How Mr. FAF and I Handle Our Finances As A Couple

Some of my friends and family members have asked me how Mr. FAF and I handle our finances.

I thought I’d discuss that today to see if there’s anything in common with you all.

Dating

When Mr. FAF and I started dating, we had somewhat different philosophy about how a couple should handle money.

Mr. FAF thought that as a boyfriend, he should and wanted to pay every time we went out.

Paying for his woman was something Mr. FAF was used to and encouraged where he comes from (China).

I had a bit of a different take on that. I thought that the guy could pay on the first date, but I didn’t even expect that. I wanted to pay for myself.

I just did’t want to feel indebted to someone for what I enjoyed. I made money and could afford what I chose.

This apparently made Mr. FAF upset since he felt like I didn’t treat him like my boyfriend.

I eventually gave in and let him pay. But we agreed that we would split the costs when we traveled.

One time we went on a road trip together. I asked Mr. FAF to tally up all the costs for the trip including the hotel, gas, food, and such. I then gave him a check for about $125 or so. He never cashed it although I insisted.

I had mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, I felt upset because Mr. FAF didn’t honor our agreement. On the other hand, I was happy since he wasn’t a stingy man. Having a stingy boyfriend or husband who only cares only about himself and doesn’t want to part with his money was the last thing I wanted.

Although Mr. FAF was a poor student, splitting bills with me was something he never cared for. He wanted to take care of me emotionally and financially. And I never wanted or demanded anything extravagant or expensive from him. He also cooked for me often.

The first meal Mr. FAF cooked for me at his abode: tomato & scrambled egg, chicken wings, radish and tofu soup, a salted duck egg, and rice. It was simple yet delicious. 

Engagement

After we got engaged, Mr. FAF and I had more serious discussions about how we wanted to handle our finances as a family.

In Vietnam, where I’m from, the wife is usually in charge of finances. The husband would give the wife his monthly salary and keep some for himself. Sometimes the husband wants to keep more, so he hides a separate account (aka a black account) from his wife.

I didn’t like that for two reasons. First, I thought it was a big responsibility for the wife to singlehandedly manage all the finances in the family. The husband should also have a say and a role in that. Second, I didn’t want Mr. FAF to have a black account. I wanted him to be honest with me.

I’d researched that topic and really liked how many American couples handle their finances. I suggested to Mr. FAF that we should have a joint account where we put a portion of our incomes for our expenses. Each of us could have our own accounts to spend money on what we wanted.

Mr. FAF didn’t like that idea. He wanted to put all of our incomes into one joint account. He said that’s what married couples do. He wanted to build his finances with me, not partly with me and partly by himself. I eventually agreed with him.

My engagement ring from Costco & wedding band from Amazon

After marriage

Mr. FAF and I still keep our bank accounts from when we were still single. I know exactly how much he has in his, and he also does mine. Those accounts don’t have much in them and are meant for emergency only.

After we have had an issue with our joint account, we think it’s best for us to have other accounts as well in case that joint account is put on hold for whatever reason.

We put all of our salaries in one joint account for our mortgage payment and daily purchases. When either of us want to buy something for more than $100, we will discuss it together. Sometimes we even ask each other if we can buy something for as little as $20.

Some may think it’s not necessary or is even nit-picking. But we kind of get a kick out of it. It shows that we care what the other thinks, and that we respect each other enough to ask for feedback even on little things.

Sometimes we do loan money to our close friends. But we always discuss that together and need to reach an agreement before doing so.

Compare and contrast

Our biggest weakness is eating out. We don’t spend a ton on restaurant food or eat out every day, but the eating out budget is definitely more than what we’d like.

Other than that, both Mr. FAF and I are a frugal couple. We don’t spend money on fancy clothes or go on expensive trips even when we can afford to do so. We find less expensive alternatives for what we really want and do weird things to save money. We think long term about what future we as a family want to have.

Mr. FAF and I prioritize working hard, taking good care of our family and our parents, not getting into consumer debt, paying off our current mortgage early, and saving for retirement and more property.

Sometimes there are hiccups and disagreements on the way, but we always look ahead at the big picture in the same direction. And I’m grateful for that.



33 thoughts on “How Mr. FAF and I Handle Our Finances As A Couple”

  • Always interesting to hear how other couples do it! I posted about what Kristin and I are doing (and plan to do) and it’s kind of a similar arrangement: joint bank accounts for everything, but we each still have a fun money account.

    I expect that’ll evolve over time, similar to how your financial situation with Mr FAF has changed as well! Thanks for sharing!!

  • Thanks for sharing! Love hearing about how different couples handle their money situation. I’m glad you didn’t expect your husband to pay for everything when you were dating. I think it’s courteous to at least offer these days. It’s up to him whether to take you up on it.

