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Married 3 Years & Still Haven’t Combined Finances

by J. Money on Wednesday, May 4, 2011

mr and mrs budgetsaresexyThat literally just came to mind 2 seconds ago :) Which is funny because we were considering joining 100% of it 2 YEARS ago! Haha… oops. Well, not total oops, there’s some reasons for it really, but it’s safe to say we’ve been kinda lazy about revisiting it. When things are working, why fix it right?

That’s really my overall stance on the whole thing: Do what works. Sometimes it makes sense even though you wouldn’t think it would, and other times you gotta change it up when things don’t align correctly. I guess kinda like the relationship itself! :)

It’s been a while since I’ve listed it all out, so here’s how we pretty much manage our money together:

  • I have my own checking & savings account
  • The Mrs has her own checking & savings account
  • And together, we have one MAIN “house” account (checking & savings)
  • Oh, and also a house credit card where 90% of things are charged to before we pay it off w/ the house money… anything extra not spent gets banked into our savings.

We’ve got a crap ton of other accounts too, but for the most part that’s the gist of what we’re talking about today.  And the way it works is that we both plow a majority of our money right into that “house” account, and then keep a little for ourselves on the side.  And so far it’s been working PERFECTLY!  And here’s why I think that is:

  • From day 1 we have all the money we need to run the household operations! No fuss, no muss.  The money gets xfered in from the start, and we’re then set for the entire month of living expenses.
  • Which means no worrying or bickering about how or when the major bills will be taken care of, allowing for both sides to remain happy :)
  • It also frees our mind as to what’s “extra!” And really, for us, anything outside the main needs of surviving is considered spending/saving money.  It’s all stuff we could technically live without.
  • And since we both agreed on what our appropriate % of the household shares are from the beginning, we know what to EXPECT. Which I think is key.  Things start getting messy when expectations aren’t clearly defined.
  • And lastly, we both still get our freedom. Which may sound silly in a way because everything is still technically “shared” between the two of us, but there’s still something about it that feels nice.  I know that I can go and blow $100 on something the wife would find stupid with no questions asked  (*ahem* my crazy lottery ticket project).  ‘Cuz at the end of the day it’s money DEDICATED to however we both want to spend it. I don’t question her, and she doesn’t question me…. for the most part ;)  We do have a rule that if you spend over $200 you have to run it by the other person first, but we’re both so dang frugal that it rarely comes up – haha… but even w/out that it still works nicely.

So that’s how we run the ship over here at the Money household.  And so far over the 4 years of living together it’s been working pretty decently.  I’ll admit there are some flaws that could potentially come up over time (such as one party losing/earning substantially more down the road, or perhaps someone losing that sense of cohesiveness in the relationship), but I think as long as you keep those communication lines open, you can ALWAYS adjust the plan as things change! And that’s  important to remember.  Nothing has to be set in stone, and life always throws curve balls.  If you stick together as a TEAM, though, you’ll be fine every time!!

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PS: I’ll let you know if we ever simplify things and combine the whole shebang :) There’s  certainly times I just want to merge it all together and cut down on the extra steps & maintenance.  My minimalism phase may eventually win out!

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 retirebyforty May 4, 2011 at 7:39 am

Hey, if it works for you guys, that’s great. We pool our finance, I don’t need to keep track of another checking and saving accounts. I’m so disorganize as is. ;)

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2 Frugalapolis May 4, 2011 at 7:45 am

Sounds similar to what me and DH do. I’m curious what percentage you both contribute toward the House? We each put 100% in the house, but get $250/month each as “allowance” for our personal spending and saving. Basically, anything that both of us do or use is considered house spending. Do you contribute equal % to the house, even though you might not have the same income?

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3 Beckey & Jeff May 4, 2011 at 8:23 am

We both had direct deposit into one checking account, transfer to savings every 2 weeks. We have enough in the checking to cover bills, credit cards, loans, groceries, and gas. If there is an “extra” expense, we talk about it and make sure its a Need, not a Want. However, we did buy a new TV, get necessary car maintenance, and drop $2K in our EF when we got tax returns this year. The EF came first and will only grow.

