Why I'll share toothpaste, but never money with my partner


Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam

Blog author Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam is a money writer and educator. She helps artists and freelancers get creative with their money at Hey Freelancer.

Published June 25, 2018|3 min read

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A few months ago, after a Sunday barbecue with my partner’s neighbor, my partner and I had a chat about money. After what felt like non-stop drama, the neighbor is separating from his girlfriend of 20 years. On top of the ugly, door-slamming-in-face fights, they need to make sense of their jumble of shared bills, credit cards and car payments.

“Yea, I don’t see the point of mixing my money with anyone,” I said when we got back to his place.

“Same,” he replied.

We’ve witnessed too many horror stories of couples and money and we like to handle our own finances.

While we share toothpaste, travel memories and pet care responsibilities, one thing we never intend to blend are our finances. Here are five reasons why:

1. We’re cool with each other’s money management style

My partner and I handle money differently. We’re both planners, but once he has enough cash, my boyfriend intends to pay for his house in full. I, on the other hand, employ a “slow and steady wins the race” approach and will take out a mortgage.

My partner doesn’t own a credit card and doesn’t have a single banking app on his phone. Conversely, I’m a methodical gal who swears by money management apps such as Digit and Qapital, and can’t imagine adulthood without credit card rewards.

Persuading him to be a financial technology obsessive would be a Sisyphean task. But I have zero interest in getting him to adopt my money nerd ways. We have different tactics for handling our finances and we’re fine with it.

2. We value autonomy

Money has granted me autonomy and security. Frugality in my early 20s allowed me to take a slight pay cut from a toxic, dead-end job. Fast forward about a decade, and that savings allowed me to plunge into full-time freelancing.

My partner on the other hand, carved out a life as an artist by having his own business. To him, money also represents autonomy, as well as resources for creative expression. He was able to to devote spare time and money to making art, which grew into a thriving practice. While we both see the ability to make, save and allocate our finances as we see fit, we like having the freedom to manage it the way we choose.

3. We grant each other privacy

Beyond exchanging transactions on Venmo, we’re private about our spending. Sure, we “show and tell” about recent purchases and deals, but I really don’t need to know what he’s spending his money on. And vice versa.

So if I decide to blow some beans on an inflatable golden swan floatie and he buys some bling to decorate the interior of his whip, that’s up to our discretion. I don’t think I’d be comfortable with another person seeing my transactions. I scrutinize my purchases enough on my own.

4. We love having our own space

My partner and I give each other space to pursue our interests, curiosities and friendships. My partner requires several nights alone to get in touch with his art. I need time to get in touch with my inner world and to wander alone. We spend time together but we don’t need to always know what the other is up to.

The space we offer one another extends to the way we budget. If we decide to live together we may decide to open a joint account for rent, bills, groceries and other shared expenses. But we plan to maintain a level of space.

5. We respect one another’s personal journey with money

It boils down to respect. While we’re slowly integrating our lives, we respect our different ways of approaching money. We understand we have different experiences and perceptions of money, which affects how we handle it.

His journey with money is different from mine and it needs to shift and evolve at its own pace. He respects my relationship with money and lets me deal with challenges on my terms.

Some couples like having joint bank accounts. My partner and I intend to keep ours separate. That’s how we like to roll. It’s an extension of our values and the role money plays in our respective lives.

Want to become a financial power couple? Adopt these 10 habits.

Image: filadendron