In your single life, you were disciplined and had your finances under control. You built a nest egg and paid off the majority of your debt. Then you went and got married! Managing your own finances was a challenge. Now you’ve got to responsibly manage your finances with another person? While there is no, “right answer” on how, we’ll share a few good ideas. Bottom line – communication between you and your spouse is paramount if you want to win together in your finances.
1. All our eggs in one basket
This is the traditional approach. Have joint checking and savings accounts with all income and expenses moving through only those accounts. With two people having access to the account, you’ll have to make sure you both know when and how much money is coming in and out. What helps with this option?
- Set up automatic bill payments so they’re paid regularly every month. Knowing the days when direct deposits come in and the payments go out will help you balance that account jointly.
- Set daily individual spending limits. Anytime you choose to spend beyond your agreed amount, communicate with your spouse to ensure that it’s not going to negatively impact your budget. Note: don’t confuse this with asking permission. This is solely to communicate and avoid overspending.
- Use technology! Most credit unions and banks now offer text and email alerts for transactions posting to your account and low balance limits.
2. Bills/Household account
This is common these days. Couples keep a joint account to pay bills for shared expenses and keep separate individual accounts for personal spending. The mortgage/rent, your Netflix and utilities payments, everything you are jointly responsible for, comes out of that one account and your direct deposits are equally set to pay your share of the bills. All the rest goes into your separate individual accounts. Going this route?
- Do the math. Make a list of all joint financial responsibilities and determine the amount that needs to be equally contributed. Review this every quarter to add new expenses or delete expenses you no longer have.
- Consider a joint savings account for household emergencies (leaky plumbing, the refrigerator stops working, etc.) and set a regular amount you both contribute.
3. What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours
This is also common. Completely separate accounts with no co-mingling of finances. Determine between the two of you how much each person will pay on the joint bills. Then one person assumes the responsibility for paying the bill and the other person transfers their share to that person’s account. Each person can be responsible for paying different bills. For example, one person always pays the mortgage while the other always pays the car payment and utilities.
Ultimately, all of these options require a lot of communication. The most important thing to remember is that you must work together to win in your finances, so talk about it regularly.