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4 Trinnie May 4, 2011 at 9:05 am

As soon as the hubby and I moved in together, we combined accounts. Just so much easier that way, for us. We still have the freedom of buying whatever either of us want, within reason. We also have the $200 price point to that would require a discussion w/the other person. and 99.9999999% of the time, the answer is “why are you asking me?!?!? just buy it!” Being that I maintain the actual money amount and the hubby pays bills, it works…plus it prompts he and I to actually sit down and talk once a month!!!

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5 Rafiki May 4, 2011 at 9:47 am

I think that’s the route we will take as well from the beginning and then at some point just merge.
Would never have guessed you got married with the mohawk. I would have figured between the wifey and your mom one of them would have talked you out of it.

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6 Kevin @ Thousandaire.com May 4, 2011 at 9:57 am

Does this mean your wife’s stuff is not included in your monthly net worth updates?

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7 Dani @ OK, Dani May 4, 2011 at 10:00 am

Yeah, we keep things separate for the most part. We now have a joint account for baby savings…but we’re going to work on making a full on “house” account similar to what you and your wife do. I will never ever fully mush our money together.

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8 Evan May 4, 2011 at 10:45 am

I am married about the exact same time as you and we run it the exact same way, and unless The Wife stops working totally then I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

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9 CityFlips May 4, 2011 at 10:47 am

This is an interesting concept. I think I like it. Seems like you have the best of both worlds. Combined for things that need to be combined and not combined for things that don’t need to be combined!

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10 Ashley @ Money Talks May 4, 2011 at 11:38 am

We pretty much do the exact opposite of you. We pool everything first and then each get our own spending money.

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11 MacroCheese May 4, 2011 at 11:46 am

I’m personally not a fan of separate finances.

We pool funds and then have some spending money. I believe when you share your life with someone, and plan to continue doing so for the rest of your life (that’s why you get married), you share EVERYTHING.

Plus, separate accounts just seems like so much extra, unnecessary work!

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12 Lindy Mint May 4, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Awww, a wedding hawk. :)

We were considering doing separate accounts, but then we moved across country a week after getting married and had to close all our old accounts anyways. It was just easier to deal with one new one, and thankfully it’s worked out. It definitely fits the minimalist approach.

I read a good comment once in which a separate account spouse said he considered his partner’s money as “his” too. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it does make sense.

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13 Jamie May 4, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I like the “do what works” philosophy. So many people turn sharing money into a moral issue, and keep a single joint checking even though they continually miscommunicate and overdraw.

Also, just curious: are your solo accounts truly “solo” or are they in joint ownership but only used by one person? Joint ownership makes it a lot easier to manage in any worst-case scenarios.

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14 av May 4, 2011 at 12:11 pm

We do ours the same as Ashley @ Money Talks.
When my wife and I first got married I made all of the money and she made none. After each stage of her schooling she would make more and now she makes 4 times as much as me. Because we have always pooled no matter who was making what then it works best for us to keep up the same way. We each get about 500 a month to do anything we want with and that is deposited into our individual checking accounts. My weakness is golf and hers is clothes. I don’t have a problem when a box of new clothes is waiting from UPS when we get home and she doesn’t have a problem when I show up with a new Taylor Made driver. When our mad money runs out we wait until next month and we can spend again.
Different systems for different people but this way works best for us.

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15 Harri @ Miss Moneypenniless May 4, 2011 at 1:04 pm

It’s interesting- my boyfriend and I had this conversation the other day. He took issue with the fact that I’d actually want to keep our finances separate. For me it is all about justification of purchases. I enjoy having financial independence without necessarily running it past anyone for permission, as does he. Sharing a bank account isn’t a rite of passage for all relationships.

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16 T. Thema Martin May 4, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I am not married, so it is interesting to me to see how people are managing households. I come from an era where the man provided for the household (paid mortgage, utilities, etc.) and the woman had her own spending money from her own wages. I wonder if women now find it offensive if the man pays for the household as opposed to both contributing.

