Thanks for all your input on the budgeting issue last week! I love reading over your suggestions and seeing what works for everyone. We just finished our first month with the punch cards and it's been great so far. I'll admit that we ended up eating random stuff out of the cupboard for the last two nights of the month but we survived. I'm working on making a template of the punch cards but please be patient with me because it means wrestling with making a writeable doc in Adobe.
If you hate discussing money, do yourself a favor and skip this long post.
As I mentioned, 2013 is different because Dustin and I are combining finances for the first time. We've been living together for 7 years, married for 1.5 and I guess we're ready. Sharing money is a big step for me. I've been working in some capacity since high school and I love having my own money. Those numbers in the bank feel like tangible security to me.
Prior to marriage (and for 1.5 years after) we'd shared a joint checking and savings account and had a joint credit card. Once a month we both deposited equal amounts of money in the joint checking account, transferred equal amounts of money to the joint savings account and then all our joint expenses went on our credit card and got paid from our joint account. It worked perfectly, partly because we both earn exactly the same amount of money and so we didn't have the awkward situation where one person has more disposable income than the other.
Our sharing but separate set up worked great, but it started to get more complicated once we got married. Both our healthcare costs started coming out of my pre-tax paycheck, which means I was suddenly taking home slightly less and this seemed like a good time to transition (obviously we could have easily remedied this by having D reimburse me or contribute more to our joint account but we both felt ready). If either of us wants/needs to change jobs in the future, we should feel supported and pooling our money is a good way for us to get to that place. At this point it's more of a mental shift than anything, because we do still earn roughly the same amount of money.
In February we started depositing our paychecks in our joint account, then transferring a monthly allowance to our individual accounts. I'll still have my personal retirement account and we'll still have personal savings along with joint savings. Almost all our expenses will go on the joint card but our allowances will be dedicated for clothes, times when we go out solo, gifts, etc. We aren't ditching our personal cards because they carry credit history but also because we both appreciate having some personal space. I have no issue with the fact that my favorite lip gloss costs $20 and I have weeks where I buy two cookies a day at Tavern but I like pretending I have a thin veil of privacy because no one else sees my statements. D has similar issues with shoes, I think. I don't know. That's the point of the cards. Anyways, the idea is that as long as our personal spending fits in with our joint goals, it's no one's business where the allowance goes.
We didn't even have to set up new bank accounts and this was still a huge pain. I sat down with a spreadsheet and wrote down all our balances (checking, savings, credit cards, student loans, retirement) for both our joint and individual accounts. I wanted to start from zero so I figured out what we each needed to contribute to pay off our credit card statements (we don't carry a balance on any of our cards, so we zero it out each month) and how much we needed to have in our personal accounts to avoid fees. Previously this hadn't been an issue because I'd had direct deposit going to my personal account and if you do that most banks will waive a monthly service charge without requiring a minimum balance. We transferred money from our savings accounts to make sure we had more than enough in both our personal and joint accounts because we weren't sure how long it would take for re-routing to take place. Then we re-routed our automatic withdrawals for our student loans and retirements to our joint account. I re-routed my direct deposit to our joint account.
We're checking everything carefully for a couple months to make sure it all worked. So far one of my student loans re-directed successfully but the other didn't (bizarrely, they are serviced by the same company) so I had to pay it manually.