How to Budget Money When Spouses Have Separate Bank Accounts
A match made in financial heaven.
It's not for everyone, but keeping separate accounts might be the best path to wedded bliss for some couples. This is especially true for people who are accustomed to managing just fine on one income before getting married, and couples where one spouse travels and has a lot of work-related expenses to sort out before reimbursement.
Whatever the reason for separate accounts, it does make budgeting a bit more complicated. But couples who say this system works for them have a few techniques that can help you, too.
Stop Hiding Anything
If the reason behind separate accounts is to keep spending secrets from your spouse, stop it. Secrets only lead to arguments and hurt feelings. If you want a new pair of shoes and know you can afford them, carry those shopping bags into the house proudly.
But if you want a new camera and know you won't have enough left to pay the mortgage bill, buying it anyway is probably the wrong choice, even if the money you spend is technically yours. The mortgage still has to be paid, so your spouse has to pick up the slack.
Don't Cave In to Someone Else's Guilt
Separate bank accounts aren't the traditional married financial arrangement. That doesn't mean they're wrong. Friends and family, if you're inclined to tell them, might advise that keeping money separate is just a pathway to divorce.
It's a similar argument as the one against prenuptial agreements. How you manage your money as a couple is really only your concern. If it makes you and your spouse happy, that's all that matters.
Does it work for you?
Make a Plan Together
Separate accounts don't mean separate lives. You still have joint obligations, it's just who pays for what that's in question. Jacqueline Curtis for Money Crashers recommends sitting down together and figuring out who is responsible for paying each expense.
Perhaps one spouse has a significantly larger income and can comfortably handle paying all of the fixed household bills. The other spouse with a smaller income might then be responsible for "everything else." This could mean groceries, dining out, and, as Ms. Curtis explains, unexpected expenses such as vehicle repairs. If this doesn't work, then design a plan that's fair, and that you can both agree on.
Find Your Saving Style
One of the main goals of any budget is finding ways to save money. That doesn't just mean paying out less, but also keeping the extra safely tucked away for the future. As with checking accounts, separate savings should also be a joint decision. Managing your own accounts doesn't mean there's no accountability.
If keeping everything separate is more than you want to manage, perhaps consider a mutual savings or goal account that you both contribute to.
Couples argue about money at least as much, probably more, than any other issue. If you and your spouse have different spending and saving styles, separate accounts might be exactly what you need. As long as you remain accountable to each other and don't keep spending secrets, managing a budget with separate accounts shouldn't be a particular challenge.
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Carole Oldroyd is a freelance writer who helps families develop and stick to a budget.