Post Marriage – Our Semi-Combined Finances
We have written before about how Mr. E. and myself do not share finances. We both have different issues related to money, and brute force combining them would have led to conflict and stress.
But because we are also a household and we share expenses, the are instances where we value pooling our resources. Shopping for groceries comes to mind, and as Mr. E. is going to spend the next year working from home, writing and establishing himself as a freelancer, he will most likely be the one to do most of the grocery shopping while I’m in the office.
Previously, we have solved this by me paying a higher portion of the rent and him covering the grocery bill, but that turned out to be sub-optimal. We would eventually “forget” that this was the reason for my increased contribution, and I would contribute to the grocery bill as well. No big deal, but we have learned over our years together that we need visual reminders of things like that, or we will forget.
Another thing that makes complete sharing of our finances a challenge is that Norway doesn’t really encourage it.
I can add Mr. E. as a co-owner to an account of mine, but he will only ever have the “co-owner” tag, while I have the original owner tag. As far as we’ve been able to dig out, this has no practical or legal implications right now, but could potentially have some ramifications if we were to separate on bad terms. Not that we plan on doing that, but it’s something to have in mind.
Another detail that makes complete sharing a challenge is that the high interest mortgage savings accounts (BSU), that I mention from time to time, cannot be shared. We each need to have our own BSU and reap tax benefits separately. This is in relation to the fact that you can only ever hold one BSU account. If you switch banks, they will move the BSU for you, but you can only ever have one, and sharing would complicate things.
Our new style
That aside, we do see how convenient it would be to just have a shared pool of money and pay stuff like groceries, restaurant trips, rental cars or vacation trips from that. It becomes an unnecessary hassle to try to keep track of who paid how much for what and try to keep things fair and even.
So we are opting for a hybrid. Sharing some accounts, and leaving others private.
- One account for household bills like rent, electricity, wifi etc. Not attached to a card
- One account for fluid household expenses like groceries, restaurants etc. We both have a card for this one.
- One savings account.
We are planning a trip to Japan after I finish my current contract, and we are loading our micro savings into this goal and our shared savings account. There is a setting where our bank pulls 10 NOK ($1-2) from our spending account every time we swipe our card and dumps it into an account of our choosing. Seeing this account grow increment by increment (twice as fast now that we both dump our micro savings in it) is incredibly satisfying! It’s like our own little credit card reward system, especially since we have a concrete goal we are working towards.
- One account connected to a card where I receive my wages.
- One savings account for the emergency fund/general savings.
- One BSU account.
- Another mortgage savings account. The BSU has a maximum you can save per year, so we both have an additional account with the same interest, but no tax benefit.
In addition, we both have our little investment savings accounts with Nordnet, our Scandinavian Vanguard alternative, and Mr. E. has some more accounts related to his freelance business.
In the name of minimalism, we could have had fewer accounts. The two shared accounts for bills, for instance, could have been merged into one. But we have had some issues with money sitting around in accounts we have easy access too. It kinda just… floats out. I am sure some of you are familiar with the concept.
So because we both know we have some issues with having money, we take steps to help ourselves. I typically dump a large amount of my paycheck in a savings account as soon as I get it, and this separation between fixed bills and fluid expenses is another reflection of dealing with this the best we can. We both hope this is something we will grow out of as we get used to having money, but we are both still entrenched in broke college student mode, and flipping the switch is taking time.
Hoping for the best, planning for the worst
As you can see from the setup above, we do not share our emergency fund or grow a collective emergency fund together.
Although we are rosy-glass tinted newlyweds, we’ve always been pragmatic at our core. Even before we started dating and got serious, we spent hours upon ours chatting online, talking in depth about our values, goals, dreams and preferences. That way, when we added emotions on top, we knew we had a rock solid foundation of shared values to build our life on.
But even though we did all that, you just never know what life is going to throw at you. My own grandmother was stuck in an abusive marriage and could not leave due to financial constraints. It would feel grossly negligent of me to not put a little something aside in case shit truly hit the fan. And Mr. E. feels the same way.
Even while married, there are certain parts we wish to keep separate for our own safety and mental well-being. And cultivating individual emergency funds are part of that.
It might be that we transfer the current “Japan trip” savings account into a shared emergency fund/savings account after the trip when we get that far. But we would still retain a private little fund of our own. You just never know when it might come in handy.
So that is our hybrid shared-not shared economy solution!
How do you feel about sharing finances? Too much work? Or a daily lifesaver? Stress-inducing or the exact opposite? We would love to hear what you think!