    • I like to hear how other couples handle their finances too. I think it reflects their mindsets and how they work together as a team. All roads lead to Rome. And there’s no one arrangement that makes any couples happy 🙂

  • It must be an Asian thing as I insisted on paying for meals when I first started to date my current wife years ago. I thought that it was a gentlemen’s thing.

    Once we got married, we still have our separate accounts and we naturally divide up the bill managements. I would pay the mortgage and my wife would pay the rest of the household bills. For me, it’s not so much of how much money is in your account, it’s how you spend your money and grow your savings.

    My wife is not much of a finance nerd like me. I would find ways to optimize our finance and make recommendations for her to follow. The key to our financial success is being honest and transparent with our money. We act as one.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Leo! I have never seen such arrangement before. It’s great to know it’s working out well for you guys. Mr. FAF wants to leave all the big financial decisions to me, but I feel like it’s such a burden and want to consult him anyway. If something goes wrong with the investment, I don’t want to be the only one to be blamed. >_<

  • When me and the Hubs were dating, we made the agreement that he would pay but I would tip. I was a server through college, and typically felt he was an under tipper, so this was our compromise. It worked really well for us.
    It’s awesome to see how well y’all are in agreement on finances, despite living apart. I can imagine it would be more difficult with the distance. Thanks for sharing!

    • One of my best friends used to work as a waitress, and she also felt undertipped most of the time. Whenever we went out, she would go out of her way to tip the waiters/waitresses.

      It’s a nice arrangement that you guys had! 🙂

  • I had a post about married couples maintaining separate accounts the other day. Hubby and I have a joint account for household finances and also our own individual accounts. I think it makes things fair and prevents feelings of resentment. At the end of the day, everyone’s different and each couple should do what works for them.

    • I also like having my own account although I don’t secretly deposit money into it or anything. It gives me a sense of freedom. Also, if one day something goes terribly wrong, I’ll still have access to my money 🙂

  • I love the fact that you both agree on financial matters. My boyfriend likes making financial decisions by himself without seeking my input. I don’t complain much about it because we aren’t married yet. However, I always let him know how I’d love to settle down with a man who desires my input on matters such as finance ☺

    • I know it’s such a sensitive topic to talk about, especially when a couple is not married. But I’m sure as your relationship progresses, you will figure out a way to talk about finances that makes both of you happy and comfortable! 🙂

  • I insisted on paying on dates as well. It’s not really a big deal because the amount involve is usually small. Bigger trips, probably split.
    We joined our account when we got married, but I think having some individual account is good too. Either way is okay as long as you don’t keep secrets from each other…

    • That’s so nice that you and your wife joined forces after getting married. But yes, if Mr. FAF has a secret account somewhere, then I will need to know about it! ^.^

  • I love this post idea! I have one that’s been in draft mode for weeks about how we split finances- maybe I’ll actually finish it one day, haha. And that’s so sweet of Mr. FAF to want to take care of you financially and emotionally- you two are truly a power couple.

    Me and Mr. NA have a joint account and also individual accounts. It works for us now because we don’t have kids, but we’ll probably have to readjust once we get to that stage.

    • Oh nooo please finish that post because I would LOVE to read it! That’s so sweet of you, Ying. I’m sure Mr. FAF would be super happy to read your comment! ^.^

  • It’s interesting to know different cultural backgrounds on how they manage their money. I am glad you guys are able to work together and have so much communications. Since money could potentially cause problem for a married couple it’s much better to talk about it rather than you do your and I do mine.

  • It’s always cool to hear how other couples manage money. Joint account plus separate accounts is a really popular way of doing it.

    Me and “Mr. Meow” have completely separate finances- pretty unconventional but it works for us. He retired very early and has a shoestring budget. Our rule is that we pay for ourselves, but if I want to do something he can’t afford, I can either cover him or be understanding that he doesn’t come along.

  • Oh I didn’t know a Vietnam was like Japan where the wife held the wallet traditionally. They do that in China too, well at least my mom does it completely traditional, my dad has no idea what she does with the money and doesn’t ask.

    I don’t like that either…my dad seems frustrated and my mom’s always overconfident. Jared and I do everything together and our expenses are the same. We ask each other about anything over $5 and I think it’s cute, no cumbersome. We never say no to each other any way. We can afford $20 for an audio book, finances would be messy if you’re doing it together on a tighter budget.

    For meals, I don’t pay for myself although I would try too. I think it’s a guy thing…they want to be the big man on campus and pay for it so I’m like ok fine, fine – more money saved for me!

