How four couples manage their money

An inside look at how four couples manage their money


How couples manage their money is hot topic and it seems like many are curious to hear how others do it. There are several different approaches, from completely separate to completely integrated. Here’s a look at how four different couples approach their money – starting with me.

1. Kari (Me) and Brian – Our financial fusion fable

“I’m skedaddling out to buy milk. Do you need me to pick up a pretty dress for you?” my husband Brian once asked me.

This was a cheery dig at my compulsive clothing consumption.

I’m such a fashion addict, clothes and shoes are staples for me like eggs and milk.

Over 19 years of marriage, we’ve honed a fiscal agreement. After paying bills, making RRSP and RESP contributions, and feeding our eating machines (aka our teenagers) each month, surplus cash goes to indulgences. Brian splurges on computer gear. I buy outfits.

I can’t for the dickens understand why Brian revels in a new monitor. He’ll question why I crave another pink skirt when I already have six.  The caveat is – we’re both okay with this deal.

It’s no shocker we also have a happy marriage.

On the flip side, financial discord almost always lurks in miserable relationships.

“Money is often used to dominate and control the other partner,” attests Laura Bradley, clinical director of North Vancouver-based, Steadfast Counselling.

Splicing paycheques is a huge leap of faith for many couples.

Laura claims there is no right way for couples to manage their money, but it’s crucial neither person feels slighted. I wrote a previous post about how couples manage their money that suggests seven things to consider when merging moola.

I talked to three other couples about their unique co-budgeting plans. The only thing all three have in common is, they always consult each other before buying anything over $50.

2. Carl and Les – A tale of four cities

This charming duo live a charmed life. Over their 27 year marriage, Les and Carl have accumulated three houses, in three scenic BC locales, and a condo in Mexico.

Carl was homeless once and Les was poor. So they treasure having overt housing security.

They use a joint chequing account for daily expenses, but have numerous sub-accounts for vacations, property taxes and rental income for their many homes. Les also has a designated grocery account.

“We don’t argue over most things we buy because we trust another’s judgement. Except art. I tell Carl we don’t need more stuff on the walls,” Les quips.

3. Neva and Joe – Life is a highway

Unlike Carl and Les, Neva and Joe prefer rolling assets over stationary ones. They love restoring vintage cars.

They’ve taken the “$50 rule” so seriously during their 49 year marriage that when Joe bought a car for $100 without telling Neva she didn’t believe him until the car was delivered to them.

“We knew a couple who had tons of stuff,” says Neva. “They seemingly had a great life, but they had tons of debt.”

Neva isn’t nosy about how other couples manage their money, but she wasn’t surprised when their decadent friends split soon after they married.

She assumes bungled household economics made them neurotic.

Joe and Neva have a car account, holiday account, household expenses account, and investment savings. They have more money for stuff nowadays, but Neva says they’d rather spend money “building memories” vacationing with family than on material items.

4. David and Ruth – Melodious money mapping

This financially savvy pair have tracked every expenditure with an Excel spreadsheet over their ten year marriage. Great idea! And there are other excellent personal budgeting software apps available.

David and Ruth divide cash monthly for childcare, groceries, entertainment, life insurance, utility bills, education and retirement savings.

They review their spreadsheet roughly every quarter over a glass of wine. They’ll discuss grave issues – like retirement goals. They also discuss “dream management.”

“During one chat, we devised a plan for David to start a music related business because music is his lifelong passion,” Ruth says.


Joint budgeting doesn’t have to just be about stocking the fridge and paying the piper. Set aside fun money and cash for self-growth too.

Take pride in having a plump savings account, but occasionally take a hammer to your piggy bank and spoil each other too.

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