Before Mr. Lively and I got married we had a few in-depth conversations about money and how we wanted to manage our finances. We were focused on setting a good foundation as a family and money management was something we naturally wanted to plan for right from the start.
Once we got married we had a financial coaching session at Next Door to confirm our plan our money intentions from a professional perspective.
After the session we felt confident taking the steps to combine our finances in a way that works for our family.
Though every couple’s situation is different, I thought it might be helpful for some people if I share how we decided to merge our finances. There are dozens of ways to do this which are all equally right, this is simply how we felt most confident moving forward in the Lively household.
For our checking account, we turned my personal checking into a joint account. Mr. Lively can now direct-deposit there and it’s already pre-linked online to my business accounts which makes it easy for me to access and deposit into as well.
We then closed Mr. Lively’s previous credit union checking account to consolidate. He was admittedly bummed to lose the credit union account from New Hampshire. But we wanted the convenience of having everything in one place that is prevalent in Chicago.
We each kept our credit cards from before the marriage. But since Mr. Lively had two cards that were not with our new family bank, we closed the most recent one with the shortest credit history so that we didn’t have four cards to balance every month. It might slightly affect his credit history in the short-term, we know long term juggling four accounts is more hassle than it’s worth.
We also opened a mutual credit card for our family expenses. This is where most of our purchases will go and be paid in full at the end of every month.
I also have my old credit card to use as a “fun budget” card. We discussed the fact that I prefer to budget a “fun budget” factored into our expenses at the outset of the month to spend as I please. I hate the idea of questioning or feeling guilty for every J.Crew purchase I make. I’d rather have a clear, mutually determined budget at the start of the month to work with. Having this budget linked to the separate card from the family expenses keeps the balance clean and easy for me to track at a glance.
Mr. Lively also has the ability to have a “fun budget.” But since he rarely spends money on himself, and I’m usually with him when he does, we don’t have a need to track his purchases with a separate card. In the future if this does become an issue we will simply work this into our plan. But until then, it’s not something we are focusing on at the moment.
Retirement and Emergency Fund
Mr. Lively already has his retirement set up through his work, so that is staying put as is. I on the other hand have not had the luxury of a retirement account while to being self-employed. It simply has not been financially possible. But I am working on getting that started soon.
Up until now I have been keeping my money in an emergency fund through ING. We now have this fund as our emergency fund for our family and can ear-mark different savings goals like a down payment, emergency fund, and future trip back to Paris on our five year anniversary.
Merging our finances in this way has allowed us to pretty seamlessly incorporate our budgeting goals. As I’ve mentioned, Mr. Lively is our budget-master and uses Mint.com to monitor our spending as we go along. And I keep an eye on things every time I log into my business accounts as well.
Though it was a bit strange at first to think of all income as “our money,” the discussions and decisions we made suit our life well and have created a smooth transition overall.