How the Allowance System Improved My Marriage

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Most of us understand that we “should” have a budget, but budgeting can be a big undertaking. So, why not start simply?

People gave me a lot of cliché advice before I got married.

It wasn’t all bad, but as far as I can remember, no one gave me advice about money.

I’ve been really honest about the struggles my husband and I overcame to pay off our debt and get on the same page with our financial goals.

Other couples ask us for advice pretty often, and some of the advice is challenging to follow, or very generic. For example, most of us know that we “should” have a budget, and I do believe in budgets, but budgeting can be a big undertaking.

Want to know my simplest advice?

Create an allowance system.

There’s nothing like that icky, bitter feeling you notice for the first time in the early days of marriage when your husband comes home with yet another fishing pole and you can’t help but think how you really want new pillows for the couch and that money would have been way better spent on pillows.

Or, on the opposite side, there’s the guilty feeling of coming home from the mall with a great pair of boots and having your husband react in a subtly-disapproving way. (C’mon, they were on sale! Doesn’t he get it?!)

When my husband and I realized that we didn’t 100% agree on everything when it came to money (shocker—no one does) and when we got serious about paying off debt, one of the first things we did was enact an allowance system for ourselves.

We still use the allowance system to this day, and we probably always will, although the amount of our allowance will hopefully increase.

How does it work?

  1. Each of us has $75 per month to spend on whatever we want (no eye rolls or guilt-inducing questions from the other spouse allowed).
  2. We have clear guidelines of what counts toward our allowance and what doesn’t. “Necessities” like toiletries, makeup, and haircuts don’t count, but my manicures do. Kyle’s gas money to drive up north to go hunting doesn’t count, but his license and ammo do. (In case you’re wondering, most of my allowance is spent on manicures and clothes, and Kyle’s is spent on his hobbies.)
  3. We keep track of our allowance on our monthly budget spreadsheet, and we allow for carry-overs, either positively or negatively. (I am currently in the negative, so no new clothes for me for a while.)
  4. If we sell something we initially bought with our allowance money, like if I consign some clothes or Kyle sells an old boat motor, we get to keep that money and add it to our allowance “fund.”

What’s not important is how you create an allowance system for your marriage, as long as it works for you. We have friends who have started using this system who follow different parameters, but it achieves the same result!

So, how has the allowance system improved my marriage?

Well, like I said before, there are no more eye rolls or guilt-inducing questions when one of us makes a purchase. Kyle’s allowance money is his money to spend and mine is my money to spend. Honestly, both of us think that the things each other spends their money on are kind of ridiculous, but we never get upset about it anymore.

Having an allowance takes away the “keeping score” or “keeping tally” type of mindset that is so common (and dangerous) in marriage, of who spends more money or who has it better. It has eliminated the need for a lot of the tense financial discussions a lot of couples find themselves in. It also removes my urge to complain to my girlfriends how much Kyle just spent refurbishing his boat as well as my urge to go out and buy something for myself to even the score.

Finally, the allowance system has helped us get debt-free faster and spend God’s money more wisely. I can say for certain that we’d both spend more money on ourselves if we didn’t have a set limit for it. Having an allowance not only improved my marriage, but it improved our financial health and our ability to be more generous to others with the money God’s given us.

No matter what financial choices or systems you make in your marriage, it all starts with a conversation. 

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