Managing money between a husband and wife can present some real challenges. Have you ever found yourself at the store or gas station ready to pay, only to realize that the last $20 in your purse or wallet is gone? It’s a sickening feel in the pit of your stomach when you realize you can’t pay for something. This happened to my mom all the time when I was a kid.
My parents went from one financial crisis to another and were always short on cash. I recall vividly my mom yelling at my step-dad because he had taken money out of her purse and left her with nothing. She usually figured out that she had no cash just after putting $5 worth of gas in the car (gas was a lot cheaper back then). A resolution to this problem always seemed simple to me, even if it eluded my parents. So here are some tips if you or your spouse are regularly raiding the other’s money supply:
1. Communicate: If you need cash, don’t just take it from your spouse without talking to them first. We all find ourselves without cash from time to time, but taking your spouse’s money without asking (or at least telling) them, is just plain rude. In a pinch, at least leave a note if for some reason you can’t speak to them right away.
2. Plan: Often times, a spouse is out of cash for lack of planning. Occasionally this happens to us all. But if it’s a regular occurrence, then you need to rethink how you’re managing your money. My wife always keeps a $20 reserve for emergencies. If she needs to use it, she makes sure to replenish it as soon as possible.
3. Use a Debit Card: We use a MasterCard debit card that is tied to our checking account. We also have overdraft protection just in case we run a negative balance just before payday. With the debit card, we are never out of money as long as we can get to an ATM or don’t have to pay cash for what we’re purchasing.
4. Carry a Credit Card: We also carry a credit card just in case. I know there are some who view credit cards as evil. I don’t, although we do pay off our credit card balance each month. But carrying a credit card can come in handy during an emergency, particularly when we are traveling.
5. Respect Each Other: Money is one of the biggest causes of strife in a marriage. Taking money from a spouse without communicating with them can understandably be a serious source of conflict. It may be a quick an easy solution to a money shortfall, but the harm it can do to your relationship in the long run is not worth it. In the end it comes down to mutual respect.
6. Keep a Change Jar: We have a change jar where we dump our change at the end of the day. Over time, the amount of money in the change jar can grow and come in handy when you’re in a bind. I sometimes need to pay $5 in cash to park my car at the subway, and I’ve tapped the change jar more than once when my wallet was empty.
Do you or your spouse take money from the other without asking? Cast your vote, and then leave a comment if you’ve had to confront this issue in your marriage.
Update: This article was featured as an Editor’s Pick in the 58th Edition of the Carnival of Money Stories.
Published or updated February 14, 2013.