Generally, we maintain a lot of autonomy in our relationship. So usually we each cover our own daily expenses (i.e. lunches, entertainment, etc.). Other times, one of us will take on more of the household costs to achieve an important goal.
For example, when my wife first moved to Washington, she had some credit card debt she wanted to pay off. To help her with this, I paid for a greater share of the rent. Our rent was $1,200 monthly, I covered $800 and forked over the cash for our going out costs and internet expense. My wife paid $400 in rent, plus groceries and personal expenses. The rest of her income went towards her cards.
We also modified our household expenses when we started saving for our condo. My wife was was just finishing up paying off her cards. Thus, I started contributing to our condo savings before she did, but after the cards were paid off, she started contributing, resulting in an overall higher savings rate. We followed this same pattern when paying for our wedding.
Following this theme, right now my wife is helping me get through grad school. This means she is paying for more of our entertainment expenses, is covering our subway fare, our health insurance, groceries, and the internet bill. This is basically all of our incidentals, except our mortgage.
Again, we’re flexible about about the household finances. Often we tailor our household expenses towards achieving important goals, like dumping credit card debt or getting through grad school. However, we’ve also managed to balance achieving these goals with individual personal autonomy.
Autonomy matters because it reduces friction in our marriage. Let’s put it this way, my wife sees my eating out and movie expenses to be sometimes excessive and I see her travel and household expenses as occasionally unnecessary. In the end, rather than harangue each other constantly, paying for our own personal expenses ensures that we give each other space. We harangue each other a bit, but it usually doesn’t get out of hand.