Love & Marriage – On Combining Our Finances.

I have seen lots of different advice on whether or not couples should combine their finances when they get married. Some say you should combine everything right away, and other say you should keep things separate, if only so you each have spending money. So after seeing all these, I wanted to share what we did when we got married in 2005.

We combined everything within a month of getting married.

Yep, everything. Checking, savings, put both of our names on any retirement/investing accounts we had, everything. See, my wife and I are not big spenders; there really has not been anything we have bought that would constitute a “you bought a what??” remark. Some personal finance books will tell you to be sure that you each have your own money to play with, but we decided we did not need that because we set up a system for big expenses. Anything under $100 does not need to be approved by the other person. This is not to say that we could go out and buy $100 items every day, but if my wife is out and sees something she wants, or I am doing some shopping online, as long as it is under $100 we can buy it. Anything over $100 requires a conversation of some kind, even if it is just to let the other person know that you are spending that kind of cash.

Each of our paychecks gets deposited in the same checking account, and from there money goes to investments, savings, bills, etc. We do not figure out how much of a percentage we should each put into these accounts; any money that goes into the checking account is “our” money…there is no division. I make a lot more than my wife does (which she is not happy about because she watches me get up for work, walk across the hall in my pj’s, and turn the computer on), but that does not matter. What is mine is hers and what is hers is mine.

It has been two years now and we have not fought over this system yet. It’s actually kind of nice to know that our money is really OUR money, not some secret account hidden somewhere that neither of us knows about. She has no interest in doing our finances…so I do all it. She knows the basics, such as where accounts are and what investments we are in, but for the most part she lets me handle it. And that is fine by me.

I guess the bottom line is do what feels comfortable for you. For us, this was combining everything so we both have access and use of it. There are no secrets in our house, everything is out in the open. Neither of us track the other’s expenses to find things to complain about; it just works. If you have an opinion on this, or have a system of your own, would love to hear about it in the comments!

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Comments (22)

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  1. Stephanie says:

    My husband and I have separate accounts and that has worked well for us. Much of the reason is simply that I have a home business and need to keep those finances separate to make bookkeeping easier.

    But we are both careful about money and don’t make big purchases without discussing things. It took a while to get my husband and I used to each other’s spending habits, but we don’t disagree on purchases often now.

  2. LAMoneyGuy says:

    I am engaged, and my fiancee and I have discussed this numerous times. She is not comfortable with combining everything. I think part of it is that I have managed to build quite a bit more wealth than she, and she still has some student and car debt. She feels like that stuff should not be my responsibility. To which, of course, I explained that it is our shared responsibility whether both of our names are on them or not.

  3. david says:

    My thoughts exactly LAMoneyGuy. My wife had some credit issues when I met her along with some student loan debt. When we got married, it became my responsibility as much as hers. Plus, by combining everything, her credit score has gone up dramatically after “we” cleared up some outstanding issues!

    And Stephanie, it does take work, but communication is the best way!

  4. Ellen says:

    Our philosophy is pretty close to the two of you. Neither of us has much debt to speak of (car loans, both at 0%, and a mortgage on the condo), so that’s not an issue. We have similar orientations towards spending–i.e., we operate under a frugality-is-the-best-policy policy. For now, before the wedding, we’ve kept finances separate, and it’s worked, and after the wedding, we might get around to combining and we might not. Either way, we both know how much we have and what’s going on with it. It’s all ours, whether or not the name on the accounts match, y’know?

    I feel utterly lucky that we don’t have the issues with money that so many people seem to have. We save up that emnity for arguing about whose sports teams sucks more. 😀

  5. david says:

    And who are your sports teams, Ellen? 😉 Money is a source of so many problems, its great when people don’t start out with them. Too many people do!

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  7. Ellen says:

    He’s a New Englander, so his teams are Red Sox/Pats/Celts, and I’m from the Heartland and root for Cards/Rams. It’s a tough match, I tell you what, David! 😉

  8. […] Love And Marriage – On Combining Our Finances This is a really interesting look at a couple that chose to combine their finances immediately upon marriage. It’s interesting to me, I suppose, because it’s not something my wife and I would ever do. (@ my two dollars) […]

  9. Aimee says:

    My husband & I have been married for nearly a year and we did something similar. We combined our finances and pooled our bills, but in addition to our joint account, we each retained our individual checking accounts. We each get a certain amount of “play” money every paycheck to buy personal stuff with – we don’t agree on the things each other thinks is worth buying, so this enables us to support our indiviaul hobbies without critiquing the joint account balance at every purchase. Plus it makes it much easier to buy gifts/surprises for each other. Other than this small amount, everything else is combined and I think we’re happier for it. We don’t have to decide who will pay when we got out for dinner or a movie, we no longer have to figure out who owes what for the grocery or electric bill…its “our” money now.

  10. My wife and I combined accounts as soon as we got home from our honeymoon. All money is “ours”; it would be silly otherwise since a week after the wedding she quit her job and went back to school.

    She doesn’t like not making any money, mostly because she doesn’t produce anything in her classes. She reads and she listens to lectures all day every day. This is tough for somebody that has worked in immigration law for the past 8 years w/a brief couple of years working for the workers compensation board. She likes to help people.

    She has an internship this summer, so at least she wont be going quite as crazy. It won’t be bringing any money in, though.