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17 Kris May 4, 2011 at 2:07 pm

My husband I have the same set up. I’ve read lots of articles that say if you don’t share finances, you might as well be roommates – or think that one person will be rich and retire on a beach while the other is living on food stamps in a hole in the ground. It works for us and we have only ever had one fight about money in the 8 years we’ve been together. We check in with each other once a week, and discuss any major purchases. It’s an open book, but just set up in a different way.

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18 J. Money May 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Cool thing about rockin’ the hawk at the wedding — During the break between the ceremony and the reception, 5 or 6 of the kids AND ADULTS on the wifey’s side went out and got mohawks themselves!! It was sooooooo endearing, almost teared up ;) And some of them had LONG freakin’ hair too, it was awesome. And then they all shaved it the next day, haha…

@retirebyforty – I know, that’s the really sucky part about it :( And which is why eventually we’ll probably go that route too. Although it’s not *as* bad since I have all my accounts, and the house ones, at USAA in one spot. Makes xfering/maintaining MUCH easier.
@Frugalapolis – Ooh, I like that idea! But no, currently it’s adjusted toward the amounts we bring in. And since I’m the only one w/ the full-time gig (*ahem* blogging, haha…) I pay more while she’s in grad school. Pretty much double: 66% to 34%. But in theory I’d have more to blow/save/etc too – although I really don’t.
@Beckey & Jeff – That works too! And much more simpler :)
@Trinnie – I like it!!! Esp the sitting down once a month part – that’s usually pretty hard to do, esp when one of the sides finds it boring, haha…
@Rafiki – They both love the ‘hawk! Well, at least the wife does ;)
@Kevin @ Thousandaire.com – Oh, it is. That was the first part I had to get used to – combining our net worths. Now, it’s the accounts that are left ;)
@Dani @ OK, Dani – Yeah, having that main “House” account really does help out a lot – cuz it’s where most of the money goes anyways, and as long as operations are running smoothly everything’s a-okay!
@Evan – Interesting! We are like blogging/wedding twins ;) Did you wear a hawk too at yours? Cuz then we’d be soulmates.
@CityFlips – Yep! That’s pretty much how it works.
@Ashley @ Money Talks – There’s def. something to be said about that route. I wonder what the ratio is across the country on combining vs separating? Would be interesting to know.
@MacroCheese – True dat my friend. We always joke that “your money” and “My money” is still “OUR money” no matter where it’s physically located, haha… but emotionally it makes us feel better ;)
@Lindy Mint – I know, I keep trying to be more minimalist myself and this is def. an area where there’s room for improvement! haha…
@Jamie – They’re truly separate accounts in only our names. And actually at different banks too! Although really only out of convenience – my wife has been using hers since her mom opened it up for her like 20 years ago, haha… but the funny part is she doesn’t even like them! I’m sure one day she’ll come over to the light and join USAA w/ me ;) Which is where all our house stuff is at anyways.
@av – Yeah, I’m pretty sure that if we ever combine down the road we would DEF take out the same amount each for “mad money” – it really does seem like a smart way to do things. Thx for sharing :)
@Harri @ Miss Moneypenniless – Yup! As long as both sides agree to it :) I find it takes a bit more to get used to on the guy’s side, at least in the relationships I know of. But once everyone is on same page it’s soooooo much easier, no matter which route you go with.
@T. Thema Martin – Yeah, that’s interesting! Times are def. different now a days for sure.
@Kris – Ooooooh now you’ve got me curious as to what that 1 fight was about! haha… glad you guys have it all figured out :)

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19 Steph May 4, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Now see, I think you have put your finances together, you just keep a couple of separate accounts for your personal stuff.
My husband and I don’t have our own accounts, but our finances work the same way and I always thought we put everything together. We each put in $X and get out $Y for our own spending. Just because we don’t spend every dime together doesn’t mean we haven’t merged our finances.

