Relationships + Money: Bel and James

14 Feb 2022

| Love and Money

Trying to manage money in 2022 can be challenging, not to mention when you throw a relationship into the mix. So how do couples make it work?

We chatted to local Adelaide couple Bel and James about how they manage their money and what obstacles they’ve come up against.

Every relationship is different, and everyone will have their own way of managing money. This is just one couples story.

Meet Bel and James, they met three years ago on a popular dating app (rhyming with 'humble'). They now live together with their dog Bruce in a small unit and work full time. Both Bel and James are fiercely independent, and are trying to navigate how they can manage their money more as a team. 

Name: Belinda

Age: 33

Location: Adelaide

Approx. Salary: $68,000

Name: James

Age: 34

Location: Adelaide

Approx. Salary: $100,000

So... How would you describe each other’s saving styles?

James: I’d say Bel is a short-term saver. I think it’s hard for her to focus on long terms goals.

Bel: I’d say James is pretty inconsistent when it comes to saving.

Why did you describe each other savings styles like this?

James: Because I know that in a year and a half, she hasn't really saved a whole lot, besides for some holidays and bits for the house. Also, there are a lot of parcels rocking up at the house.

Bel: Those parcels are for both of us.

James: Maybe…

Bel: I described James as inconsistent because he goes through phases of knuckling down and saving hard, then phases of not caring at all – spending his entire pay every week. He gets caught up in the moment. If he doesn’t have a goal in mind, it’s hard for him to save.

How do you manage your money together?

James: We go half in just about everything. When Bel buys something, I just transfer my half to her and vice versa.

Why don’t you have a joint account?

Bel: Because I think we like having our own money and not having to justify every purchase to each other. We pay what we need to in terms of bills, mortgage and food then whatever is left from our pay is ours to do whatever we want with.

James: I also think we’ve seen a lot of our friends fight over money. They see every transaction in their joint account, and it causes a lot of issues.

Is one of you better at managing money than the other?

James: I think I'm a little bit better than Bel.

Bel: I’d say he is a bit better than me but we’re talking only by a fraction.

What works for both of you as a couple?

Bel: We’re both pretty independent people, so we like to manage our own money and spend our ‘disposable income’ however we like. I think it helps that we got together in our early 30’s so we both had time managing our own money before we met and had similar ideas around how we wanted things to work.

James: I’d say communication is massive for us. It might seem a bit anal to people that we literally go halves in everything, and that we really keep on top of it. Like, we don’t just go ‘ah it will work out in the wash’ because you know what, most of the time it actually doesn’t and that can cause resentment down the line. So, we always make sure it’s 100% fair.

What doesn’t work well for you as a couple?

Bel: Well as much as we like going halves in everything, we hate having to transfer money back and forth to each other all the time, especially for groceries. So we have been talking about setting up an account which we will use just for food shopping so that we don’t have to keep making transfers.

James: Yeah, like sometimes Bel will go to the shops and buy bits and pieces throughout the week, then she’ll just ask me for a lump sum. It can throw my budget out because I didn’t really know how much we were spending on food. So, I think having a shared account for groceries will be good for both of us.

James earns significantly more than you Bel. Does that create an unequal power balance in the relationship?

Bel: I don’t think so. I guess the only thing that could’ve made the dynamic a little weird is the fact that James owns the unit we live in, which he bought before we were together. I put money towards the mortgage but at the end of the day, he owns the unit. But he’s never once made me feel like it wasn’t ‘our home’ or held it over my head or anything like that. It’s the same with what he earns, it’s not even a thought, really.

James: Now I feel bad like I should be paying for more stuff because I actually forget that I earn a bit more than Bel. But to be honest, Bel won’t let me.

Bel: I grew up with the ‘pay your way’ motto, so it’s just instilled in me. But also, James owns the unit we live in, which is massive. It means I haven’t had to fork out a deposit, LMI, stamp duty and all the other expenses that go along with buying a unit.

Have you ever argued about money?

James: Yeah. Like five minutes ago haha.

Bel: Well yes, neither of us wanted to admit one was better than the other at managing money ha!

James: But otherwise, not really. I think maybe over the last three years we’ve had two or three minor squabbles over stuff like ‘I paid for that, not you’ but then it’s cleared up pretty quickly.

Bel: Yeah, I think we have a similar viewpoint when it comes to managing money which really helps. Like I think it’s hard when one partner is a big spender and the other is a saver, whereas we’re both just kind of in the middle.

Do you think of yourselves as being good with money?

James: I’d say we’re about a 6 or 7 out of 10. We probably don’t save as much as we should but we also, don’t blow money on useless stuff.

Bel: Yeah, and we want to enjoy ourselves which means spending money on experiences like travel, socialising, good food and wine and all that. It’s important to us. What do they say ‘you can’t take all your money with you when you die’ or something like that?

James: Neither of us have been in bad debt or anything, so I’d say we’re middle of the road.

How have your upbringings influenced the way you are with money?

Bel: We didn’t grow up with a lot but what we did have, was ours. My mum was a big believer in ‘only buying what you can afford’ which meant no credit cards or silly debts. It’s always stayed with me. Save and then buy… not the other way around.

James: Yeah, my parents we’re also anti credit cards and spent within their means. But we probably had a bit more money than Bel’s family, so my parents also taught me a lot about making my money work for me in terms of investing. This has probably been the biggest difference in our upbringings around money, I feel comfortable investing, whereas Bel doesn’t

Bel: I’m slowly letting my guard down and dabbling a little but it’s scary for me.

What are your financial goals as a couple?

Bel: We’d like to buy a house together but we’re not in a mad rush, especially now that the market is crazy.

James: Yeah, and we had been saving for overseas adventures, but that’s also been put on hold thanks to COVID. So, we’re kind of just saving and waiting to see what happens.

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