7 Ways to Stay Open with Your Spouse About Finances
Thank you to Equifax for underwriting this conversation about family finances.
Every now and then I think about if something were to happen to me or my husband, how the other would take care of our children. It’s a huge responsibility, and though I don’t like to think about worst-case scenarios, I feel better having a plan.
My husband and I fully share the responsibility for our finances, but we divide the day-to-day tasks. My husband earns most of the income and manages our investments. I manage the spending, saving, taxes, and keeping track of everything.
I want to keep our financial information open and organized so we can both access it anytime. I don’t want either of us to be in the dark when it comes to our finances.
These are the ways I’ve organized our finances so my husband can stay informed and step in for me if needed:
1. I made a budget based on the amounts we expect to spend so that we know how much we need for an average month. We use realistic amounts, not ideal or limited amounts. Then we can look back and see if our spending matched our expectations. We discuss and plan bigger purchases so that we’re both on the same page.
2. We consolidated our spending money into a joint checking account instead of maintaining separate personal accounts. It’s easier to keep track of just one account balance on a daily basis. (It works for us because we have similar spending habits and common goals, though I recognize it’s not the best solution for everyone.)
3. Not only did I minimize the number of accounts, I reduced the number of banks where those accounts are held. Sometimes I get an offer in the mail with an incentive to open a checking account at a new bank, and it’s tempting, but it’s extra work in the long run. We chose one bank with good online options and service so that we won’t need to keep up with multiple banks, phone numbers, and access codes.
4. I save statements and records in multiple places, mostly digital, so they can be accessed quickly. I have one file box for the important papers, and I also keep digital documents on my computer, a backup hard drive, and Dropbox. (Dropbox lets you sync your documents to the cloud, and you can access them securely through the internet. It’s great for sharing documents and for when we travel.) I wouldn’t want my husband to have to go through a pile of papers if he can do a quick search on the computer instead.
5. I planned for the majority of our bills to be paid online or automatically at the beginning of every month. I just made a couple of phone calls and requested the due dates that I wanted. Since I pay the bills, my husband doesn’t keep track of individual billing dates, but he can remember that we need money in our account ready to pay the bills at the beginning of the month. That helps us stay in a routine and avoid surprises when the account balance drops.
6. I check the credit reports annually for both of us, and let him know what, if anything, he needs to do. Sometimes it’s just reminding him to make a phone call to close an old store card that we might have otherwise forgotten.
7. At the end of the year I compile a financial snapshot to look at how we’re doing overall compared to last year. We think it’s important to review our progress together and see what else we can do.
Simplifying our finances so that we can access everything also made it easier for me to manage them on my own.
How do you and your spouse work on your finances together so that you both stay informed?
Thank you to Equifax for sponsoring this conversation on family finances. It’s not always a comfortable subject to discuss, but an important one.