Shortly after we were married, we discovered that Adam and I had very different spending habits. I was a saver, he was a spender. We both still fit into those categories very much so, but almost 7 years later, we've found some middle ground that really seems to work for us.
First of all, communication has always been a huge key for us in all areas, but especially when it comes to financial concerns (and you'll see that as you read on). Even in the beginning, we were communicating about how I didn't like the idea of him spending money on this or that, and how he felt we had the money to spend on whatever it was. We were often in disagreement in our communication, but we were talking about it and being honest with each other. We have never hid money or purchases from each other, as that only causes them to not trust you, if (but more likely when) they find out, and builds resentment. Of course, we've asked each other to not check the account around birthdays or Christmas, but we've talked about what our limits on gifts are each time it comes to that time of year.
With our differences in spending habits and our almost constant disagreements, several people suggested we try an allowance system. Adam was really for it, since it gave him money to spend, I wasn't really for it, as I saw it as something children get from their parents, and I didn't want to be Adam's parent, I wanted to be his wife. Eventually, though, he won me over to the idea.
We worked out a system that suits our needs, but have been flexible with it as well. Life changes at different stages, and so we've adapted our system to meet our needs. First, to address part of my concern, we both get an allowance from us together (not mine from him and his from me). The amount has varied at different life stages anywhere from $10-$30 per week. When we've had a had a good steady income from his job or my job, it's been higher, when we had lower paying jobs it was lower. And when Adam was in college, I was on unemployment, and we had a new baby, we weren't allowed to spend any of our allowance.
I've heard some people use a cash or envelope system, but I knew that wouldn't work for us. We use credit cards pretty much exclusively because of their benefits (and pay them off each month, but that's for a different post). For us, we kept track in a spreadsheet. We picked Monday as our payday, and I'm in charge of keeping track, since I'm the one handling all the receipts when I'm paying all the bills anyway. It is a little more work for me, but Adam helps by entering his stuff sometimes, and the financial peace (not to steal from Dave Ramsey!) we have found between us is totally worth it to me.
We came to an agreement on what would come out of our allowances, and what wouldn't, but again, it's a flexible system where we communicate. We decided it would be our "fun money." If we wanted to go out for lunch with co-workers, or grabbing a drink at Caribou, or video games, or new clothes, that would come out of our allowance. Gas for our cars would not, unless we were taking a long trip somewhere, for example, hunting up north, or going to a friend's cabin. Groceries or going out to eat together or as a family would not either. We also decided right away that if either of us were thinking of saving up and making a large purchase, that we would discuss it first, like when I bought my DSLR camera or when Adam built both of us new computers.
The day we started, we both understood that our system was going to be flexible. Adam already wanted to "pre-spend" his allowance. While I wasn't too keen on the idea, I understood that he wanted to go to a gun show with his family, and had been considering buying a gun for a while, so I was okay with it, but then he agreed that he wouldn't be spending any money until he got out of the hole. And, other than needing to grab lunch a couple of days, he didn't spend anything. There have been a couple other times since we started as well where things have come up where Adam wants to "pre-spend" or take an "interest-free loan" out. We discussed what would be fair, and then decided on what we should do.
Now, six year later, I think we've both learned a lot from each other. Not just from the allowance system, but from our communication. I'm finding that Adam is finding ways to be more thrifty and searching for the best deals on stuff that he wants to buy. He's also become a better saver, and not just with his allowance, but with money that we spend (or don't spend) together. In turn, Adam has helped me learn to be okay with spending money on myself and not feel guilty about it.