One Couple, One Budget: How to Combine Finances in a Relationship
Creating financial goals, setting a monthly budget and keeping communication honest and open can help you manage finances as a couple.
Published: May 4, 2023
What We'll Cover
- How to navigate combining finances with your partner
- Creating financial goals as a couple
- Conversations to have with your partner about finances
Do you and your partner share a bank account?
According to a recent study by Bankrate, 43% of couples who are married, in a civil union, or living together have a joint bank account. The study also found that only 31% of younger couples ages 26 to 41 years old have a joint bank account, whereas almost 50% of couples ages 42 to 76 years old share one bank account.
Money is typically the number-one issue for married couples. In fact, arguments about money are the second leading cause of divorce in America.
Married couples may find out they’re better off with combined finances. This keeps the communication around the topic of money wide open. In fact, a survey by Ramsey Solutions found that 94% of great marriages continually talk about money together.
Combining and managing finances as a couple is a skill that takes some work. Here’s how to navigate this road and keep the communication open.
How to Merge Your Finances Together
When it comes to merging your finances, the first thing to remember is fair and equal are not the same thing.
The chances that you and your spouse bring in exactly the same income is impossible. You will each come to the table with different paychecks, different savings, and possibly different amounts of debt.
The key to merging your finances together is to change phrases like “his savings,” “her income,” or “their debt” to “our savings,” “our income,” and “our debt.”
Remember, the wedding officiant never said, “I now pronounce you business partners.” Instead, marriage combines two separate lives into one, including the dog, the kids, and yes — the money.
Here are five steps to merge your finances together.
Step 1: Talk About Your Financial Goals Together
Before pushing your two buckets of money into one, set some time aside to dream about what you and your spouse’s future will look like.
When do you want to retire? Where do you want to live? What will you be doing 10, 20, or even 30 years from now?
Open up the money talks about where you both want to go, so you can begin discussing how you’ll reach those goals. Money touches every aspect of our lives. Therefore, your combined dreams and goals will also be directly related to the financial goals you'll create within your relationship.
Step 2: Get Everything Out in the Open
Did you know that one in three people confess they've hidden purchases from their spouse?
While this may not seem like a big deal, the unfortunate truth is this often leads to financial infidelity. When a spouse holds onto a financial secret and hides it from their partner, it breaks down the trust in their relationship.
Once you and your spouse are on the same page with your financial goals, it’s time to get everything out in the open when it comes to your personal finances. I know, just thinking about having this conversation may make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. But this is the most important step when combining your finances.
Set aside an evening to print off all your bank statements and allow your partner to see it all. Keep in mind, one of you will have a higher income, a larger savings account, and maybe even a larger pile of debt.
Once everything is out in the open, you can start creating your financial plan together to reach those financial goals you created earlier.
Step 3: Marry Your Bank Accounts
The next step is a simple one: open a joint checking account and move money from your personal accounts into your new joint account.
Hopefully you find that having a joint checking account simplifies your finances. Instead of one person paying for groceries and the other paying the mortgage, everything is now simplified into one joint checking account.
Let’s keep banking simple.
Open a free checking account today!
Step 4: Create a Monthly Budget Together
What gets measured gets managed.
Could you imagine if a business just guessed how much money comes in and out of the business each month? Eventually the business would be closing up shop for good!
This same idea is true for your personal finances. As crazy as it may sound, you and your spouse will have a plan for every dollar in your lives. The good news is that it’s really simple to do when you combine your finances.
When creating your budget, don’t overcomplicate it.
Add up your and your spouse's income for the month and then subtract all of your monthly expenses from the combined income amount. Make sure the money that goes out each month in the form of bills, spending and other expenses, is less than or equal to your income.
Step 5: Never Stop Talking About Money Together
As mentioned above, money touches every aspect of our lives. Make it a priority to continually talk about money with your spouse and ensure you both are on the same page with your finances.
Couples who continually discuss and agree on the finances will have a better marriage than those who do not. With financial issues being the number one stressor within a marriage and the second leading cause of divorce, having continuous financial talks within the relationship will only make things better.
Set up financial boundaries together. This may include a spending limit you each agree to before you combine the finances.
For example, maybe you both agree that you can each spend $100 or less without discussing it with your spouse. However, anything over $100 may require a quick text or phone call.
Will separate bank accounts eventually lead to a miserable marriage? Of course not!
Many couples with wonderful relationships will go their entire lives with separate bank accounts. However, study after study continues to prove that the majority of great marriages also have combined finances.
With that said, if you and your spouse seem to be going in completely different directions financially, then it may be wise to slow down the five steps mentioned above. You both may be better off staying at step 1 (financial goal planning) for a while and then slowly moving into step 2 (financial transparency) to build financial trust together.
Once you have created shared financial goals with full transparency, you’ll be much more comfortable merging the separate finances into one.
- Combining finances may be simpler for your marriage.
- Create financial goals with your partner.
- Be open about your debts and spending.
- Open a joint checking account to merge your finances.
- Create a monthly budget with your partner.
Ready to merge your finances? Open a joint checking account and start working toward those financial goals!
Chris “Peach” Petrie is the founder of Money Peach. Money Peach partnered with OneAZ to provide free financial education to members across the state. To learn more about OneAZ’s partnership with Money Peach, click here.
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APR = Annual Percentage Rate