I’ve been married for a little over three months now, and, since my new husband and I combined our finances right after getting hitched, we’ve been learning a lot about what it’s like to share bank accounts. We went from completely separate financial lives and splitting (almost) every cost right down the middle to completely combined finances.
After spending 27 years independently maintaining my finances, it’s been a bit of a shock to my system (and I’m sure for him, as well). But, we’ve been talking about and planning for the switch for awhile now, so I think that softened the blow a bit. Three months is hardly enough time to know exactly how our combined finances will change and evolve over time, but I think we’ve both learned a lot thus far…
A PERSONAL DECISION
Combing finances with someone is a personal decision that requires a lot of thought and discussion. My husband and I had talked openly about our finances when we were dating and had always planned to combine after we were married. We made the decision based on many factors (we were sick of splitting checks everywhere we went, for one), but the biggest deciding factor was that we wanted to be a team; what was good for him would be good for me and vice versa. As a team, if we struggled, we would struggle together.
My husband jokes that the biggest perk of combined finances is being able to say “this is on me” every time we go out to dinner (hilarious, I know). But I’d think we agree that the best part of combined bank accounts is that we truly do feel like a team. We make our spending and saving decisions together. This has made us a closer, strongly couple and family…and that’s important in a fledgling marriage.
Other perks include, of course, the fact that we don’t have to split bills anymore. We made a short out-of-state trip for a family wedding recently and, when we were flying back home, I realized I hadn’t pulled out my credit or debit card once on our entire trip. And although it was nice that I didn’t have to use my cards, the main benefit was that we didn’t have to tally up splitting the check at a restaurant or in a parking garage.
WHAT WE’RE LEARNING
The biggest cause of bickering has been budgeting and spending habits. My husband has always been a very meticulous budgeter, spending Sunday afternoons documenting our spending from the previous week. This has clashed with my habits because I don’t follow a strict budget. I did for a short time when I was paying off debt, but now I just try to avoid thoughtless spending and always look for the best deal.
This has created debates because my husband thinks that everything we buy (from a house to clothing to small miscellaneous expenses) should have a designated “fund” in our budget and we should save for it prior to purchasing it (which is obvious for a house, but doesn’t make sense to me for little things).
I tried to tell him to create an “Amber Fund” in his budget so I could spend on things as I need them, but he looked me like I was a crazy person (the vast differences between a budgeter and a non-budgeter). So, that issue is still a work in progress.
Even though we don’t necessarily agree on budgeting, we’ve made it a point to not criticize each other’s spending. We both have modest spending habits and we both look for good deals on whatever we purchase. Although my husband doesn’t understand the concept of an “Amber Fund” (yet), he hasn’t criticized my spending or told me to cut back on anything. And I’ve done the same towards his spending habits. I think that this easy-going practice might not work if either of us spent more money than we make, but we’re both modest spenders that always spend much less than we earn.
Right now, the biggest impact on our finances is our plan to purchase a house. We’d each been saving separately before we married and we combined our house savings funds after our wedding. We plan to buy a home in a couple months and it has been fun to monitor our savings accounts together (when just a couple months ago, they were separate). Buying a home will be our first big joint purchase and with home ownership will surely come loads of new expenses and experiences.
SOME PRACTICAL TIPS
Everyone’s financial situation will be different, but we did learn a few things that would apply to everyone as we were combining bank accounts:
- Figure out which bank you’ll be switching to long before the wedding. The wedding and honeymoon are such a whirlwind, so it’s hard to make this decision during that time. You might call each of your bank’s and ask them about switching accounts or adding another person to help make a final decision.
- Try to go to your bank during non-peak hours. We were able to go to our main bank the day we returned from our honeymoon during the early afternoon. There wasn’t a wait and we were the only customers there, so it made the process much easier.
- Consider your name change. If you’re going to change your name after the wedding, it might not be complete when you’re in the midst of combining finances. Make sure you tell your bank about this to avoid confusion.
- E-mail your online banks or check FAQs. Combining our online accounts was extremely easy and took only a matter of minutes. If you’re unsure about the process, e-mail their support team and you’ll probably receive step-by-step instructions the same day.
- Discuss money management prior to the big day. I’m always amazed to hear how many of my friends didn’t discuss finances before they were married. Make sure to iron out any issues and get on the same page before the wedding to avoid any surprises.
WORKING AS A TEAM
As I mentioned earlier, the best part about combined finances (for us) is that we’re doing everything together. You really feel like a team. It can be scary to let someone have access to all your hard-earned savings and income, but it’s also exciting to know that you’re planning your financial future together—for better or for worse.
That’s what we did, although I know everybody’s different. Have you recently changed how you handle joint finances? What changed? How’s it working out so far?