  • This sounds familiar 🙂

    Mr. AR and I also talk about pretty much all of our purchases. It will be a quick check in, but if either of us are purchasing items other than groceries or basics, we will discuss first and make sure we are both onboard. This has really helped to avoid any potential arguments or annoyance over each others spending!

  • Interesting post. My partner and I have been living together for three years, and so far we have been keeping our finances pretty separate. We split most things pretty evenly, but I do tend to spend more, given that I’m a physician and she works for a non-profit and earns significantly less. We’re still trying to figure out how we’re going to handle things after we get married!

  • Good post! This is what my fiancé and I (will) do as well. We haven’t yet fully combined accounts, but plan to do so after the wedding later this summer. Even without the combined accounts, we still talk about purchases together, even the little ones. It’s just a nice thing to share since we both prefer saving over spending, even if most of the time the answer is “sounds good” to the purchase.

  • Joint account for joint expenses plus retaining personal accounts seems to work for many, us also.

    In case of ‘all money in one pot’ it might get unfair if one spouse has larger regular expenses (costly car or hair/cosmetics/other woman stuff). Also I think many women won’t feel like negotiating when it comes to ‘that awesome pair of jeans I really need’. Although frugals and minimalists wouldn’t have a problem here:)

    The only question would be how much to put in. I mean there are also several options here: 1) proportionally to one’s income 2) equal sums. We have always used option 1, seemed more fair. But I know couples who use option 2 ( especially if a woman earns more but the man still wants too feel equal ).

  • I’ve heard a lot of different ways that couples manage their finances – and I think it does boil down to being extremely subjective. Some people have a joint account for bills and shared expenses and then personals, some people hand their paycheque over to the one who’s in charge of the budget and are content with that.

    I grew up with my parents sharing everything and having joint accounts, and it worked for them. Being on the same level and having an understanding about how money’s going to get spent is something I think I need in future relationships.

    Thanks for the post!

  • I liked paying for dates especially when I was dating my wife. We didn’t really go to high end restaurants since we both like going to burger joints all the time like In N Out(popular fast food restaurant in the west coast).
    It’s great you and Mr. FAF have a joint account and separate accounts, like a happy medium. We have the same setup as well. I put about less than 5% of my paycheck in my separate account and use it whenever I go out to eat with friends.

  • Wow, there’s a lot of chivalrous guys out there (well my husband is chivalrous but in other ways, like opening the door for me and carrying stuff for me)! When my husband and I were dating we took turns paying for meals out. In the very beginning this worked well for us because I didn’t want to feel like I owed him if he were to pay all the time. When we got engaged we got a joint account and put in a percentage of our income into it.

  • Ms. FAF, snap out of it!! Let the guy pay all the time. I do so when we were dating (30 years ago) althought Jane always tries to grab the bill first. Once we both grabbed it at the same time, we tore the bill in half. That was embarassing. We are both ABCs.

    We only have joint accounts. We are old school. It just doesn’t seem like a marriage with separate accounts.

    Adam

  • You know…I’m starting to sense that couples who don’t see eye-to-eye about finances don’t tend to pursue financial independence (or blog about it). Well, that’s me. It’s not that the Mrs. and I don’t see eye-to-eye per say, she just doesn’t worry about money AT ALL! I’m going to start posting about this but it’s going to be painful.

  • I’m always fascinated to see how different cultures look at finances differently. It’s great that you guys are open with each other about finances. Reading through the comments, we’re definitely in the minority – Mr Frugal Hacker and I keep our finances completely separate. We have shared financial goals, stay 100% transparent about all of our money, and always optimize for our joint net worth – but ownership of income/expenses is split based on who earned/spent the money.

  • I love how there’s a progression with how you and your husband handled your finances. My wife and I went through something similar. That being said, we prefer to have separate bank accounts for salary deposits, but then we just transfer cash into our joint expenses account so it’s no big deal.

  • I enjoy reading how other couples manage their money. It seems you both are considerate and caring towards each other with how you discuss and manage money. I’m curious to learn more about lending money to your friends. This has never happened to me. Does it happen often?

    • Thank you! 🙂 We loaned money to friends twice this past year. It wasn’t a small amount, but they helped us a lot when we were doing through a tough time, so we were ok with them not returning the money. But as good friends, they did 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing! With one of us a student and the other working and pursuing FI, it’s always helpful to hear how other couples are approaching things to give me ideas of how we can. We split most things down the middle but I’ve gradually taken on a few more things while she’s in school – though I think our money management styles may prove different enough in the future (when she is earning as well) to justify maintaining both a joint account (housing and food related expenses that we share) and independent accounts for our own month to month frivolous spending (clothes, concerts, tech upgrades etc).

    How are you finding that having a single joint account is working out? Is there much ongoing friction around independent spending though you’re both pretty frugal?

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