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This is how four Australian couples manage their joint finances

IMAGE VIA @ZIGS_MOM/INSTAGRAM

WORDS BY COBY RENKIN

I’ll take all the advice I can get.

Ever wondered how other couples manage their money? While it’s not exactly a first date-friendly conversation starter, finances play an unavoidable part in every relationship – and not always for the right reasons. According to a 2021 survey, one in five couples identifies money as their ‘greatest relationship challenge’.

Whether you’re a committed couple looking to improve your financial management, a new relationship wondering where to start, or just a little nosey, we’d all like to lift the curtain on the mystery of money. Unfortunately, there’s no rule book on how to perfectly manage your finances – or what to do when you’re suddenly in the position of worrying about someone else’s. 


Interested to hear how others navigate the world? Head to our Life section.


Do you split everything evenly, keep your bank accounts separate or take turns paying the bills? In my attempt to demystify the money questions, I asked four Australian women how they manage dual-income households. 

Angie

While I’m on a fixed salary, my partner earns double what I earn and has the ability to do overtime when he wants to make a little extra money. We split all our expenses 50/50, including rent, bills, our pet and food. If we go for a meal or drinks out, he’ll almost always pay. He also does other favours for me like servicing my car or picking up something from a shop that I asked for. Recently, he wanted us to get festival tickets that weren’t within my budget, so he paid for both of us.

It works well because we’re clear about how much our expenses cost and we put the same amount of money into our joint account each week. I’m open about not being able to afford as much as him – he knows how strict my budget is – and I feel like he’s very considerate about that. We both have relatively frugal lifestyles and interests, so he never expects me to be able to afford five-star holidays. 

We’ve been together for two years and agree it’s still a little early to merge our funds. The long-term plan is to eventually buy a home together and have a shared bank account. Right now, it doesn’t matter if he earns a lot more – we’re still working towards a common future.

Christy 

At the moment, our incomes are the same. We deposit our earnings into a joint account for shared expenses, 20 per cent is transferred to each of us for personal spending/savings and 10 per cent goes to our joint savings

This method has worked for us for years, even when we had a gap in our incomes. We don’t judge each other for how we spend our individual savings, which means we rarely argue about money. It helps us balance competing priorities and splurge on our own interests.

Wendy

My salary is almost double my husband’s salary. We don’t really see the money as mine or his – it’s ours – so in theory all expenses are shared. The mechanics of this are based on the Barefoot Investor’s approach. 60 per cent of each of our incomes are set aside for most daily expenses (groceries, utilities, insurance, home loan, etc) and the balance of my husband’s pay stays in his account. 

This covers spending money for him, fuel for the cars and everyday costs involved in home and garden maintenance. My pay is further apportioned – 10 per cent for my spending, 10 per cent for saving (holidays or home improvement) and the remaining 20 per cent for investment/debt reduction. 

This works because it’s simple. After I read the Barefoot Investor a few years ago, I knew that it would work for us, but my husband needed to see the results before he was convinced. So, I simply applied the approach to my salary only (being the majority of household income anyway), then transferred the daily expenses amount from his pay with the intention of eventually applying the Barefoot approach to his income as well. 

It turned out to work well as is and we’ve both improved our financial positions significantly over that time. We also recently both cut back to four days per week – which meant a drop in income – but the adjustment was simple, I just continued to apply the percentages. When we retire in a few years to live on our superannuation, I’ll apply the Barefoot percentages to our joint income.

Ashleigh

My partner makes $10,000 more than me (after tax) per year and we split our expenses 45/55. We do this as that’s the percentage towards our combined earnings that we each contribute, so all of our bills and financial commitments are divided by our specific percentages. 

We each also keep our leftover funds to ourselves after contributing to our joint accounts. Should the need arise, we will always give the money over to whoever/whatever when needed. This works for us as we’ve agreed that we both work the same amount of hours each week and it’s not either of our faults that one job pays less. We feel this is the fairest way to contribute to our joint expenses.

For more approaches to managing money in a relationship, head here.

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