I'm STILL not sure how I did it, but about 4.5yrs ago my ex filed for divorce (to get jump on me) and left me hanging with 2m of bills, drained joint acount a day after I'd been paid (I made 2x his income), and kept dragging me to court costing me 30K before it was final.
I was paying around 1300/mth in daycare and my ex didn't pay a dime in childsupport until it was finalized because he wasn't forced too (grr) and he pays 540/mth. LOL.
we had jointly 15K in debt, of which I was given 6K, and my car blew up shortly thereafter so I bought a new kia since I'd had bad exp in the past with used cars and GREAT luck with my sephia until it died... I was making 42K at the time all this went down and for the next year after.
I cut out ALL spending I could. turned off cable etc. I'm not a huge spender anyway...even with kids the reccomended toys/gifts/clothing always baffles me.
handmedowns and freecycle and thrift are your friends there.
I don't eat a heck of a lot to be honest, my biggest food expense is probably my dew habit, but even so we were eating PB&js or ramen or cereal quite a lot.
You just have to buckle down to a "will I DIE if I don't have this" mentality. and not a "It's my industrial sized blowdryer and I can't live without it!" die, I mean your heart stops beating and you stop living kind of die.
Pay off highest interest debt first, call CC companies and argue rates and amount owed (I paid 3500 of the almost 6K by threatening filing for bankruptcy and them not seeing a dime) if you have debt.
I went from NO 401k, no savings, no emergency funds, and having CC debt when we seperated in feb of 08
currently I have no CC debt, a car payment (mainly to try and rebuild all the damage my ex did with the credit cards), the house, and a fast growing savings, investment acct, and 401K plans.
Oh, and they ALL say it, but I firmly believe that whenever you get a raise (my income went up to 55yr and stayed there for +3 years, and is now 82yr), make extra money, or free up cash with paying off something - IMMEDIATELY put that into savings.
I have my bank acct setup to move a certain number into savings the monday after my payday every 2 weeks. when my younger son started kindy this year my daycare bill went from 240 down to 160. I promptly upped my biweekly transfer by 150 dollars.
I'm still living like I make less than 42/yr, and in the last err....3 years i've put away around 33% of my salary (if I average) each year.
I also made it abundently clear to my bank that while my accts are linked so I can transfer to savings I did NOT want what-you-call-it...where it'll transfer from savings to cover a purchase?
all the banks I've ever used would charge me a NSF fee, then a fee to move over my money from savings, etc. I'd been charged over 40 dollars for a cup of coffee because of this crud.
now if I make a purchase with my debit and the money isn't in there, my transaction is declined. I usually keep a pretty good buffer in checking, but my previous job I was travelling about a week out of every month and paying for tickets, hotels, and expenses out of my checking acount and waiting weeks (I quit beg of may and i JUST got my final expense check end of aug!) or months to be paid back. at one point my previous employer owed me 5K in expenses!
with all that travel sometimes I forgot or hadn't had chance to login and Xfer a bit over from savings to cover the added expenses. Sometimes I just needed the reminder to do so!
When I was still married our JOINT income was around 50K and i'd tell my ex i'd payed extra towards CC or something and not to buy *anything*. I am usually pretty good at keeping a running tally in my head of total and knew if I had 500 or 100 in my account +/- a few bucks. I'd login to our acct and find we had -300 bucks because of a handful of charges and a TON of nsf/transfer fees. I'm talking on a monthly basis. If I wasn't afraid it would cause my ex to snap and hurt me (which I had all rights to be paranoid about it turns out...he got quite violent since divorce/seperation and has attacked me several times since) I would have given him an allowence!
if you or your SO have issues with impulse control, setup accts or prepaid cards with $$ to cover gas and food and whatever like an allowence but any large purchases would need to come from another acct that you don't carry access around with you. Ie - master acount that has pay put into and you use to pay bills etc but doesn't leave the house unless you both agree on it beforehand. then smaller $$ either with prepaid cards or joint cards (for awhile paypal did debit type cards? not sure if thats the case now) with a fixed limit that should cover just your normal expenditures for 2w or a month.
Those are my big things. if I ever remarried however, I don't think i'd ever do a joint acount again. I think i'd take suze orman's suggestion of figuring out total bills and each person contribute a % of that total based on their income (same income = 50% each, one person makes less they pay lower %) to a acct that is used for joint expenses and then each person retains control of the rest of their income.
But I was burned :)