How much money would you feel comfortable spending on something for your home...without consulting your partner first? After all, when you live together, you work together to decorate the space and manage the finances. We asked a handful of real couples to share any money limits they have when it comes to splurging on decor. See how you and your mate's spending style stacks up, or get advice on how to set limits in your own partnership.
Brittany and Christian met nine years ago and have lived in five different places together over six years. Christian's job relocated them to Amsterdam, and Brittany's turned her interior design side hustle into a full-time pursuit. See their house tour.
Brittany: Any major purchases, say over $1,000 would probably require clearance with one another. I do most, if not all, of the home decor purchasing, and I'm pretty lucky in that Christian lets me do what I want decor-wise, as long as it's practical (read: hides dog hair) and comfortable.
Christian: It's definitely best if I don't buy any large things in our home — I think we'd both agree on that. With that said, I'm the one who handles all of our technology: televisions, stereos, anything like that I don't have an issue buying without telling Brittany, although anything over probably $200 I'd certainly tell her.
Brittany: This is true — Christian finds joy in organizing all of those crazy cords behind an entertainment center; I can't complain about this.
Justin and Danielle have been married 4.5 years and together for 13. Danielle owns the furniture store TUFT and does interior design. Justin works for himself in the insurance field. See their house tour.
Danielle: I'm a designer so I would be lying if I said I disclosed all the information about each piece I have brought into our home! He knows that if I have spent a big price tag it's worth it and I'm generally willing to swap out items in the house to accommodate something new if need be. But, we wouldn't make any purchases that improve our home (like flooring, appliances etc) without talking to each other. We also split up the house and we generally give each other free reign of that area — he has the outside and I have the inside. We have done just as much work outside as in and he has been the main designer of it all and I'm just the helper. If I had to put a dollar amount on an unchaperoned purchase I would say anything above $400 I will call and talk to him about it.
Justin: I agree with her; we really understand that if the other brings home a big purchase it was worth it because we are both very thrifty. It's also different because she shops for furniture and comes across unique things and I love to work on my yard...but plants don't get that costly!
Jesse and Meghan have been together since 2009 and living together for four years. Jesse is a 2nd year PhD student in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. Meghan is owner of Pomp & Circumstance Haberdashery. See their house tour.
Jesse: We usually run most purchases by each other — that being said I would spend quite a lot on an item as a gift to Meg, but only if I knew already that it was the kind of thing that she wanted...
Meg: I probably wouldn't spend over $40 on a single item without telling Jess; especially because much of what I buy is more difficult to return, like from estate sales or thrift stores (i.e. not just from a big box store). We are in a very small space at the moment, with storage challenges, so while I am the main person buying for and constantly changing our space, I know that more stuff can lead to headaches. So generally I try to be mindful when I find something; where/how will this fit into our space and what am I going to have to do to make it work. While I am not a minimalist (though I love the idea), I do think it's important to love and need what you have, and to donate what you don't.
Jim: We don't generally buy bigger things without consulting each other (except that one daybed purchase, see below). But Deborah does drive most of the design decisions here mostly because she works from home and she's an artist and designer and has some aesthetic rules, (like stuff on every surface). Dollar limit? I think we agree that price never dictates what enters our apartment but we try to never spend more than we need to. If we buy directly from an artist or artisan we always feel good about that.
Deb: Once, because we didn't have a couch for a few years, I made a strange executive decision to buy an Indonesian day bed without telling Jim. I happened upon a sale at the now defunct Jamson Whyte in the West Village. They specialized in Indonesian imports but were way out of our price range on a normal day. We had traveled for two months throughout Indonesia and I thought they were so beautiful, that when I got to the sale I was swept up in a moment. I was like, "PERFECT! $700 and it's a little broken! NO Problem!" Except $700 was a ton of money to us and Indonesian daybeds take up a lot of space — our apartment at the time was about 450 square feet AND we had never really repaired anything together (we had in fact destroyed a few things together in the name of "design," such as the time we ripped down all the '60s veneer paneling from a tiny room in San Francisco after a night at a bar called the Zeitgeist — whole other story). Once I paid for it, I called Jim and said, you know how we always dreamed of living in a big loft in Tribeca? I found the perfect couch for that dream! In the meantime, don't be mad at me!" We never moved to a loft in Tribeca but we still have the daybed!
Saadiq and Mekiel caught each other's eye on the West Side Highway seven years ago, and have lived together for five. Mekiel is an HR manager within the retail sector and Saadiq doubles as an actor and retail professional. See their house tour.
Mekiel: I'm VERY indecisive and so I need to consult Saadiq for EVERYTHING! But we have the same taste in art and so I feel relatively comfortable in purchasing for our home on my own — as long as said art is returnable! Regarding "larger" more expensive purchases we both agree that we should consult each other. Our old television blew out and I took it upon myself to buy a new one — Saadiq hates it, lesson learned.
Saadiq: We generally talk about any ideas that we have for the apartment, which leaves us in the know. Right now, I'm looking for a new bed and I'm aware that Mekiel is in pursuit of more storage for all of his books. So there have been plenty of times that we both have showed up with something new for the apartment completely unannounced. However, we tend to stick to buying smaller items. I personally don't feel comfortable purchasing any big pieces of furniture without running it past him first — simply because I'm passionate about the apartment being a representation of both of our styles. The biggest purchase I made without telling him was our TV in the bedroom. I caught a great deal on cyber Monday and couldn't pass it up.
Jill and Warren: We think anything that is going to stay permanently in our home should be a group decision. There really isn't a dollar limit as both of us have veto power on all items that come into our home.
Jill: At times, I will go off and buy items solo, but I will always ensure the item can be returned (and I need to be willing to return items if Warren is not on board!).
Taylor and Alisha Murphy have lived in Austin since they graduated from the University of Texas. Taylor runs his own design firm. Alisha is a teacher and a marriage and family therapist masters student. See their house tour.
Taylor: Being an interior designer, I am constantly furniture shopping and buying things I think could be good for a client. I feel comfortable buying small furniture items such as side tables, chairs, and accessories without telling Alisha. Large staple items such as a sofa, bed, or dining table we both consider together and make sure we both are happy with it in our house. I would say pretty much anything over $250-$400 would be considerate to share with your partner.
Alicia: For me, I would feel comfortable buying something small, like a throw, pillows or a vase. These items are easy to change and you can purchase without making a big dent in your bank account. I think any big purchase items we are considering is a decision that would require both of us to approve. Not only because it is a financial commitment, but also because we want our home to be reflection of us as couple — so the decision should be made together. I don't think there is necessarily a dollar limit, but if the item is going be a high impact item, then both partners should get to be a part of the decision.
Readers, do you and your partner have "rules" about spending on things for your home?