How buying a new car with my partner triggered cold feet

Guest post by Vegancupcake

Vegancupcake wrote a wonderfully honest post touting pre-marital counseling, and now she's unleashing more wonderful honesty about the freaky experience of joining finances.


I never would have expected that my first bout of chilly feet would be triggered by a beautiful new car. I know cold feet can mean many things, and has an alarming sound to it. So let me define my version of it.

Lately I have been looking at my fiancee and seeing him as if I just met him — less in a cute, romantic way and more like he's suddenly an alien. I have been feeling cooped up in our apartment at times that would normally be relaxing and cuddly. I have been craving time with girlfriends and feeling claustrophobic when my guy wants to join us.

I have had thoughts like “How do people do this?” I have been aware of his faults. I have felt self-conscious and overly accountable about mine. I have wondered what life would be like if we weren't getting married this year. I have wondered where I might move if I wasn't in a relationship. For the first time ever, I have hoped we can just hang out in silence and won't have to talk.

Let me back up to before this set in.

Between Christmas and New Years, my fiancee and I took a few days to deal with business. We opened a joint bank account and bought a car! I have only ever owned hand-me-down cars from family members that were almost ten years old, so I have never owned a brand new car. Let me tell you, I have never felt so sentimental about a vehicle: I have a huge, sloppy, shmoopy crush on our car. We put no money down and will be paying off our car loan for years, but we both feel great about it.

The opening of a joint bank account and the negotiating of our own financial independence has been such an unsexy part of this pre-marriage time.

And we are splitting it.

The original plan wasn't to split it. Somewhere along the way, I guess since we were simultaneously considering the fusion of our finances into one bank account, we decided to co-own the car.

When we drove the car home, we were giddy. But I was also… stunned. Completely overwhelmed. I have never put no money down on something. And I'm pretty sure I was only able to do this because of his help and willingness to take part in financing it. I now feel more accountable, not just for my personality quirks, but for the way I spend and save my money.

By the time we got home, I was no longer giddy. I wrapped up in a blanket, opened our window (it was frigid out but I just needed AIR), and cried… hard. I'm sure my fiancee was totally alarmed at my fast switch from celebratory to crushed, but I have never been one to postpone waves of unexpected tumultuous feelings.

I am no longer at the window crying, but I still feel strung out, big-eyed, and disoriented. Of course, it helps to sort out that being daunted in the face of a huge turning point is different than being ambivalent about my partner.

But, the opening of a joint bank account and the negotiating of how much to retain our own financial independence on the side has been such an unsexy part of this pre-marriage time. How do you stop tallying who bought what and who owes more? How do you deal with the self-consciousness of someone else getting such a front row seat while you grow up?

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Comments on How buying a new car with my partner triggered cold feet

  1. We never stopped tallying who bought what and who owes more…because we never started. This is a good lesson in partnership. Some days you give 10% and some days you give 90% – in the end it all works out ok – as long as you chose the right partner. A joint checking account was a no brainer to us as it was easiest to manage and we never felt the need to track who paid for what. We just did it, together.

    We’ve gone through periods where I earned more money than him, and now we’re in a period where I earn no money. Luckily for us, money is not how we measure our worth to each other and our contributions to the marriage/parnership. My non-montetary contributions at this point are making both of our lives immeasurably richer.

    • “Luckily for us, money is not how we measure our worth to each other and our contributions to the marriage/parnership. My non-montetary contributions at this point are making both of our lives immeasurably richer.”

      YES!!! I couldn’t have said it better, though my husband and I still have split accounts so far. (We want to finish paying our own debts before we create them together – to us it makes sense for now.) BUT some days I pay and some days he pays, it all depends on who can. Soon, I will be making significantly less because we’re having a baby soon and I’m going part time. But we will survive and will do out best not to fight over money. It’s really not worth the fight.

    • Thank you so much for this. As someone who just finished school and has spent the past six months job-hunting unsuccessfully while my partner-in-crime supports us both, this was just what I needed to hear.

