Money, Money, Money

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that, after books, one of my all-time favorite topics is money.

The other day, I was reading a book that said married couples should absolutely have separate bank accounts.

I have a friend who does that – one of them pays the mortgage, one pays for the vacation house they own. She gives him a bill for groceries. They switch off years paying for their daughter’s extra-curricular activities.

We, on the other hand, have never really even talked about having separate bank accounts. It didn’t even occur to either of us, I think. I did, for a brief while when we moved to Texas, have a checking account that I deposited all my checks into, but other than that it’s pretty much always been a single account that we pay all our bills and do all our spending from, together.

I think it’s hard to be completely even with money because the chances that you’ll ever make exactly the same amount of money seem VERY slim to me. In our case, I will never make as much as Bart will just by virtue of our different career fields, which have vastly different pay scales.

And, of course, I’ve been the sole breadwinner in our family for the better part of two years now, so that would have made things tricky (although the idea of writing Bart a bill for his half of the expenses for the last two years is not without its appeal).

I think it’s maybe easier for us than some other couples since we are both pretty frugal and have pretty aligned priorities money-wise. I definitely think it would be difficult if one of us was a major spender and one of us was a complete tightwad.

On the other hand, I can see how much easier it would be to each have your own checking account with your allotted money deposited there after the household bills were paid. It would definitely make me feel that I had more flexibility to spend however I wanted.

It seems like some people absolutely feel that if you don’t share your money, you might as well hire a divorce lawyer straight after the honeymoon, while other people think you’re an absolute idiot to not be in complete control of your own finances.

I guess I can see both sides. For now, sharing works pretty well for us. But in the future, it might work better to have more separate accounts. I do draw the line at writing invoices for Bart; I hate paperwork.

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  • Reply RA August 13, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    We have a shared bank account, but separate credit cards. So, while the money does come from the same place, I still feel a comfortable level of autonomy in the day-to-day spending.

    That said, we are both really accountable with our individual spending, so maybe that wouldn't work if people were on opposite ends of the spectrum.

  • Reply Chelsea August 13, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Tom and I share all our accounts. I think keeping the lines of communication open is healthy for a relationship. I consider us a team working towards a common goal.

  • Reply janet August 13, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    I should start this with the disclaimer that "no one way is best, you have to do what works for YOU, blah blah" but that said…

    I am a huge proponent of sharing money. We share every dime, except what goes into our individual IRAs which by definition can't be joint. We also have similar spending/saving habits, but like Chelsea said, we are a partnership working toward the same goals in life.

  • Reply Liz August 13, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    I think maybe being a stay-at-home mom precludes me from having my own account. Because having no job means I don't make a lot of money. I guess I could always bill Kevin for babysitting, cleaning, and cooking services!

  • Reply Alison Stewart August 13, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    I think that you should do whatever works for you (I know…the whole blah- blah – blah thing…but, it is true)….we have done both- I actually like having my own checking account, but our paychecks get deposited to our main account (if only David would put money in mine)!

    I read your title and started singing…."The Apprentice" theme song! Funny huh.

  • Reply teach5 August 13, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    We have two accounts, and my wife's check is deposited into "her" account and my check into "mine", but we don't veiw it as her money or my money, it's "our money, her accounts serves as the household account, mine the utilities and mortgage account, other than that, other expenses can come out of either and money is shifted back and forth between the two as needed. Usually we will verbally discuss anything that might draw one of the accounts down lower than expected. She's more frugal than I am, I tend to spend too much, but other than that things work pretty well, with few glitches or problems.

  • Reply emandtrev August 13, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    We have a few different accounts, but both of us have full access to all of them. We just pay certain bills out of each account and it works out really well for tracking, keeping things straight, budgeting, etc.

    P.S., I know I am super late to the party on this one, but if I had to do it all over again, I'd probably do my blog just a bit differently so I didn't feel such a push to go private. I totally understand what a lot of your readers said about it. For me, it isn't as big of a deal, because once I'm logged into blogger, it doesn't seem that cumbersome. It works out pretty okay for me.

  • Reply Katie Rich August 13, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    We share our account and we have a weekly budget meeting where we go over everything coming in, going out, and major expenses to plan for (ie, tuition). However, within our shared money we make room our "personal money" each month. With our current income it is a small amount, but it gives us the freedom to go out to lunch or buy small things without "asking." We have the same amount of personal money, we either know or find out what the other spends it on, but I think it takes a lot of stress out of little purchases.

  • Reply Bart August 13, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    I like having a secret, non-shared account. But that's just me. You've got to do what works for you . . .