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20 Shannon May 4, 2011 at 6:07 pm

How do you decide between household and personal expenses? For example, would new clothes for work be household expenses? What about really cute baby clothes for Christmas, or something like that, if you had a baby? Or how about haircuts (generally much more expensive for women than men)? Just wondering how that would all work. I am working toward joint finances with my partner but we are getting stuck on the little details, having each been independent for 35+ years of our lives…

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21 av May 5, 2011 at 10:12 am

In our house any personal clothing purchases fall under our mad money accounts unless it is for the kids. Cute baby clothes would come out of the general fund account. Haircuts are out of our individual mad money. (I’m mostly bald and shave my head so maybe I come out ahead in that one. It’s too bad I don’t have the follicles to roll like J$)
Our grocery shopping is always general account but our lunches and snacks/treats while at work are mad money(if I want to eat a Ribeye or T-bone I don’t have to feel bad). In the evenings and weekends when we’re together with our little ones then everything eating out related comes out of the general account.
I have to give you a little background on the eating a Ribeye thing. I typically am a cheapo for lunch and rarely splurge. My wife on the other hand can do an epic work lunch. She went to Olive Garden and spent $27 all on herself for lunch one day. That was when we were still eating lunches out of the main account……Now she can spend $27 every day if she wants to until her account runs dry. At least we won’t have the mortgage check bouncing over it.
Our system is probably a little more complicated than some but it’s how we currently roll and it’s working great. Not feeling guilty is the key. It eliminates the mentality of buying things just because you think you deserve it because your spouse bought something and now it’s your turn.

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22 Kevin May 5, 2011 at 10:56 am

My girl got mad when I told her I wanted seprate accounts… I see a lot of good reasons for not pooling our money together too. I’m all for having one main account for bills/house/etc… but then you have to have your fun money accounts and I think 400 bucks is a good thresh hold if your going to go over to just let the other one know. (I can still enjoy my hobbys on that :-) and she can have fun too) Its not like I’m not maxing out my invesments and keeping my emergency funds toped off… I can’t say the same for her…. hahaha but I luv her

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23 Travis @ GayFinancialPlan May 5, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I like the idea of maintaining separate accounts for each personal discretionary spending. My partner and I do the same– one joint for pooling money, then separate checking/savings for our individual spending money.

A word of caution though, I would still highly recommend the separate accounts be titled joint accounts or what’s called POD/TOD (payable upon death, transfer upon death). Not to be morbid, but if God-forbid, something did happen to either of you, the accounts transfer automatically to the surviving spouse without going through messy and time-consuming probate.

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24 Amy Saves May 5, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I think it’s great that you both have separate accounts and 1 joint account. It still allows you the freedom to buy stuff you want without feeling guilty. If I ever get married, I would totally do what you guys are doing.

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25 J. Money May 6, 2011 at 11:13 am

Now that I think about it more, our “House” fund should really be our “Family” fund — anything we do together, as a family, or need to pay for together (mortgages, utilities, etc) comes from this account. And if we had kids, then that would all fall under there too. Thx for the questions Shannon!

@Steph – Yeah, pretty much. Except in theory once we both put in our House $, anything extra is ours to spend as we wish. So if I have $3,000 leftover for some AWESOME reason, then I could spend it on whatev. But of course I’d feel bad and probably invest in soemething together or give her more or something so yeah it is pretty much “our” money just divided up differently to make us mentally sane ;) Glad your system works for you too!
@Shannon – Great questions! For us, it really covers anything that the TWO of us do or need together. So like, all house stuff is covered (mortgages, utilities, food, etc), and then there’s money in there for when we go eat out together, or buy presents for family members, etc etc (If we owned babies or kis, then yup – that all would fall under their too. So basically it’s our “Family Fund” :)) Anything that we do on our own, not relating to the other, goes from our personal accounts. So that’s how we figure it out :) Sometimes we use it to pay for other things too out of convenience, but I’d say 95% of the time it’s strictly “together” stuff. Hope this helps!! And remember, you can always try one route and then tweak as time goes on if it doesn’t work – it took us a while to get used to a good system.
@av – Haha… my hair is slowly receding too!! Only so far it’s left my ‘hawk area so we’re good so far ;) And most DEF on the “not feeling guilty” part – so true!!! Both sides should be as comfortable w/ the plan as possible. You get that locked down, and you’re golden.
@Kevin – hahaha… yeah, it’s not for everyone. But I bet if you guys talked about it over some glasses of wine and a nice dinner, maybe you can slowly get her to reconsider? Or at least try it for like a month and see what happens? Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – just a matter of how important it is to ya ;)
@Travis @ GayFinancialPlan – Yeah, I should look into that more for sure. I know that I have her as the beneficiary on some other USAA accounts of mine, but maybe those don’t get the same status? I’ll have to call and check. Thx bro!
@Amy Saves – Cool! Yeah, we like it. No stress :)