      • Since Future Husband (FH) and I have already been together 7 years, we fortunately (unfortunately?) had many opportunities to go through this. Although we still have separate bank accounts, there were periods where we could not have gotten along financially without the other. When he was unable to drive for a year and a half, he said he owed me for chauffeuring him around. When I relied on him to pay the bills while I finished grad school, I felt like I owed him. Yet when either of us was/is on the supporter side, we don’t feel like the other is somehow in debt to us.

        We take care of each other, and we trust the other to take care of us. We also make sure we appreciate and thank the other for getting the groceries, filling up the tank, etc. I think the hardest part is accepting that someone else can have such an impact on your ability to be independent. When I start to feel like a mooch who would be screwed if he left, I remember that he wants to be with me and he wants to support me because he loves me – and I feel the same way about him.

  2. We still keep tally of who pays what, but it usually gets messed up, somebody doesn’t get paid back and in the end neither of us care. We’re in the process of co-owning our car but it’s not nearly as edgy feeling probably because cars practically grow on trees in his family (they own a car lot) and we know that no matter what, we can and will always just get another in a couple years. We split rent even and everything else is whoever happens to have whatever card pays. Will we combine bank accounts? Probably soon. Will it be a big deal? Hardly.

    And nobody says you MUST have joint bank accounts. My parents kept separate accounts because my dad’s spending habits drove my mom nuts. Worked out just fine for them.

    • I agree with this, unless there’s a law insisting on joint bank accounts then you don’t HAVE to combine. Know your limits and take small steps so you know what you’re comfortable with.

      We have one joint account because we got a discount off the mortgage if we paid for it with a joint account at the same bank, but we don’t use it for anything else. Everything else we keep absolutely separate. I know I can’t be trusted with money and he is an accountant who constantly moves accounts to get that extra 0.02% interest. Combined accounts would result in murder within a year.

    • Like your parents, we keep separate accounts because I’m not really in agreement with hubby’s spending habits. We split the rent evenly but not the other bills… he pays the gas and water bill, and I pay the electricity and internet bill no matter what the amounts for that month are. Other than that we don’t really keep track other than saying something like, “I think I paid last time, so how about covering this time?” for groceries and the like if one person has been doing it for a few weeks in a row.

      I don’t think hubby’s finances are really my business unless he can’t come up with our bill money and/or contribute to our savings.

      That said, knowing that we need to put money into savings we’re more careful about frivolous spending.

    • We have separate accounts and use a whiteboard to track expenses. When I buy groceries, I divide the bill in half and put that amount in the “He owes” column. When he pays the internet bill, he puts half the amount in the “she owes” column. We only do this for household items and utilities; personal items don’t go on the board.

      At the end of the month we tally up both columns. Whomever owes more pays the other the difference, we wipe the board clean, and start the whole thing over.

      The board is on the fridge for convenience. If company is coming over, we take a picture (hooray for camera phones) and then erase it so we aren’t advertising our expenses to guests.

      • That is a really really good way of doing it. Think I might grab that one…makes it much easier than splitting it every single time (which is so hard since we rarely use cash, always use plastic.)

    • my fiance and I will prob not have a joint bank account ever. I am more of a saver and he a spender (but neither to an extreme). we have a “reconcilliation” at the end of each month where we split big purchases/bills but otherwise just kind of pay as falls natural. and since I am more of a saver if we have big emergency or unplanned expense i don’t mind spending the money in my account because in reality all accounts our both our resources

  3. We’re not combining bank accounts either, I reserve the right to spend too much at Sephora and keep that to myself. We have a co-credit card and everything just gets split at the end of the month. We keep separate accounts so we can still take each other out for dinner and buy surprise gifts but generally money hasn’t caused to much stress. Although I should say that being accountable to another person about how I spend has drastically curt-tailed my shopping and unnecessary expenditures. I don’t really see the point in having a joint bank account, it almost seems like the overshare aspect. I don’t need to know where he spends every cent. My parents are happily married 25 years and have separate bank accounts.

    • I’ve curtailed my impulse purchases as well, now that my husband and I share all the monies. Unlike yourself, we have joint everything – at first I worried that I’d feel “owned” but at this point I’m really pleased that it’s caused me to be more accountable about my spending. My husband never says no if I want to buy something purely for myself, but he does remind me sometimes that I should wait until the next payday. Consequently, we can actually live within a budget (and I still get new shoes every now and then!)

