A Longtime Couple, a Strict Financial Blueprint, and Multiple Joint Accounts

The latest edition of Marie Claire's 'Couples + Money' series.

Welcome to Couples + Money, where we break through the confines of polite conversation. Forget questions about your sex life. We're getting even more personal. Let's talk about what you and your partner are doing—and not doing—with your paychecks.

Every other Thursday, an anonymous couple will get candid with MarieClaire.com about how they split their finances. We’ll break down what each person pays for individually, what they split, and all the gritty details—from who picks up the bill in restaurants to who picks fights over bank statements.

This week, we're talking with Sabrina, 31, an office manager in Greater Portland, Maine, who earns $36,000 per year ($3,000 per month), and her partner Joe, 31, a master electrician who earns $60,000 per year ($5,000 per month)They've been together nine years.

Want to be profiled with your partner in Couples + Money? Get in touch: couples.money@hearst.com.

How It All Happened

Sabrina: We were set up in college by a mutual friend. Three months in, we found a house to rent, out in the Maine woods, with another couple. I think it was $300 a month apiece.

Joe: This was in 2010.

Our Dependents

Sabrina: We have two fluffy four-legged roommates—felines named Lionel and Lola. Both of our cats came from animal shelters that heavily relied upon donations.

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Joe: We donate a large quantity of cat food and cat litter to local animal shelters (around $1,500 per year). I prefer to donate items rather than money, because I'm not always sure how they spend their money.

Sabrina: We've been making these donations for three years now. We kept thinking about all the kitties left behind that still needed the basics.

When We Told Each Other Our Salaries

Sabrina: It was in the first three months of dating. We had to know what we could each afford to pay for rent when we first moved in together.

Joe: I don't recall. Apparently, it wasn't very memorable...?

Why We Have a Joint Account

Sabrina: We have a bunch of joint accounts—checking, savings, an emergency fund, and business checking accounts. It adds up to about $34,000 in total.

Joe: Part of the reason we've been financially successful is that we've never thought of ourselves as separate entities.

Sabrina: Since we've been married, we haven't been splitting anything. It wouldn't matter who hands over the debit card at a restaurant to pay for dinner—the money is coming out of the same joint account.

How We Handle The Cost Of Living

Sabrina: Both our incomes get deposited into one account. Then, we disperse accordingly—mortgage payments, property taxes, savings, groceries, insurance, utilities. All of which is written down and budgeted out. I know, we're weird.

How Often We Talk About Money

Sabrina: We talk about money at least once a week. It's like a financial health check—checking the bank account, saying, "Yup, still alive."

Joe: We talk about money when we need to. Which is nearly every week.

What We Keep Secret

Joe: Secrets? There are no secrets.

Sabrina: We decided to have our own amount set aside for pocket money each month. We don't need to feel guilty about the expensive coffee, or the cute top I found on sale.

Joe: No secret debts. No secret loans. No secret credit scores.

Sabrina: We're emotionally healthy about that.

How We Learned To Budget

Sabrina: Budgeting early on was like throwing a dart at the wall, but you're blindfolded.

Joe: We were in debt, and things were difficult. We were very unhappy.

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Sabrina: I started listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio and convinced my newlywed husband to listen to him too.

Joe: Dave Ramsey's teachings have has been instrumental in getting ourselves out of debt.

Sabrina: We buckled down and followed his plan, which involves making a budget each month with your spouse. And spit-shaking on it.

Joe: We're currently working on next month's budget.

Our Biggest Fight About Money

Sabrina: We will have fiery debates about financial topics. Like, the debate about the minimum wage increase, should football players make the same as a doctor.

Joe: We haven't had any fights about money in many years.

Sabrina: It's been a while!

How We Pay For The Non-Essentials

Sabrina: We have our own designated pocket money, and for vacations, we set aside money for when we're ready to go.

Joe: For vacations, we're able to budget from our regular checking.

What We're Banking On

Joe: Paying off our house.

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Sabrina: Our goal in the next 24 months—hopefully less—is to pay off our mortgage.

Joe: We only have $44,000 left, and no other debt.

Sabrina: We'll have an awesome mortgage burning party.

Joe: It's not just a financial goal. We want to live in a house that's truly our own.

Sabrina: I can't wait for it to be gone.

Interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity. Pseudonyms have been used. Reporting by Amanda Mitchell. Design and illustration by Morgan McMullen. Animation by Hayeon Kim and Colin Gara.

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