  • Reply The Liddells August 13, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    I like to say we have different accounts, although we spend and pay bills out of the same account. Since I make significantly less than Josh does, we put all of my checks into "my account" which is really just the savings account. I just like to tease him because "mine" usually has more money, while his is constantly being drained.
    I must say that we are definitely a fan of sharing bank accounts, though.

  • Reply Jess August 13, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    I can understand why separate accounts would be recommended in a lot of cases. But I think the whole "always" "never" "absolutely" etc. thing is just silly. Different things work for different people. Torsten and I have only shared accounts and credit cards, because even if our money were separate we would feel like it belonged to both of us. It wouldn't make sense for us to each pay in part of our money and keep the other part for ourselves when we make spending and saving decisions together, always. And yes, he earns a lot more than I do but I manage our finances and also, my income frees up his income for much more discretionary spending. So it's not as black and white as "I earned this, so it is mine, and you earned that, so it is yours."

  • Reply Jenny August 13, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    I think you have your head screwed on nice and tight, and ultimately it won't matter whether you share or opt for separate accounts–the key to financial solidarity in marriage is COMMUNICATION. Keep it good and open, and you'll be good no matter how many (or few) accounts you manage.

  • Reply Kelly J. August 13, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    We've done both. When we were in Texas with a Major National Bank, we had separate accounts and then one joint for savings only. We took turns paying, and it worked out well.

    Then when we moved up here, we decided to simplify and do one joint savings and one joint checking. And it works well, too. I actually think this works a bit better because of accountability. He knows what I spend and I know what he spends, and we can make a joint decision, then, on whether dinner out is possible.

    It's all about trust and communication. Fortunately, my husband and I are both public servants and will forever be poor. No jealousy on incomes, for sure!

  • Reply Melanie August 13, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    The way a guy deals with money will definitely be a key issue when I'm in a serious relationship.

    On my mission I had different ways of sharing money with all of my companions. Sometimes we bought and ate our food totally separately. Other times we cooked together but split up the ingredients and paid for them separately. Toward the end of my mission one of my companions just wanted to put everything in one pile and split the cost evenly. I wasn't sure it would work . . .not because I was worried about her spending too much, I just wanted to feel free to get my own treats! It actually worked out great and taught me a ton about giving and sharing freely without having to count and make sure everything is completely equal.

  • Reply Stephanie T August 14, 2009 at 1:28 am

    So maybe this is sexiest and totally not fair. But I am firm believer in "what's mine is yours"– if your a man. And "every woman needs some mad money"– if your a woman.

    And it works pretty good for us! Then again that's because I have a husband who is happy to hand over his entire paycheck to me (he hates handling money except for the 2 times a year I tell him, to sit down and rebalance his automatic contributions). It doesn't hurt he thinks being a SAHM is way harder then his job so I should be spoiled.

  • Reply Angela Noelle August 14, 2009 at 1:42 am

    We're a lot like Katie Rich…but we've done it both ways.

    We have about 7 accounts now! I opened separate accounts to save for travel, car repairs, our daughter, retirement etc. THEN…we have a "bills / shared" account that all of the utilities etc come out of, and pay goes INTO.

    So…the money goes in (that we both earn), and it all trickles off into the various savings accounts, as WELL as two "personal accounts" that are like our allowance. Irrespective of who earns what, we are both given the same amount of "flexi-money"…because like Katie Rich said, you don't want to have to ask permission to buy lunch, or a bargain you find in a store….which is what we WERE doing.

    The only complaint thus far with the new system came from Haki, and that was, "Hey, this isn't fair. You still have money at the end of the week".

    It's awesome.

  • Reply fluentbrittish August 14, 2009 at 3:47 am

    We share monies, but we have to because I'm a SAHM, and my account would be empty if I had one (yeah… I need a raise). I think it's easier to share bank accounts than to divide all the bills and financial responsibilities. It makes sense for the expenses to all come from the same place. To each his own, though. If having separate accounts will save a marriage, by all means, do it that way.

  • Reply Elizabeth August 14, 2009 at 6:16 am

    My husband and I have the same arrangement as my parents: separate accounts, but we don't keep very close tabs on who's paying for what. We currently have very similar incomes, but he's been unemployed for parts of our relationship, during which times I generally paid all our rent.

    I know a lot of couples who do a combination: mostly joint accounts, but with a certain amount per paycheck set aside for each of them to spend, separately, on whatever they like. One couple takes out a set amount specifically for each to buy the other gifts!

