Should Married Couples Share Their Finances or Keep Their Money Separate? Part 1

Whether you are just getting engaged, in the honey moon stage, or have spent a life time together; the question of combining money is extremely important for most to make and only a passing thought for others.

The tradition of automatically pooling funds can be hard to break. It works well for some couples but the discussion of whether to pool your funds, keep them separate or a combination of the two is often a very difficult subject to approach.

Money problems are often cited as the most common trigger for arguments and one of the top reasons that married couples get divorced. Before walking down the aisle couples should spend a great deal of time discussing their feelings about money and deciding how they will handle finances from paying the electric bill to vacations to retirement. At the same time they should decide whether or not they will share their money, in whole or in part or not at all.

While the ultimate decision varies from couple to couple – many financial advisers recommend that married people each have some separate finances (including bank accounts and credit cards) and have a joint account for certain shared expenses (such as mortgages, child care, groceries, investment goals, etc.).

Separate Not Secret – Please keep in mind that separate does not mean secret. Avoid financial secrets as any secrets can be devastating to a marriage.

Some of the Basic Reasons to separate accounts include:

From simple things like:

Avoiding the frustration when your spouse forgets to tell you about checks written, ATM withdrawals, charges on your credit cards, or an eBay addition.

Protection – Protects at least the separate portion of your money from these factors as well as when there are more difficult issues that can arise when a marriage goes sour.

To more complicated Financial Issues:

Examples include those that are brought into the marriage, such as:

Issues from previous marriages, child support, alimony,

When one spouse brings a ton of debt into the marriage,

If one spouse is a spendthrift, a gambler, impulse buyer,

If one spouse gets the “its my money” bug. or

If one spouse brings a great deal of money, property or an anticipated inheritance in. (This is a good time to ask “Do you need a pre-nup?”)

Be sure to look out for Part 2 of this article to learn more and to help you decide if sharing all of your money with your spouse is right for you.

If you have feelings as to whether or not couples should share finances or example of good or bad experiences related to sharing (or not) finances please feel free to share them below in the comment section. The more people know about the good and bad that can occur the more likely they will be able to make a comfortable decision as to how to handle their own situation.

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5 Ways to Organize and Stay on Top of Your Finances in 2011

If 2011 is going to be the year you get ahead financially, you need a plan to stay organized and on top of your bills and cash flow. Missing bill payments, spending without a budget and not monitoring your bank accounts can end up costing you in the long run, and will make it harder to keep your financial house in order. Getting your bills and cash flow organized is essential for staying on top of your finances in 2011m and these activities can also help you budget better all year long.

Use these five tips to stay organized and on top of your finances in 2011:

  1. Create a budget blueprint. You can use financial software to make a budget, or just create your own using your favorite spreadsheet software. The goal is to create a basic outline of your cash flow – a comprehensive list of your monthly fixed and variable expenses, all of your income sources, and any big purchases you expect to make within the next six to twelve months. Use this blueprint as a guide and reference it regularly (see #2) to keep your finances organized.
  2. Review and revise your budget at least twice per month. Keep a close eye on your expenses and make sure all of your bills are paid on time by reviewing your budget or cash flow statement at least twice per month. Make sure you write down confirmation numbers of bills you paid online so that you can correct any mistakes easily.
  3. Pay your bills on a schedule. If you can’t pay bills as soon as you receive them, at least have a plan to pay them on a specific date – well before the due date. One of the easiest ways to organize and stay on top of your finances in 2011 is by creating a bill payment schedule or calendar. Keep this calendar or schedule in a visible place so that you never miss a bill payment again.
  4. Create a monthly checklist of luxury or extra expenses. Are you planning on purchasing a big-ticket item this month? Are you looking to splurge on something for a special occasion? Create a list of these “upcoming” expenses so that you can add them to your budget and keep track of your expenditures. Forecasting your expense in this way can help you better organize your finances and may also prevent you from overspending.
  5. Open at least one checking account at a local bank. Even if you do most of your banking online, stay organized and don’t worry about check cashing by having an account at a local bank. Open a checking account at a local bank so that you can get an ATM fee-free debit card, and also cash your checks without having to pay a fee. Make sure you understand what your limitations are with this account and that you understand the minimum balance you have to maintain in order to avoid fees.

Managing Expenses for an Audit

Tracking your expenses is an integral step in managing your business’ finances. Unfortunately, merely writing down what you spend doesn’t cut it anymore.

When the IRS wants to have a look at what you’re writing off, or a potential acquirer for your small business wants to see how you spend your money, without any expense organization, you could end up deep over your head.

The following three tips for expense management will help survive your next audit:

1) Keep All of your Receipts

Anytime you spend over $75 on a business expense the IRS will require a receipt for it. But any business expense under $75, you are required to provide “convincing documentation” that the expense was actually incurred for a business purpose. While a calendar entry will provide some proof of a business expense, leave no doubt in your auditor’s mind by saving and collecting all of receipts, not just the expensive expenditures. There are plenty of portable receipt scanners out there such as ProOnGo Expense and Neat Receipts, but whatever you do, make sure you have a way to easily collect and store your receipts.

2) Log your Miles

Warren Buffet wrote-off his bicycle on his first income tax statement as a transportation cost at the age of 14. While you may not ride a bike to work, you can certainly write off the miles you drive. If you drive 20 miles round trip for work every day, then you could can write-off $10 for every day you drove to work in 2010.

3) Track both Business AND Personal Expenses

If you’re undergoing an audit, the main objective is to convince the auditor that the numbers you keep are dependable and accurate. This is why keeping track of your personal expenses, in addition to your business expenses, can give your auditor more confidence in your math. If you demonstrate you have a full understanding of what you can and can’t write off as business expenses, you will instill that much more confidence in your numbers.

An audit can be a major headache. Fortunately, expense management is a powerful tool in protecting yourself in case of an audit, so make sure you take the proper precautions the next time your write off your next business expense.

 

After Christmas Sales for 2010 May Have Fallen Short of Expectations

In the past many shoppers have been persistent in their efforts to find the ultimate bargains after Christmas. Retailers also anticipate huge crowds after Christmas as they continuously boast about the sales and bargains that customers will receive. They are hopeful that customers will come out eagerly buying that gift that they did not receive for Christmas. December 26, 2010 the crowds were smaller than expected. This reduction in the after Christmas shopping crowd came as a result of either in climate weather or just overall lack of funds. Now on the east coast in particular crowds were low because it was slammed by snowstorms. These snowstorms kept many would be bargain shoppers at home. Some stores were even offering extra discounts to people who were bold enough to fight through the storm to continue their shopping. Now the economic factor played a role also in the low customer turnout for after Christmas sales. If you really think about it, from a financial standpoint people cannot spend what they don’t have. Then there were some people like myself who were just overly frugal. Like other people I want to be able to weather the economic storm that we are going to face in the United States in 2011.

I went out to do some shopping but my purchases were so minimal I noticed that the after Christmas sales were not as good as they had been in the past. One thing that I observed while shopping was that most people were using cash instead of credit cards when they made purchases. I also refrained from using my credit cards because it makes no sense to be paying for items next year that were purchased the previous year. People are trying to get out of debt. Reduced consumer confidence also played a major role in people spending less money after Christmas. One stunning fact that consumers realized this year is that they have to get back to reality after the Christmas holidays. They took in consideration that they have to be prepared to live the other 364 days of the year.

Bloomberg News, Snowstorms smothers index after Christmas shopping, New Jersey Business.com

Gray Pilgrim, After Christmas Sales 2010, Buzzle.com