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I didn't know my fiancé had bought a $17,000 car until he sent me the link to the dealer's website.
"Look!" he texted me.
"Cute," I responded. "Why are you sending this?"
"I just bought it."
I already had a car and we lived in San Francisco where we barely needed one, never mind two. But a few days later, we were at the dealership picking up his bright blue Toyota, which he had tested and purchased on the spot.
As I buckled myself into the new passenger seat he turned to me, guilty grin on his face, and asked, "Is this okay?"
"Is what okay?"
"Do I need to ask you about this kind of stuff?"
We'd been engaged only a few months and were still feeling our way through the bigger issues.
"It's your money babe, you can do what you want with it," I told him.
I meant it. I still do.
Elliot and I have been married for just over a year now, and together for almost three. During that time, we made the deliberate choice to keep our finances 100 percent separate. We don't have a joint bank account and every expense is split 50-50. Time to stock up at Trader Joe's? We either ask the cashier to split the bill, or one of us will pay and the other will Venmo their half. Half of rent, furniture, utilities, and vet bills constantly whizz back and forth, with a tidy spreadsheet to manage outstanding bills.
For now, we contribute equal amounts to savings, but the remainder is up to us to budget and spend as we please. We don't police each other. We don't judge. We trust that the other is an adult and can make their own decisions.
As a kid, I watched my dad ask my mom how much she spent each day, jotting down the particulars in his little yellow reporter's notebook: $3 for coffee, $15.95 at Barnes & Noble.
I never heard my parents fight about money, but they sure talked about it a lot. To my young ears, whenever they went over the daily spending, it felt like he was more her dad than mine. Growing up, I heard again and again that money was the number one reason couples fight. So when I got married, sharing money just didn't make sense. Why would I want my husband to question why I bought those $200 shoes? Why would I want him–love of my life that he is–to be able to spend the money I worked hard for? Or vice versa?
While we may not share a last name or an account number, my husband and I are partners and, together, we decided to take money out of our equation.
Surprisingly, the conflict ended coming from outside our relationship: Friends and family never understand why we kept finances separate. They imply that it makes us less of a team.
"You mean you don't even have a joint account? What about rent?"
"It comes out of Elliot's account and I pay my half every month."
"Doesn't that get annoying?"
Honestly, I feel like it would be more annoying to watch Elliot spend my money. Or have him question me for spending his.
Last year, I spent my savings on a solo trip to London where I rented an Airbnb and wandered the streets. A few months later Elliot traveled to Laos and spent two weeks motorcycling across the country with friends. I just booked a writer's retreat. He bought a stormtrooper costume. As long as he each pays his share of the bills and puts aside money for savings, I don't ask questions and I expect the same from him.
We're both healthy and employed and make decent money. We're childless and live in an affordable city. I imagine that once a mortgage and children come into the picture, or if one of us loses a job or gets injured, we won't have the luxury of living separate, but married lives. I imagine Venmo-ing back and forth for diapers and daycare is going to feel much less fun than sending him $20 for my share of date night.
For now though, we're partners in our independence, and we plan on holding on to that for as long as possible.
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Marian is a writer, storyteller and brainstorm partner. She's been based all over the world, having left her heart in San Francisco, New Zealand, London and New York. Part of her heart belongs to the internet, too. She believes in the internet’s power to invite a real, deep look into our own unique stories and our feelings about them. Follow those stories at marianlibrarian.com
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