Combining Finances with Your Spouse

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Bret just spent more money on flip-flops than my first car payment! 

He also refused to pay $12 for water from the mini-bar. 

I’m okay with both.


People always ask how we manage our finances as a married couple. The truth is, it’s complicated…. But it works and it is one of the things that actually brings us closer. 

Let me explain. 


Even when we first started dating (a hundred years ago), it was clear we had similar views on spending and saving. That was important. And in full transparency, that made things a lot easier for us over the years. 

But even if you don’t see eye to eye initially, it is possible to get on the same page! 


Before we got married, we never really talked about our financial options; should we combine finances, keep our own accounts, etc?  At the time, I was making a fraction of what Bret was making (he had just been picked up by the Toronto Argonauts). I was working as a paralegal, fitness instructor, personal trainer, and part-time car flipper.  

I think we just assumed married couples were supposed to combine their finances, as that’s what both of our parents had done. And so we did. 

From the beginning, quite by default, we just believed the mantra… “What’s mine is is your and what’s yours is mine”.  We were building our life together, as one. 

We never talked about it, but as we recall, from the jump we got in the habit of running bigger or more questionable purchases past each other.


Here’s what that sounded like… 

“Hey, that sweater I really like is almost $100. What do you think?” 

“I was going to get tickets to the game, but they’re pretty pricey…” 


To an outsider, it might sound like “asking for permission”. But for us, it was a way to respect each other and sometimes, frankly, it was a way to ask for the other person’s blessing or validation. 

I’m no expert on this subject, but in the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with listeners of the Chalene Show over the years, I think very few couples ever really sit down and discuss how they’re going to handle money before they get married. 


They just tie the not and do one of two things… 

  1. Never discuss and just keep things separate 
  2. Kinda discuss it, and just do what they saw one or both sets of their parents do. 


I think Bret and I got lucky. But the average couple can’t count on luck when it comes to the health of their relationship to money. 

So let’s talk about it… 


Now, I know not everyone has those same discussions early in their relationship. I’d like to take a look at some of the struggles couples face when combining finances. Of course, we’ll also explore useful tips for tackling those issues. 


combining finances


Common Money-Related Marital Issues

Conflict and disagreements: Having different financial goals, priorities, and attitudes toward money can create significant tension between spouses

Financial infidelity: Keeping purchases secret or hiding bank accounts is like having a secret affair with money. It can seriously damage the foundation of a marriage.

Power imbalances: Combining finances with one spouse in control, and making all the decisions, can create a power imbalance that leaves the other spouse feeling disempowered & undervalued.

Incompatible financial goals: Conflicting financial goals, such as saving for the future versus seeking immediate gratification, can result in a lack of alignment and difficulty in finding common ground.


Finances can cause difficulties in a marriage. But if you and your partner talk about your goals, values, and how you want to handle money as a team right from the start, you save can a whole lot of headaches down the road.

Despite our best efforts, however, issues may still arise. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to navigate financial problems within a marriage.


Ways of Navigating Money-Related Marital Issues
  • Openly communicating about financial goals, concerns, and decisions as a team, especially before ever even combining finances
  • Setting shared financial goals. Whether it’s saving for a house, paying off debt, or planning for retirement, setting common objectives can align your efforts and strengthen your financial partnership
  • Establishing an emergency fund can provide a financial safety net and reduce stress during challenging times
  • Regularly reviewing and reassessing your budget, tracking your spending, and evaluating whether adjustments are needed
  • Finding a middle ground on matters where you have differing opinions. Look for creative solutions that consider both partners’ needs and values
  • Seeking assistance from a financial planner or couples’ counselor with expertise in financial matters can help you develop strategies to overcome financial hurdles


combining finances


Combining Finances with Your Spouse


  • Transparency and trust
  • Simplicity and efficiency
  • Enhanced financial planning
  • Shared responsibility
  • Equal access and control


  • Conflict over spending habits
  • Increased financial vulnerability
  • Difficulty untangling finances
  • Loss of financial autonomy
  • Unequal financial contributions


Let’s dig into those last two for a second…

Loss of financial autonomy is avoidable. Again, keeping an open line of communication from the beginning will help you down the line. Discuss up front how you each feel about “asking permission” before making purchases. 

Unequal financial contributions don’t have to be a conflict. When you enter into marriage, it’s almost like you’re merging into one company. You become one source of funds. You’re going to buy together, invest together, build together. 



It’s completely normal to feel apprehensive about combining finances with your spouse. Money matters can be sensitive and the conflicts that can arise are no joke.

Trust me, they happen to the best of us!

If you’re still feeling uneasy, consider taking a gradual approach. Start by opening a joint account for shared expenses while maintaining separate accounts for personal spending. This can provide a sense of autonomy and ease the transition.

Either way, it’s crucial to get on the same page early on. Make it fun (as possible) and have a money date! Go out and talk about your financial goals, priorities, and how you want to handle your hard-earned cash together. You’ll be glad you did.

And, don’t be shy about seeking help from a financial advisor or counselor – they’ve got the tools to guide you through the rough patches. Our CPA saw us through the worst of it, including Bret’s gambling addiction. To hear details of how we handled that, and other money issues, don’t miss episode #995 of The Chalene Show – Should You Combine Finances?



Here’s why you want to listen to episode #995 – Should You Combine Finances? | Money and Marriage Talk with Bret and Chalene
  • How we started our marital financial situations 
  • How we currently manage our finances
  • How I lost trust after Bret’s gambling addiction
  • Advice for new couples 
  • How to know if what you’re doing is working



I’m on Patreon!

Oh, and did you know I have a Patreon? If you love my free episodes, you’re going to LOVE the extra ones that I reserve just for my homies. These episodes are juicer, more personal, feature my husband Bret completely unfiltered, and are kinda like a secret club. Check it out here.


Check out the following links for more tips for navigating marriage and your finances…

The #1 Secret To A Successful Marriage – Blog

Why Marriage Is Hard – Blog

How To Spice Up Your Marriage – Blog

Why I Plan To Die with Zero – Blog

TCS #959 – Dollars & Sense | Making Money & Investing Simply 

TCS #589 – So Money Is Tight & Tensions Are High

TCS #537 – How To Get Started Investing Money | with Bret Johnson


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