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An Allowance for Adults

Saturday, March 24, 2012 7:53 PM

Supposedly it's inappropriate and gauche and plain ol' crass, but I'd like to talk about money.

J and I opened a joint bank account after getting married. We'd lived together for more than four years already, but our money was always separate. I think we did a pretty good job of splitting expenses, but it became sort of annoying trying to remember whose week it was to buy groceries, or calculating how much he owed me after I wrote the rent check. So we definitely wanted to pool our money — just not all of it.

In my opinion, every married person needs their own money. We all hope for the best and work to make it happen, but sometimes shit goes wrong, and you have to be prepared. J and I each set aside $2,000 dollars in our own, personal accounts.

I actually want to talk about something more pleasant than that, though. The best money decision we made, I think, was to pay ourselves an adult allowance. It goes into those same personal accounts that I just mentioned, but this money isn't for emergencies — it's for fun. Any purchase that is discretionary and benefits only one of us comes out of our own money rather than the household budget I've set up for us. So, for instance, going to a movie together is discretionary, but it's fun time for us to spend with each other, so that comes from our joint account. And an oil change for my car doesn't benefit J (I bought the car before we even started dating, and his name's not on the title), but it's a necessary expense, so that, too, is paid with "our" money.

I love this system because we both can spend money on ourselves and our hobbies without worrying what the other would think. I don't question J's spending, and he doesn't question mine. We both buy gifts for each other and clothing for ourselves out of our personal accounts. J also spends his money on golf and occasional lunches out; I buy books, makeup and booze (J doesn't drink alcohol, so that's not a shared expense).

A direct deposit sends $25 from each of my weekly paychecks to my personal account. I'd like to increase that the next time I get a raise, because it's really not that much. There certainly are style bloggers who spend $100 or more on clothes each month, and I have to make that amount stretch for both clothing and other purchases. I just try to keep the balance above the $2,000 I initially set aside.

Right now I'm trying to save some money for a trip to Lake Tahoe with my best college friends — none of whom I've seen since my wedding almost 18 months ago — at the end of July. Even if I don't spend a dime until then, I won't be able to sack away enough to pay for the airfare, my portion of the house rental, food, etc., so it's pointless to bar myself from spending altogether. I'm just trying to spend less. Thus far in March, my personal account has taken in $75, and I've spent $16.97 on one thrifting expedition. And I pretty much made up for that by earning $16.50 from consignment sales.

I do feel a little pinched, sometimes. I would have liked to hit the end-of-season sales to stock up on clearance-priced tights for next winter. I want a chambray shirt, some candy-colored skinny jeans, new shoes and maybe a new swimsuit. I will go out to buy a reasonably priced bottle of bourbon or rye, and an orange, so I can enjoy a couple of old-fashioneds when "Mad Men" returns tomorrow night, but my monthly reports of thrifting finds may be shorter for the next few months.

So yeah, I occasionally would like to have more spending money, but we all have to have budgets, right? This is mine. I can't have everything I want, but I love the balance I have between the feeling of sharing and support that comes from our joint account, and not having to account to anyone for my more frivolous purchases. For anyone in a committed relationship who commingles funds, I would highly recommend this sort of "adult allowance" system!


Kara @ Unusual Form

My husband and I also have "adult allowances" of $25 per week each. Our allowance seems to have similar rules to yours. We are also allowed to make extra money through any free lance work, if I sale clothes at consignment, etc. I agree that adult allowance is the way to go if you combine accounts. It's nice to have a bit of money that isn't accounted for.


I liked your post about that a few weeks ago, Kara. I'm fascinated to hear about how other people handle things like that, so thanks for sharing!

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