1. Money has to be a couple thing
Why: If you or your partner gets sick, loses a job, or you divorce, you both need to know where your money is. More immediately: "Two heads are always better than one when it comes to money, even if one of you is less experienced," says Janet Bodnar, deputy editor of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and author of Money Smart Women.
You've probably already agreed that one of you is responsible for the daily money management (paying bills, keeping your bank account balanced). If you're the designated family bookkeeper, you're not alone: Sixty-two percent of moms balance the family checkbook and 54 percent are responsible for paying household bills, according to a 2007 survey by Oppenheimer Funds, a New York-based asset-management company. This is fine -- either of you can take the lead on money tasks -- as long as you keep each other up-to-date on your financial picture.
What to do: It can take as little as 15 minutes a week to talk about how much you're spending and where. If nothing else, hand over the checkbook or print out a copy of your monthly budget (and how much you've spent) so you can each see where the money is going and make suggestions for change.
Julie Miller, a mom of three in Portland, Oregon, recently started having twice-a-month financial sit-downs with her husband, Dave. "We realized I was doing the majority of the household spending but my husband was managing the overall budget. I wasn't seeing the monthly bank statements or paying the bills, so I would just spend until the debit card was declined," she says. Now he lets her know when their budget is heading into the red and she fills him in on what she needs to buy.
2. Every marriage needs "ours," "yours," and "mine" accounts
Why: A joint checking account is a smart and easy way to pay for shared expenses like your mortgage, utilities, and childcare. This is true whether you and your husband pool your paychecks or each contribute a percentage of your earnings to "together" bills, or if only one of you has an income. After that, though, it's a good idea for each of you to have a small, separate account for your own, no-questions-asked spending money. This is especially important if you're a stay-at-home mom -- no one likes being on an "allowance" and having to constantly justify her spending to a working spouse.
What to do: Pay yourselves that agreed-upon personal money every pay period. Just be sure to clarify what comes out of this cash: Are haircuts and lunches with friends "personal" or family expenses? What about gifts for each other? There's no right way to do this. It's up to you, as a couple, to decide.
So if your husband can't live without those new golf clubs, no problem. And he can stop razzing you about your monthly manicures, since you're paying for them yourself. Voilà! Dozens of silly money squabbles are now history.