  4. My fiance and I have separate bank accounts, but when we get married, we plan on having joint bank accounts. I make a lot more than he does currently, but it won’t always be that way. This past weekend, we went to pick out wedding bands. He insisted I buy a more expensive elaborate ring, but I feel guilty that we’re spending so much on an item for me. We even had a small disagreement over who will pay for the rings or how much. Since I’m in a good financial place right now, I’m more than happy to pay for the rings, but he wants to pay for the amount of my ring because he feels like he’s presenting it to me on the wedding day. My ring ended up being 4 times more than his. I don’t think that’s fair for him to have pay so much more for my ring. I’m not really keeping tally, and I don’t think he is either. We love each other, and we know that it’ll all even out in the end. That’s all that really matters, right?

    • Absolutely. Evened out or not, its the love, respect and commitment that should be equal.
      My husband spent more on my ring than I did on his. How much more I don’t know because I didn’t ask even though he wanted to tell me (he insisted he got a good deal). Where did I buy his? Amazon. For less than $50 and again he insisted and picked it out. But to us its a physical symbol, not a status of who makes more or who spent more or who loves who more. We love, respect and are equally committed.

  5. We have been together 6 years and have never shared our finances. We have a joint savings account for vacations/wedding/etc. and a second for the house stuff like taxes and the oil bill. Other than that, everything is seperate and he pays his bills and I pay mine. His spending habits drive me crazy and he’s often forgetful about what money he has going out so it’s just easier for each of us to manage our own.

    I don’t think we have any less of a partnership because we don’t share our bank accounts. We can look at each others statements whenever we want but we still have the freedom to purchase what we want without having to report it to one another.

  6. We’re happily married (5+ years) and our finances are completely separate. We each write a check for half the rent/utilities each month; we each have our own car and credit cards and disposable income for our hobbies. The idea of involving him in my finances makes me break out in hives; I class it with the idea of changing my name–i.e., oh HELL no. We are two very independent people and that’s why our marriage works! 🙂

  7. Like many of you (yeah i feel support!) My futur-hubby and I have a joint account for the morgage of our house, but that’s it.

    In my believes, we both work for our individual money, so we both can do what we want with our individual money. I don’t have to know if he bough 3 DVDs this week, or lunch for 15$ bucks. For the stuff we both used (mostly house stuff, and grocery) we have a google doc to list who paid what, and split in half. In the end, neither of us feel that the other owe something and that’s the point. But we both have a similar paycheck, and that’s our way. 🙂

  8. What struck me most about what Vegancupcake wrote was the question of ” How do you deal with the self-consciousness of someone else getting such a front row seat while you grow up?” To me, that seems to be the real dilemma and wide eyed-crying at an open window issue.
    Over the years (months, weeks) of developing an intimate relationship with our partners, what we are really doing is giving ourselves permission to be more and more vulnerable with each other. To expose what we are unsure of in ourselves to someone and ask that they still love us and don’t judge too harshly.

    I may be overstepping, or over reading- but the gist that I get is that you took a big leap (And congratulations to you! Those big steps and commitments are part of what makes life exciting!!) – but perhaps you feel a little over exposed to your fiance in a way that feels altogether too much. And that doesn’t mean that it all won’t work out, it’s just a little scary at the beginning.

    Why not a find a well-rested, lows stress time to have a heart to heart? Air out the assumptions and fears you have about what it means to have a transparent spending habit. You might find he is processing some of his own. I think that as you negotiate the this or any new territory together the “how do I?” style questions ultimately solve themselves.

    The point of it all is simply that you and your beloved are handling life together. This is just one (of many) big and unfamiliar steps in that life that you will have learn “what it all means” together.

  9. We plan joining our accounts soon (or having a joint account, and smaller personal accounts for “me” money), just haven’t made it around to the bank yet. We talk about all our finances though, so it’s not going to be a big deal I think. We can’t split 50/50 because he has a house and I have to give up my full-time job to move in with him, I’ll contribute in other ways though 🙂 The point is it has to be a set-up that the couple is comfortable with.

  10. We have a joint checking account which we use for rent, utilities, and food. If he wants to buy new ties for his Jeep, he does it from his account and if I want new shoes, I use my account.

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