Here’s a post from yetanotherpfblog that inspired this one.
Long-time readers of the blog may be aware that DH has a weekly allowance, and I don’t. DH keeps track of this allowance himself. I *think* it is currently set at $40/week and an additional $400 for Christmas and another $400 for his birthday (I think it got bumped up the last time he got a raise). So… if my math is right, that’s $2,880 in discretionary spending each year that he does that we don’t talk about. It covers everything he wants to buy that he doesn’t want to talk over first except things he buys at the grocery store and meals out with at least one other family member. It does not cover clothing, and it wouldn’t cover the gym or medical stuff if he had it… but we talk about those things first. (So coffee out by himself comes out of his allowance, but if he takes one of the kids with him to get a hot chocolate it doesn’t.) Usually things like subscriptions to audible or blue bottle would also come out of it (but not Tea Runners because the herbal quarter of each delivery is mine). He also uses it for most of his hobbies, fancy food things he doesn’t buy at the grocery store, presents for me, and the occasional paying for a mistake kind of thing to make me happy (ex. parking tickets).
The most recent change was me getting tired of him buying awful Starbucks beans from the grocery store (so they don’t count against his allowance) and telling him to put a blue bottle subscription on the family budget because gosh darn it we are rich and we do not need to be drinking burned coffee. (He is fine with more robust coffee than I am.) The bad beans are because he’s been saving up– he’s trying to decide between a 3D printer and an RC plane. I am hoping for the printer because we already have at least two mostly unused RC flying objects in the house (3 if you count the one the kids have that can’t be controlled). But it’s his money, so he gets to decide.
He likes his allowance because it lets him manage his own budget without affecting the general budget and I like it because there’s a predictable amount going out.
One thing we do sometimes is the cost of a low-end or average thing will come out of the joint account but if DH wants a really nice version the difference will come out of his allowance. So if he wants an office chair, we’ll pick an amount that a reasonable office chair would cost (say $500), and if he wants a fancy $1K chair, the additional $500 would come out of his allowance. We tend to do this with things like monitors or the one video projector replacement we’ve done.
I don’t have an allowance– I do all the money stuff so I don’t need to spend a predictable amount for me to do planning since it’s my spending and don’t have the need to spend all the money vs none of the money that DH has and I don’t get enjoyment out of the shopping process like he does. Generally this means we talk about every penny I spend that’s not on grocery/utilities/etc., although since we’ve gotten rich I’ve started making lots of $25 donations without telling DH about it right away. I just don’t buy things frequently (my MIL is so generous with the kids that we rarely have to buy more than socks, underwear, and the occasional orchestra outfit). I buy clothing in one fell swoop once every two years on a full day shopping trip and shoes every few years. The things we talk about are things we should talk about like what kind of stove to get or whether to replace the projector or what summer camp to send our kids to or to drive vs fly. Also I tend to put smaller things on my amazon wishlist throughout the year and people buy them for me at Christmas.
When we were younger and poorer we discussed more individual purchases, but these days we can afford to buy whatever can be bought at the grocery store out of the joint account. When I buy something I mention I’m going to do it and he says ok. It’s not so much permission as discussion and informing. Money is a tool to provide happiness, and we want to balance what it can do in terms of present vs future consumption.
It really hasn’t been a big deal to discuss our spending beyond DH’s allowance, at least not once we instated the allowance. Back when we couldn’t afford all our wants I’d have looked at our cash flow and emergency savings and I would have been able to say if it was going to put too much pressure on the joint account or if we could handle it. There were some startup costs when we were first figuring things out and we were getting on the same page but it got easier.
How do you (and, if applicable, your partner) deal with discretionary spending?