Til debt do us part

I don’t remember where I read it, but I know I’ve seen some statistic that disagreements over money are what most commonly end marriages.

Image from Active Rain

I’m going to try really really hard not to let that happen to us.  If I may toot my own horn for a moment (toot toot!), I’m pretty good with money.  I’m not a financial guru or anything.  But I don’t have any debt.  I pay my bills on time.  I try to save money where I can.

Mr. Whale on the other hand… He does… fine.  He’s not a spend-a-holic.  But he’ll tell you flat out that he hates money.  He wishes it didn’t exist.  (As an economist, I try to explain to him how it does make our lives easier, but… nevermind. It’s not important for this.)  In any case, he spends what he needs to.  But after going back to undergraduate once and now being a graduate student, sometimes even just buying what you need means going into debt.

And because Mr. Whale has some debt, I’m trying to get used to the fact that I too will soon have debt.  I don’t have to assume any part of his debt, of course.  We could keep our finances separate, and he could deal with it on his own.  But after more than a year of living together and keeping separate finances the entire time, I can tell you that unless you’ve got a ton of money, keeping things separate is tough enough on its own.  We evenly split the groceries, the rent, and the utilities.  And when we go out to eat, we just take turns on who pays.  But it’s a hassle.  Every month I have to get all the receipts, add them up, figure out who owes what, then we settle up via paying more or less rent.  And what if we have a fancy meal that costs a little more than usual?  Should we still just trade off on who pays for that meal?  Ugh.  It’s a mess.

So on one hand, I’m looking forward to combining finances (We’re going to have one joint account and then we’ll each have a small separate account where we put a small percentage of our paychecks).  And it’s easy to say that we’ll make our future financial decisions together with our combined funds.  But the tricky question is, “Do we each share in the responsibility of our past financial decisions?”

There is definitely no right answer to this question.  Every couple is different.  For every person that says I should not help him pay off his debt, there will be another who says I should.  But I think there is a right answer for us.  And we’ve decided to pay off the debt together.

Neither Mr. Whale or I is perfect, and neither of us can change our past.  But we’ve decided to move forward together.  Part of getting married is accepting that it’s through good and bad.  So I’ll accept that being a team means handling our finances together, even when it sucks.  And honestly, if this is the price I have to pay to marrying Mr. Whale, then I think he’s worth it.

How are you handling your money as a married couple?  Are any other couples coming together with dramatically different financial backgrounds?  How are you dealing with it?


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