15 years ago when Mr. Montana and I first married, we struggled to figure out money. How do we pay off the debt? What do we spend money on? Do we give money away even though we are broke and in debt? And a big one, especially when we were in debt and the first few years after: How do we balance enjoying life now (aka buying fun stuff) and paying down debt or starting to invest? It was a big question that we struggled to answer. As in… we argued about it a LOT.

We just never seemed to be on the same page at the same time. I wanted to try to max out our Roth IRA’s when he wanted to buy skiis. I wanted to buy some new clothes when he was hoping to go out to lunch for a going away party. So in an effort to save our sanity and our budget, we set up “fun money” accounts.

How to set up a Fun Money Account

We added a separate checking account for each of us at the same bank as our joint account. Each month we auto draft from our joint checking into our own separate checking accounts. They have debit cards and everything.

We use our debit cards for personal purchases so those transactions are pulled straight from our individual Fun Money accounts. We each have 100% say on what we spend that money on. Right now we each get $75 a month. If we don’t spend it all, it just continues to build up. Or we can choose to spend it ALL that month.

I have $1650 in my account right now. Mr. Montana has $37. He is clearly more fun than I am.

Where it gets spent

When we first learned to budget, we had LOTS of categories. Too many, actually. We had separate categories for clothes, hobbies, books/magazines, eating out, small trips, house hold items, personal items ect.

Now anything that we want that 1. is really just for us and 2. not a true need, comes out of fun money. The list is crazy long of things that qualify.

  • Haircuts
  • Special face creams
  • Magazines
  • Movies (in person, rental or buying a dvd)
  • Music
  • All hobby supplies or gear
  • Clothes, shoes, seasonal gear
  • Fun personal trips like a concert or hot springs with a friend or Vegas
  • Household items the other doesn’t think we need, ie bigger TV, speakers, decor
  • Coffee shops, eating out (fast food or sit down), treats like pastry or beer

If it’s not a core agreed upon expense, it comes out of Fun Money.

Benefits of Fun Money

  1. It really simplifies the budget. We just track the monthly auto draft amount, and all the purchases from that account stay off the books.
  2. We can each spend money on what add the most value to us. When we want, without hashing out the details or convincing the other person. He doesn’t have to try to talk me into why we need new TV speakers. He just uses his Fun Money and I don’t care. One day I spent $400 on new shoes. For realz. That actually happened. My husband almost fell over from shock! But it was Fun Money, so it was no big deal. (7 years later, those 7 pair of shoes are still almost the only ones I wear.)
  3. It rolls over. All by itself. If we are too busy with other free fun stuff to spend our fun money, it just means there will be even more in the account next month. I never feel like I am missing out by not spending it all that month.
  4. We each get a fair share. I don’t generally want a lot. Mr. Montana finds more things that catch his eye. When we had multiple budget line items that we shared, I always felt like I was getting the short end of the stick. He ended up “using up” the budget line item before I saw something I wanted. And I often felt like I was trying to reign him in, so there would be a little piece of the pie left for me. Not a fun dynamic to have in a new marriage. =(
  5. We are rewarded for our individual frugality. If I find a great deal on something I want, I get to keep that savings. When I started cutting my own hair 6 years ago, I got to keep the $35 I use to spend a few times a year on hair cuts. Those savings don’t roll over into our bigger pot of money, they stay nice and safe in my personal account. Every place I become more frugal directly benefits me.
  6. We became more frugal (mindful and creative). Saving $5 doesn’t always feel big in a $3000-$4000 a month budget, but if the Fun Money account only has $37, then it really matters. We each become more thoughtful and creative with our Fun Money. Because it was a smaller scale, we were more mindful with the small amounts.

Pro Tips

  1. One person might need a “bonus” occasionally. That’s allowed. When Mr. Montana left the military and went to work in a civilian job, he had NO business casual clothes. We gave him a few hundred dollar Fun Money bonus to help him get started. Same when I was pregnant for maternity clothes.
  2. Decide what will be included, and what won’t be. We don’t include family trips or any related expenses from those like dinning out on the trip. Those are a core, essential expense to us. Alcohol consumed at home use to be personal money, but then we decided that was a hassle and now add it to grocery.
  3. Don’t nag or judge. If something doesn’t effect the family, it’s nice to have some freedom to spend wastefully. If one of us wants to blow all our money on coffee, so be it.
  4. Birthday or holiday gift money can be used to fill up the Fun Money account.ย The $50 I get for my birthday goes straight into my Fun Money checking account.
  5. Find the right amount. There is always a tension between our big goals, and immediate wants. Take some time to really talk about this and hash it out.
  6. You might lower the amount over time.ย For a lot of years ago ours was $125 a month, but the last 2 years we have switched to $75 each. We can often find we need less stuff as time goes by. We find low cost or free ways to have fun. We gain appreciation for small things, and feel less need to spend money to fill a gap. In this season of life, I don’t care if my friends and I meet up for $1 tacos, I’m just so happy all my mom friends made it out of the house without kids! That is a small miracle I am overwhelmingly thankful for. I don’t need an expensive cocktail, it’s a win if I am wearing a clean pair of pants without small child goo on them.

For Conversation

  1. Do you use personal accounts? Why? Why not?
  2. What kinds of things do you have that fall into those accounts?
  3. How do you decide on a “want” if both people aren’t on the same page?