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26 Jenna May 13, 2011 at 3:07 pm

I think you’re right that as long as you’re communicating and you’re both happy about how things are working, then that’s the right thing to do. My boyfriend and I moved in together a little over a year ago, and at first we kept separate accounts and each took out an equal amount of cash to pool together for groceries, etc. A few months ago we opened up a joint checking account, and basically do the same thing, only electronically. It’s nice that we still have our own separate accounts for when we want to do our own thing, but we have the shared account so that we’re not worrying about if someone’s taking more of the hit for food than the other.

No matter how you do it, I think it’s important for both parties to have an understanding of where ALL the money is going (regardless of who is spending or from which account) and what your shared goals are. And knowing your weaknesses and preferences so that you can set up a system that works for both of you!

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27 J. Money May 13, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Amen, sister! All good points.

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28 Juliee May 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm

My husband and I have been this kind of financing for 20 years. Both of us from divorced parents. We pay our own bills credit/ hobbies and split the househol bills by a percentage of what we make to where we each have play/save money, If we borrow from each other we pay it back very respectful.

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29 J. Money May 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Haha, nice. I don’t think I’ve had to borrow from the Mrs. as yet, but I’d hope it would be just as respectful as yours is! Thanks for sharing, my friend :)

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30 Jaime June 24, 2011 at 12:48 am

People need to do what works for them. I personally don’t want to combine my finances with anyone. I like having my own checking and savings account. I live with my bf and we keep things separate. Even if we changed our minds and got married we still want separate finances. We both have good credit scores. His is in the 800s and mine is in the 700s. We don’t have debt of any kind and we still prefer to just keep our finances separate.

I hate it when other couples judge people when they don’t combine, I like it because we both have freedom and neither one feels like we’re children when we take money out of our accounts. We also split bills, and we alternate paying for dinner when we go out. Yesterday was my turn and today was my bf’s turn. It works for us!

Not to be a debbie downer, but good people end relationships so I just like having separate accounts just in case. I come from a divorced home, and was raised by a single mom. My bf’s parents are still married. Anyway, my stepdad wiped out a joint account he shared with my mom.

So that was a cautionary tale for me when I was growing up. People preach about joint accounts but then they get divorced, and sometimes good people can act nasty in splits. I hope that never happens to us. We were best friends before we started dating. If we ever broke up I would hope we would act civil and stay friends.

We also make it a point to not share purchases. No halfsies. Such as if one of us wants to buy an item like a tv, a chair, etc. One of us will pay for it and we agree that it belongs to the person who paid for it. My parents went through a nasty divorce and I never want to go through what they went through.

People get married because they love each other (at least in the U.S. and other advanced countries) but when they split it becomes about business, and who gets what car, who gets the house, etc. I never ever want to argue about material stuff.

Personally I avoid financial websites that say “you’re doomed if you don’t split finances” – I mean I can’t believe people still believe that, its the 21st century, and half of all marriages end in divorce so you’d think that people would be a little more prepared these days. People say that its complicated to have separate finances but it’s really not.

Sometimes people say that if you do that then you go into a marriage or relationship with separate goals or a divorce in mind and that’s not true. Just because you’re a couple doesn’t mean that you need to share everything. My bf likes caramel but I can’t stand caramel, but still we have many other things in common that we share.

We have really good communication and I really think that’s the key to any relationship no matter what you both choose to do. Sorry this is long but I just feel very strongly that no one has a right to judge what a couple chooses to do. :)

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31 J. Money June 24, 2011 at 9:42 am

We love long comments! Gives us more to read and discuss/think on :) Appreciate you stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us – on this post and the others I’ve seen you drop notes on lately – glad you found our site! :) And more importantly, that you two have a system that WORKS and you’re sticking to it, that’s great.

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