays for their insurance plans while I contribute to their SSPN accounts which roughly equate to the same amount yearly.

    I think this has worked for us so far. One thing that works at one time might not work in the future so we have to be flexible in it. And it is so important to be open with our partner when discussing about finances and setting common goals. A lot of people are saying that it's the husband's sole responsibility to provide for everything but if it is affecting your quality of life and marriage, then I see no point in doing that if the wife can help to chip in. It does not have to be combined totally, find the middle ground that works for the wife and husband.

    Cheers.

    1. Thanks for your contribution, AZ! It’s lovely to see another POV in this, and obviously both of you have open and frequent communication about personal finance.

      Wishing you and family all the best!

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