Sunshine Funds – Budgeting Our Individual Fun Money

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How do you manage your spending with your spouse?  How do you ensure that your spending is ‘fair’?  Do you use combined accounts?  Separate accounts?  A hybrid approach?  Today, I thought I would share the approach that Mrs. Fire Station and I use, which leverages a unique concept we named “Sunshine Funds”.

First, all of our income and spending have always come out of one pool of money.  We have different accounts for convenience, but they all link back to our single Mint.com account for tracking.  For years, we spent from our single ‘pot’ and when someone was spending more money than the other person, we often had a “hey, you are spending a LOT of money right now, what about me?” moment.

About a dozen years ago, we were in that situation.  It was near the end of the calendar year and we were reviewing where our finances were at.  I don’t even remember who had spent how much on what, but something didn’t feel fair.  That was the point at which we came up with the idea of setting aside a few thousand dollars in the next year’s budget for each person to spend on “whatever you want, no questions asked.”

It solved the problem of smoothing out overall fairness and the occasional in-store awkwardness of asking “is it OK if I spend money on this silly thing that you probably don’t approve of?”  We’ve funded and operated them on an annual basis ever since.  At some point, we began calling them “Sunshine Funds”.  I’m not even sure how they got that called that, but the cheery name stuck.

The kinds of things we spend our Sunshine $ on runs the gamut from spa trips & jewelry (her) to sporting goods & electronics (me).  They are things that the ‘household’ shouldn’t have to pay for when only one person wants to make the purchase.  I fund ongoing luxuries like my XM radio subscription and car wash unlimited pass program out of Sunshine $.  My wife took a trip to Vegas with her sister with Sunshine $.  When we needed new phones, I ‘upgraded’ my choice to an iPhone X with my Sunshine Fund covering the difference.  Anything you want – no questions asked, no judgement.

Early on, my wife spent all of her allowance, but I had extra.  We agreed that you could carry money over to the next year in that case.  At one point, I had several extra years banked.  More recently – especially since I stopped working – our habits have changed and we are close to even.   We don’t keep track of the spending until the end of the year when we go through our statements and see what we marked with an “S” on the register.  I buy a lot of things through Amazon or eBay, so those purchases are easy to find, too.  Importantly, we don’t sweat over small spending items or basic things that you need everyday.

Certainly, one of the best assets you can own going into early retirement is your relationship with spouse.  Since money is one of the things that many people argue about, we’ve found our “Sunshine Fund” concept helps smooth over the rough edges of spending fairness.

How do you fairly manage spending with your significant other?

Image Credit: Pixabay

6 thoughts on “Sunshine Funds – Budgeting Our Individual Fun Money

  1. I think we have a decent way of doing this. If all of our bills come to 100, we split the “bills” according to our income (i.e. if one earns 200 per month, and one earns 100 per month, one person pays double – in effect, 66% of the “bills”). We think that is relatively fair since it means decisions can be made fairly (i.e. one person can’t decide to splurge on a big new car if the other was tied in to a 50/50 deal but earning way less.

    All bills head to a single joint account and are automatically debited by the companies. Anything after that stays in our own accounts and can’t be complained about by either – if I want to save, or splurge the other can’t be annoyed as this is “my money” (all our joint things are paid for). Saving for bigger decisions, houses, cars, holidays is then also made on a joint basis but the savings then committed in a similar manner.

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    • It sounds like your approach works well for you, too. My wife was home with our son when he was little, so we didn’t have two income streams to split things by. Are your incomes comparable enough that one person doesn’t get a lot more than the other? (I guess politicians would call that ‘income inequality’)!

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  2. Love your Sunshine Funds, Chief! Research shows marriages can founder on the often divisive issue of discretionary spending. Your solution provides a safe harbor to avoid that. In my case, my wife is (and always has been) frugal. We never have differences on her spending (unlesss it is me encouraging her to treat herself). As for me, our annual budget is designed to allow for sufficient spending within reason; any unused funds automatically carry over. These become “rainy day” funds for the unexpected (natural disasters, etc.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a timely post, as my new spouse and I are trying to figure this out. Given that we each brought adult children to the marriage, mine with special needs, makes it a bit more challenging. Have you addressed that topic, Mr. Fire Station? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure that’s quite challenging and beyond my own experience. Always open to guest columnists, though! 🙂

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