What Works For Me – Combining Our Finances

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.

Cash -

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.

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16 Responses to What Works For Me – Combining Our Finances

  1. My Journey says:

    I only have a year under my belt, but we have a very different set up. We have our individual accounts where our paychecks go, they then filter into a joint checking account for budgetary items, and into joint savings.

    I even did a Power point of the break down:
    http://www.myjourneytomillions.com/articles/the-wife-and-i-finally-implement-a-plan/

  2. Chris says:

    Hi I’m new to your site. I am getting married soon and I have debt coming into this marriage and my fiance knows this. How do you suggest we handle our finances. Should we use separate accounts until I get my debt down?

  3. Golfing Girl says:

    My husband and I use a similar system, though we have 2 joint accounts (we’re each a “primary” on one account but have access to both). This keeps us from writing checks on the same day and overdrafting the account–basically you have to have physical posession of the checkbook (so that if I write a check or take money from “his” joint account, I don’t do so until I’m holding his checkbook and vice versa).
    We always keep the checkbooks up to date and have the same ideas/goals about money. We also have two joint credit credit cards and discuss anything over $75-100 if it’s not a staple item.

  4. Hanna says:

    Cool post-
    I have a checking account at a local bank while having an ING savings account. But now I’m looking at the high interest checking accounts, 5.03% seems TOO good…

  5. Nancy L. says:

    Heh, I’ll be the “other” example. My husband and I have maintained separate finances for over 10 years now, and despite the shocked responses I’ve gotten when I mention it to other people, it works great. Perhaps it’s because we were both hedging our bets when we first moved in together, but it just seemed like a lot of work to set up new accounts and adopt a whole new system when we had one that worked already, and now that we’ve done it for so long, it’s second nature to us.

    What we do is that periodically, we look over all the bills, and split them up between us. So, for example, he pays the mortgage, but I pay child care, utilities, and put aside a monthly amount into savings. Beyond our household responsibilities, any additional money is our own to spend freely. If we go out to eat, sometimes he pays for it, and sometimes I do. If we get hit with a big unexpected bill, we work together to decide where the money will come from. I like the fact that this method keeps both of us highly involved in our finances and that it prevents us from having communication problems (i.e. “Oh sorry! I forgot to write that in the checkbook!”)

  6. Annie G says:

    The respect you and your wife have for each other just shines through this post. I predict you will have a long and happy marriage!

  7. Zengirl says:

    We have joint account since our marriage but also have individual account with $100/month, so we can spend some money as we like, without argument, it has worked so far. Money matter works best, when you and your spouse in sync. Good post, NCN.

  8. My wife and I have been married for three months and pretty much mirror you guys’ philosophy. So far it has been great! Having to do a budget together forces us to be open with each other and holds us accountable for the goals we have set. It also good to know that we trust each other with our money. Great post!

  9. 1002543 says:

    Why give up a credit?

    All our accounts are joint, but we have plenty of them. 5 checking, 3 savings, 12 credit cards and we still live on budget plus enjoy some free money made on credit cards rewards.

  10. Robert says:

    Good article. Nice twist on budgeting. Combining finanaces in marriage can always be a challenge.

    I like the idea on envelopes. However, I really like to take advantage of points on a credit card, so I have not tried that. However, it is something I plan to evaluate.

    Thanks

  11. frugalgrad says:

    I have to say that your situation is a rare germ right now. The economy is down and the stress is high. It’s tough for a single person to openly communicate about his own financial situation, not to mention couples with a family to support. I have known some marriages become rocky lately because one of the spouses lose the job. Money is sensitive issue and you are a lucky man who have such an understanding lady on your side.

  12. Kerri says:

    Organization, communication and mutual respect: the perfect recipe for both a solid relationship with each other and the family finances. I appreciate the insight.

  13. Kandice says:

    Nice blog. I just got married, and we have two seperate personal checking accounts, one joint checking for bills (we split the bills evenly each month), and one joint savings account that we both contribute to each month. So far, it’s working out well. Again, nice blog.

  14. jump higher basketball says:

    Cool, seems that it caught each person who has and has no checking account just like me. I also use envelop to deposit money in the bank and just like Kandice when I got married I want me and my husband have a separate account which will contribute each month.

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