Till 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 nor I am 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?


Mrs. Blue Whale

College Park, MD
Wedding Date:
May 2013
Goodies For Our Guests
Wedding Dress Decisions
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  1. mslemur Bee
    mslemur 616 posts, Busy bee @ 7:44 am

    This is really similar to me and Mr. Lemur. I’m coming out of grad school debt free (my parents have helped me and I got a really good grad assistantship) but Mr. Lemur has some debt from undergrad. It’s not awful—about equivalent to a semester at a public university—but it is there.

    We’re planning on combining finances into one account after we get married though. Most likely what will happen is we’ll live off one salary and put the other salary towards paying off debt, and in the future saving for a house, etc. This definitely isn’t what works for everyone though!

  2. Member
    petempich 77 posts, Worker bee @ 7:48 am

    Having 3 accounts at a credit union has worked very well for us. Mr. Petempich has a bad habit that I would never allow the joint account money spent on it. I like spending time with my friends and movies and eating out. Also I spend more on clothes, he packs his lunch. 100/week for each separate account is not very much and it gives us freedom to spend our money on what we want without asking the other.Student loans would be paid out of the joint account in early yrs. At our credit union money can be moved between accounts free but we seldom do it. We have never lied about spending money and have been married 30+yrs. Now we are older and getting inheritance and it is going in the joint account regardless of who’s family it’s from.

  3. hyena Bee
    hyena 2537 posts, Sugar bee @ 9:27 am

    It took us a while, but we did combine our accounts and it’s been so much easier for us to save and budget when we’re both accountable for “our money.” I have student debt and he doesn’t, and despite me viewing it as “my” debt, he does not and is more than happy to put our money toward paying it off quickly.

  4. mstoadstool Bee
    mstoadstool 2485 posts, Buzzing bee @ 9:51 am

    Our country is in a pretty bad economic situation (job wise) and I quit my job to move with Mr. T after the wedding, so now I am unemployed and he’s the one paying for everything, but I am good at handling money and end up doing better than him with his money.

  5. Member
    maricontrary 2365 posts, Buzzing bee @ 11:45 am

    Though we’re not married yet, we’ve been living together for a few years now. I have debt (student loans primarily), he does not. Once we got to the point where we realized we were in a permanent situation, we started looking at things as ‘ours’. As in our debt, our money. We’re still maintaining multiple accounts, essentially ‘his’, ‘hers’ and ‘ours’. The ‘ours’ account is for things like rent, utilities, food, etc. We’re paying down the debt as fast as possible, so we can be in a good position to buy a house soonish. Our individual accounts are for the extra things that we want. I like my $75 jeans, and he has a minor heart attack every time he sees the price tag. I grumble when he pays $60 for a video game instead of waiting for it to come down in price as a used game. This way, we can spend a little extra cash as we see fit, and not start a fight. We don’t hide what we purchase at all, but when I know the $60 for the new Call of Duty game is coming from his discretionary account instead of our neccessary funds, I don’t mind!

  6. Guest Icon Guest
    jess32, Guest @ 3:55 pm

    I’ll be close to 260,000 in debt after graduating from medical school and my FI will have around 290,000 from his medical school loans. This does not include the interest we will be paying on these loans. As medical residents we will be earning around $50,000/yr. It is going to take around 15-20 years combined for us to pay off our loans because we’re both going into family medicine (not a “high-paying” specialty), but we have both made our careers a number one priority so we’ve spoken at length on how to deal with this financially. I would recommend couples get pre-ENAGEMENT counseling with a reputable financial advisor, because everyone’s situation is different. There’s no point in getting engaged unless you’re willing to stick to a solid plan of getting out of debt.

  7. msmongoose Bee
    msmongoose 264 posts, Helper bee @ 10:40 am

    Very smart post Miss BWhale–couples should definitely do what’s right for them. However, these discussions should most DEFINITELY happen before the wedding (probably before the engagement as well) to avoid post-wedding money drama.

  8. Member
    stace0616 131 posts, Blushing bee @ 11:55 am

    We’re engaged and living together, so our current situation is similar to what it’ll be after we get married. We have three checking accounts: personal ones (which each get $500/pay period) and a joint account that gets everything else. The only debt we don’t pay out of the joint account are for our credit cards. So our $500 allowance can be spent however we wish, but the joint money takes care of all bills, debts (including his student loan) groceries, dates, and we withdraw about $600/mo to our joint wedding savings account.

    My goal is that we’ll have individually paid off our credit cards by the time we get married and then we’ll each get like $200/pay period for a personal “allowance”. It works well for us–I still can use my own money to buy presents for him and not have to tell him how much getting highlights REALLY costs 😉

  9. Guest Icon Guest
    HiHoHiHo, Guest @ 4:33 am

    I completely agree that there is no one answer to this question. Every individual is different and therefore all couples are different. For me and my mister we each have our own separate accounts and a joint account that we both contribute equally to each month that the bills come out of… When we met he had no idea how to manage money and blew through his pay check like it was nothing. The joint account has been a learning experience for him and has really helped him see how budgeting his money really helps out in the long run. The separate accounts also keep us from fighting over money. If he buys something with money from his account, I have no reason to get upset because I know our bills are all taken care of and he isn’t spending money that should be going towards are joint savings. Its just so simple!

  10. bluewhale Bee
    bluewhale 638 posts, Busy bee @ 1:30 pm

    @jess32: Holy Moly! I knew medical school was expensive, but wowsa!

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