  11. David says:

    Oh Ellen, I have to side with him…Im a New Englander too…that’s no tough match…;-)

  12. David says:

    That’s great Aimee, at least you have agreed on a “system” that works for you. My wife doesn’t always like the things I spend money on, but we have an agreement on the $100 thing, so…:-)

    Blaine, I feel you on that, my wife does not bring home a lot either (teacher, you know), but its what she does that is way more important than cash, so it doesn’t bother her.

    Thanks for the comments!

  13. Cheeseburger says:

    MY fiance and myself recently amalgamated our funds together. I was against it at first because I didn’t really see any benefit over just dividing bills and getting them paid. Her arguments were that it would help solidify the relationship and it would be a good way to do things together as it would be “our money” not mine and hers. I hate to admit when I am wrong, but its worked out quite nicely as we have good discussions with how we want to spend our money and what to set up for the future.

  14. arcyz says:

    We’ve combined finances as soon as we got married 7 years ago. It’s been great. We are fairly similar in our spending habits — mostly frugal, but willing to spend more on something high quality. I have read reports that say people are attracted to people of opposite spending habits, but my husband and I both think it would be impossible for either of us to live with someone who is a big spender and be happy.

    We are both believers in living frugally and retiring early. We don’t even have a $100 mark for needing approval from the other person. On the other hand, we always inform each other of all major purchases, but neither of us has opposed any purchase by the other person. I definitely think being open and above-board is the key in combining finances and keeping the structure loose. Plus, I think it goes a long way towards the health of the marriage, not only financially, but also trust-wise.

  15. jo-less says:

    Hi, we have a totally different approach. My GF and I have one joint account which we refer to as the ‘house’ account into which we put an equal amount every month. it pays for bills occasionally, but mostly things we can’t justify ourselves – holidays, bits of art etc. Or if we are feeling poor, sometimes the ‘house’ takes us both out for dinner 🙂 Other than that, we have our own, separate, current accounts, savings, pensions etc. We loan stuff backwards and forwards and whatever, but generally we just do our own thing. My gf has FAR more income than I do, so this way I get to budget myself and she deals with her complicated tax issues and so on. Works for us! Maybe we’d consider combining if we got a Civil Partnership, but I don’t know how all the legalities work after that (we’re in the UK). I think there would be some tax benefits though.

  16. bree says:

    My husband and I have had a combined chequing account since we moved in together, before we got engaged. We have kept our investments and most other accounts in our individual names, but that’s just because we’re lazy – in practice when we allocate funds all money is ‘our’ money, including debts.

    Before we got married, the chequing account was really the only area where our finances merged, and it was primarily to pay bills. We had set up individual chequing accounts too with the intention of putting aside personal play money each month, but we found that we didn’t need it. When we got married, we took a realistic stock of our finances, including our significant debts. I had a lot of credit card debt, and he has a lot of student loan debt. We made a plan to tackle it together, and we’ve stopped thinking about the accounts as ‘his’ or ‘mine’ because it benefits both of us to pay down those high-interest loans and get our finances in order.

    All in all, it’s worked out really well to combine our finances. It’s encouraged us to communicate honestly and openly about what we spend, what we make and what we owe, and we know there are no surprise accounts that could trouble us later on. It helps that we have similar spending patterns, and we don’t nag each other about occasional small-scale splurges. Because we are on the same page in managing our money, we know that neither of us will come home with a big impulse purchase that will blow the budget.

  17. martha in mobile says:

    Our finances are mingled, although I maintain credit in my own name. We make the same amount of money. I handle all the finances because my husband would rather not think about “all that stuff.” He checks with me when he wants to spend what he considers to be an uncomfortable amount of money (currently around $150), and he doesn’t spend very much or very often. Neither do I. I monitor our main credit card, checking account, and investment accounts so I know where we stand at any given moment. It works because we are fairly similar in our spending habits and trust each other. Actually, his trust keeps my spending in check — I would probably spend more if I had to ask him if it was okay.

  18. […] a very similar marriage, at least with regards to finance, as we do. He wrote a short article about how sharing finances when they got married worked for […]

  19. Joe says:

    My wife and I lived together for 1.5 years before we got married. Prior to getting married, we kept our finances separate and we each paid roughly 50% of the bills. At the end of the month, we’d “settle up” for any large differences. As the wedding day came up, we decided that settling up was getting to be stupid, so we set up a joint checking account where we put our direct deposits and where we paid bills from.

    We still keep separate accounts from when we were both single. We were both fortunate enough to have some assets prior to marriage and for those accounts, we still keep our individual names from those investments.

    We’ve been married for 6 months now and we’re starting to establish some “married” assets together. We hold onto our old accounts as legacy items and all current savings only go towards our married accounts.

  20. This is one issue my fiance and I are discussing now. I can’t tell you what we’re going to decide but I can definitely tell you that communication is key. Make sure both sides understand each other’s goals, fears, history and habits. It makes reaching a decision much easier and it prevents either side from getting hurt by not understanding something.


  21. david says:

    Well that certainly brought out a lot of comments! Thanks everyone for letting us in on your sharing thoughts, I appreciate it. Seems most people that left comments are at least not hiding thousands in debt from each other, which is great!

  22. […] lot of work, and my thanks goes out to My Open Wallet for doing such a great job this week. My post Love & Marriage – On Combining Our Finances was lucky enough to be included in this giant […]