My wife and I have been married for almost thirteen years. For that entire time, even before we got serious about managing our money, we believed in combining our finances. Here’s our simple system and what works for us.
Our Combined Finances –
Checking Accounts –
We have one, joint, primary checking account. My wife and I can both write checks from this account. We both have debit cards associated with this checking account. Since I’m the nerd, I keep up with the checkbook balance. We write less than ten checks per month, mainly to pay for babysitters and daycare. I reconcile the checkbook once or twice a week, which takes less than five minutes. We both carry a book of checks, for the sake of convenience.
We have one, joint, online checking account. We both have debit cards associated with this checking account. My wife rarely uses this account, which is used primarily for online transactions.
Our expenses are pretty consistent, month after month. Because we live on a budget, it’s relatively easy to predict when and where we’ll write a check or use a debit card. We hold on to our receipts, write down check amounts, and then I will enter all transactions in our checkbook register. I also regularly log-in to our checking accounts, just to make sure that we haven’t forgotten to record a particular transaction.
We use the envelope system to manage our cash. My wife has a set of envelopes. I have a set of envelopes. Click here to watch a video describing, in detail, how the envelope system works.
Again, there is a real advantage to living on a budget. I usually shop for groceries, while my wife usually shops for clothing. So, she gets the clothing envelope, and I get the grocery envelope. This works for us, but other couples might need two clothing envelopes or two grocery envelopes, one for each spouse.
Saving Accounts –
We have one, joint, online savings account. We both have access to this account.
How It Works –
The key to combined finances is open communication. When we create our monthly budget, we are honest about our expectations. If I think I’m going to play golf, or my wife thinks she’s going to visit the manicurist, then we talk about those things. I’ve seen couples struggle to live on a budget – even a budget to which they have both agreed – only to find out that one spouse is hiding certain expenses from another spouse.
We only need one checking account (from which we both write checks) because we are constantly talking about our finances. And, we have the freedom to talk about our finances (and avoid arguing) because we are both committed to our budget.
I trust my wife. She trusts me. We have three children, and we are teaching them to trust us.. Our system for combining our finances works because I know, that all times, my wife is doing what she believes is best for me and for our children – and she knows, that at all times, I’m doing what I believe is best for her and our children.
Inventory of Financial Accounts –
Because I am the finance nerd in our family, I’ve created an inventory of financial accounts for my wife. I regularly update the inventory, so that she will have quick access to our financial information, should something happen to me. If you manage your household finances, be sure that your spouse knows where important documents and accounts are located.