There’s a lot of outdated information in the world but family finances are still in taboo territory. The old info said close to nothing and usually stopped at “leave it to your husband”. Suuuuper helpful stuff.
But with more and more 2-working-parent households, sharing a bank account just makes sense. There are so many more shared responsibilities and goals that it actually makes things easier. And of course, like everything else, there are right and wrong ways to do it.
My husband and I have been wildly successful (and damn proud) of how well we combine, manage, and budget our bank account, so I’m sharing the rules we follow to keep up with that standard
1 – Complete transparency
Absolute transparency is the only way to make a marriage work for the long haul. Money secrets definitely won’t fly. Even if the bank accounts aren’t shared, your other half should have an accurate idea of what goes on with your money, and vice versa.
When I hear about extreme secrecy or “unfairness” involving marital funds, then I get seriously concerned about financial abuse. It might sound crazy, but it is so real and more common than you think. Not in the way “alcohol abuse” is throwing away an unfinished beer. Financial abuse is “the control of one’s ability to acquire, use and maintain money by an intimate partner occurs” so despite what so many of us think, this is not a one a person job.
When there are two adults managing this money, via spending, making, saving or a combination of those three, each party should have broad oversight of the entire financial picture. Otherwise we can’t realize what our actions (or inactions) are doing in the grand scheme of money things.
2 – A shared and easily accessible space
Since everything is out in the open, the tracking deserves be too. For transparency’s sake and responsibility reasons.
This is a team effort and the burden of budgeting is just like any other household chore. For us, he does dishes and the cat box (pregnancy perks, what’s up!), I do laundry and the budget. Call it the division of labor, but if we ever need to pick up each other’s slack I know where the dish soap is, and he knows where the budget is.
I was able to simplify and write out the process of our monthly budget for him and offer it to my readers too!
3 – Monthly check-ins and brief reviews
After going through our monthly budget process, I can easily see where we went over, where we went under, and, you know, where we actually fell compared to where we planned.
It’s a flawlessly flawed system, and I prefer it that way because there’s too much life to live. Pouring over your budget everyday and obsessing over the process is hardly ideal. In my opinion, it sounds like the fastest and least fun way to develop a drinking habit.
I’m not suggesting you stay in the dark on your bank account balance and risk overdraft fees, but when it comes to evaluating what went where — limiting it all will work wonders for your mental and marital health.
Instead of regularly jumping down each other’s throat, we set aside a monthly business breakfast for us to discuss what’s happened with minimal negative emotions. Dedicating a one hour coffee date to review anything that went down and what’s expected keeps money on our mind without ruining the entire month.
4 – Regular updates on goals and progress
You gotta be on the same page when it comes to where things need to be going and where you both want things going.
The planning part of the budgeting process always considers any surprises we’ve had or changes to regular expenses. Short term things like escrow adjustments, birthday gifts, or travel plans affect the budget throughout the month.
But the big stuff, the long-term goals like setting aside a downpayment, planning for retirement, or saving for college affect the budget on a different scale. These expenses are different but equal in the financially-combined eyes.
Regular reminders like “sorry, no, we can’t order take-out again. We’re saving for that childfree beach weekend, remember?”
5 – No bad mouthing slip ups
We all make mistakes. And even the most well thought out budget won’t always work out like you hope. Plan on things not going according to plan.
The easiest way to ruin a good working relationship is some good old fashioned harsh criticism. You get more flies with honey, honey!
There have absolutely been times when I notice a wayyyy too expensive Amazon purchase or two and immediately say wtf babe… But the beautiful thing about money and accounting/budgeting/math is everything can be fixed. Either with more money or refunds lol.
Unfortunately we can’t say the same for marriages. Things can’t be unsaid and personal digs can’t be unmade. You gotta go easy on each other!
6 – Give it time
Finally, the 6 month rule. After every major life change, we give ourselves and each other a 6 month grace period for adjusting. Have you ever considered this?
I am shocked and sad when people tell me about how hard things have been after having a baby or moving or starting a new job. Of course it’s hard. You’re still adjusting.
Instead of jumping into something new and trying to make it the new normal right away, we need some time to let the dust settle and it actually become the new normal. And that goes for each of the earlier rules too.
These shared banking basics do not happen overnight. They just don’t. Everything takes some practice and deserves the opportunity to thrive over time.
Being married without a shared bank account is a disadvantage
These rules will make sharing a bank account the team effort it’s supposed to be. Regardless of who makes more or spends more, the money is mutual and there is something really special about letting those funds love together.
The more we discuss it, the more Tano and I believe that completely separating income and expenses only hurts you. It hurts your mindset when you can’t see the full financial picture in one place and that ultimately hurts your progress toward long term goals. And let’s face it, no financial goals are solo when marriage is involved. Everything you do affects your other half financially, one way or another.
By following these rules, you can begin to join forces amicably and become a stronger entity. Two heads actually are better than one so you can only imagine how that affects your finances when you’re goals are working together too.