By Rachel Bowie
Before I got married, I was adamant about one thing: separate bank accounts. My parents advised me otherwise. So did a few friends. But my now-husband and I had lived together for a few years pre-marriage and never had an issue relying on apps like Venmo to square up on joint expenses like my half of the rent or his half of the cable bill. Plus, IMO, it meant that we could continue to maintain some semblance of our independence. (He doesn’t really need to know how much I spend at J.Crew, right?) Wrong. After a financial planner overhauled our spending habits, we found ourselves changing tactics. First step: Setting up a joint checking account (one that’s fee-free), followed by a joint savings account (yep, we had previously kept those separate, too). We also opened a joint credit card for almost all incidental purchases. Here’s how our relationship improved.
WE STOPPED NICKEL AND DIMING EACH OTHER
Before we combined bank accounts, Venmo did make divvying up expenses fairly easy. But it also meant that the second we got home from a shared dinner or movie out, we were verbally tabulating how much the other person owed. (I seriously once paid my husband $26 for cacio e pepe and a glass of wine.) Another obstacle—and I was always the worst offender at this—if you don’t pay each other back in the moment, it’s easy to lose track of who owes what. And you know what’s emotionally exhausting? Having to turn every third conversation with your husband into the equivalent of an itemized receipt. The bottom line: A joint account means that, for joint expenses, one card goes down and one transaction is made, which minimizes the amount of time we have to spend
nitpicking discussing the bills.
WE ACTUALLY STICK TO OUR HOUSEHOLD BUDGET
It sounds crazy and irresponsible, but when the money was just mine, I felt totally comfortable breaking my budget to cover an impulse spend—say, round-trip airfare to visit my best friend on a whim. (“That’s what credit cards are for,” I’d tell myself, or “I’ll cover the difference next month. It’ll be fine.”) Now, with our bank accounts—and household budget—merged, I feel much more accountable when it comes to an unplanned splurge. Case in point: I wanted a new laptop. The purchase wasn’t an urgent need, but the old me would have just bought it with credit. The new me—now drawing from our joint account—held out until I properly saved and budgeted for the spend. (Hello, growth.)
MY DEBT BECAME HIS DEBT
Full disclosure: Before we got married, I had a fair amount of credit card debt. (To the tune of $7,000—eep.) Every month, I would shuffle the bills—and my budget—to accommodate the minimum payment due. My husband knew about this, but he didn’t pay much attention to my debt repayment strategy. Not until we combined our accounts. He had a small amount of debt, too, so when we merged our money, it became less about meeting minimum payments and more about the lump sum and how we could strategize (and adjust our household budget) to pay it back quick. It felt awesome to have a united front where we used our joint income to chip away at our collective debt, versus me going it alone and barely making a dent by paying the bare minimum. The goal? Financial independence, ironically—but the only way to get it this time was to team up.
AND MY SAVINGS BECAME HIS SAVINGS
I’ve always been a better saver than my spouse. (Yes, even despite my credit card debt.) And when we merged our accounts, we merged our savings, too—which, for me, was a hard pill to swallow since I'd always seen that money as my personal safety net—there for emergencies, but also impromptu purchases. Giving my spouse access felt scary, but the minute we did it, it felt so smart. It goes back to that whole trust thing. When we merged my savings with our joint savings (mostly wedding cash) and his savings, too, it felt like we suddenly had a safety net for our joint future. And one that we could bulk up together.