  • Reply Melissa August 14, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I believe as long as you have a clear cut understanding from the beginning of how you'll handle money, its up to the individual couples to make it work. We maintain separate accounts as well as a joint account. Based on our budget which we review periodically, we decide what goes into the joint account. My hubby likes to collect things and doesn't want me to have a say in what he spends and I travel a lot and don't want to explain my expenses either. As long as we each place the required funds in the joint account we're good. When unexpected expenses come up such as medical bills or one of us being laid off, we go with the flow and work through it.

  • Reply Kristi August 14, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    We have two accounts…our main which is also what I spend from and what everything gets deposited in…and Blaine's "fun fund" which we put $5 a day in every time he DOES NOT go out to lunch. It's been great for us (it used to drive me bonkers when he would spend so much money on MUSIC, bleh), and for his waistline. He doesn't want to go out to lunch and I don't nag him for buying music. It's a beautiful thing.

    *oh and also he gets to put any money in there from donating plasma. If your bodily fluids earn you money, you get to keep it. That's what I always say.

  • Reply J and J Acres August 14, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    I LOVE talking about money too!

    Mr. C and I, although not married, have a joint account and seperate accounts. Our checks go into our joint account and that's where I pay all the bills from. Then we get an allotment for gas/lunch etc that goes into our individual accounts. Our bonuses go into our individual savings accounts, but we (when I have a job anyways) allocate a certain amount to our joint savings every month too.

    Mr. C and I make pretty much the same amount of money (well, when I have a job).

  • Reply Douglas Carl August 14, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Instead of talking about joint accounts, what about making decisions on larger purchases? Let's suppose after you get to Boston and you're both making good money, that Janssen decides she really wants to join the Boston Country Club. It will be a good place to meet authors, publishers, etc. and she is suddenly in love with the game of golf. The fee to join is only $25,000 for younger couples and you can afford the $800 per month fee and Janssen's dad decides to spring for the $25,000 as a Christmas present to his favorite daughter. Bart is appalled and under no circumstances wants to hang out at a Country Club, doesn't like golf that much, and just says, no way!! I'd rather have your dad buy us a new Toyota.

    These type of decisions are the tough ones whether or not you have two accounts and two incomes. One partner really wants something and the other has the ability to blackball the idea. How do you deal with this?

  • Reply Lisa August 14, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    We have separate accounts but joint money. There are some bills I always pay (as in, write the check or do the transfer or it's auto pay from my account) and some he does (ditto) but money flows freely between them. We use different banks- he banks where he has a long standing history, I bank at the credit union where I work. If my account is gonna be short (and it often is, I make 1/3 what he does) then I just ask for some cash. This works for us because I balance my account and he does not (ever)(no, really) and we'd each make the other crazy if we had to share. Plus, he doesn't have to justify his fast food to me and I don't have to explain Target.

  • Reply Packrat August 15, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Amen to what Douglas Carl said. Another things that you shouldn't wait on: each of you should start building your own credit. In our crazy world, women still do not have equal banking/loan rights, so it is more important for the woman than the man. I pray, Janssen, that you never need it, but you should have your own excellent credit rating. Be sure to build as a couple, too.

  • Reply Lisa August 16, 2009 at 12:30 am

    To address what Packrat said: it isn't legal to deny a loan based on gender. What usually happens is that a husband and wife have a mortgage and maybe a couple of car loans together. The husband makes 2x the income, for any reason, fair or not. When the wife comes in ALONE to apply for credit, she gets denied, because her debt to income ratio is too high, because their mortgage/car payments equal more than half her income. So we add her spouse and suddenly it's ok, and it seems that we won't give a woman alone a loan. This is much more an issue of unequal pay than unfair lending. If you are a stay at home mom or you work a low paying or part time job and you want a loan alone, there is no way for me to approve that, regardless of your credit or lack thereof. The husband can often still take out loans without the wife.

    Disclaimer, this would be true for ANY couple, regardless of sex, where one makes more money than the other. Stay at home dads would have the same problem.

    You should certainly build credit, but your ability to do a loan is based on more than just the score.

  • Reply Erin August 18, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Abe & I have all shared finances, although we've tracked how much money we each earned since getting married. A few months ago I totaled it up, and, to date, we have actually made exactly the same amount, within about $200.

  • Reply Ashley and Danny G September 9, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Haha – Danny and I continue to have this same conversation as we get closer to having two incomes again. And you know the conclusion I've come to? It's money – it comes and goes and it doesn't really matter who's bank account it is as long as you love the name on the ledger. Although Danny insists I will never know how much $$ we make once there is a DR. in front of his name 😉

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