Unbalanced Checking A couple sharing a checking account finds keeping it balanced and justifying purchases is creating friction. BY DODIE THEUNE
My wife and I just started sharing a checking account and now we argue about money all the time, from not balancing the book properly to purchases made. Do you have any tips on how to deal with our newly merged account?
While marriage is a partnership, money is a very personal issue and most couples enter this new phase of their relationship with different ideas about how to save and spend money. No matter how much you love each other, it’s a difficult adjustment for "newlyweds" to also become a "financial couple" after what may have been years of living independently. The old adage that opposites attract is why you are having a problem with the checking account.
Couples who are uneasy about merging their finances might benefit from slowly progressing from individual checking accounts to a joint account.
To help the transition, I suggest making a collaborative list of your regular fixed monthly expenses and divide the responsibility for paying them. You might consider sharing the bills by percentage according to how much you earn individually. In the beginning, you each can keep a degree of autonomy by making the payments from your individual checking accounts. Later, as your relationship matures, you can begin to make payments from the joint checking account.
To further the journey toward shared financial ground, you need a spending plan (I try to avoid the budget word), which should factor in money for gifts, entertainment, clothes and dining out, as well as fundamental basics like laundry services and transportation.
Start out being generous and overestimate what these items will cost you. For example, if you typically spend $100 for a nice dinner, expect that it will cost $125 and set aside that amount. It’s good to fantasize about your future—after all, if you don’t imagine it, it isn’t likely to happen.
Naturally, every couple has a wish list of items they want to buy. Before making any of these purchases, set a time horizon then allocate your extra cash to one or more items each month. As long as you both have input into how you’ll spend your joint money, you will be acting as a couple.
As with any relationship, the key is to open the lines of communication. A joint checking account requires more openness and understanding. Follow these tips and you will see that happiness in merged lives can still exist with merged accounts.
Dodie Theune is the Senior Vice President for the Bryn Mawr Trust Company.