Share it or split it? How couples decide what to do with their money

Ryan Boyd
Share it or split it? How couples decide what to do with their money

When you have a life partner you share everything. Your house, your friends and family, and sometimes your chocolates.

But what about money? Do you create a big pool that you both deposit in and then both withdraw from? Keep what’s yours in separate accounts? Pay into a “kitty”? Or some combination of them all?

We asked seven people (who we’ll only name with initials) how they and their partner managed their combined incomes and expenses, and what the pros and cons of each approach was.


Keeping things separate, but not secret

There were three couples we talked to who kept their incomes totally separate from each other. They all still had a joint account for bills and none confessed to having any secret accounts that their partner did not know about.

“Each of us have our salaries paid into individual accounts and we then use Automatic Payments to transfer funds to other joint accounts for our shared bills, mortgage, and savings,” said H.

“Then whatever money is left in our individual accounts is our own to spend as we wish.

“I have my own personal savings account my husband knows about, but wouldn’t know the amount of money which is in it.”

Similarly, S sees the benefit in keeping things separate, saying: “Having joint accounts means that we can have the joint expenses like rent/bills go through this account, and having a private account means you can have your private savings put into that account.

“We had an initial discussion about this and preferred to go this way.”

L takes the same approach but they also have a joint credit card.

“We use this for food and entertainment when we’re splitting things, then each transfer money onto it from our personal accounts.”

Doing it this way did allow for at least one surprising advantage, H says.

“It makes it easier when buying birthday presents as the other person doesn’t know how much you have spent.”

“However, a con would be when you go out to dinner or a movie together or are buying a large purchase. We generally take a turn about approach, but it can be a little complicated.”


The shared approach

Of the seven people we talked to, four said that their main accounts were joint, though usually with a number of other accounts as well.

“With the joint accounts we keep one salary in there, pay all our bills for rent, gym, insurance etc,” says O.

“Then we clear anything owing on credit card, put some in Online Bonus Saver for house savings, and then the remaining is spending money.

“However, one of us still has a personal account where the other salary is paid into and then transferred to the Online Bonus Saver monthly.”

Another person, M, had similar experience. “We have individual accounts and joint accounts, however, this isn’t really a significant point for us, as whichever account it’s in, it’s just one pot.”


Suiting circumstances

However, M says that a change in circumstances is what prompted a change of account structure.

“I’m the bread winner at the moment as my husband is a mature student. When we had separate incomes, this gave us freedom to spend our ‘own’ money in a way that we chose. This discretionary spend would pay for e.g. clothes, hairdressers, magazines, birthday gifts etc.

“In our current situation, there is little to no discretionary spend.”


A natural progression…

For some of these people, their account structure were a natural result of becoming a couple.

As O says: “A few years ago we were saving for a big Europe holiday, so we opened a joint savings account to save, and then from there once we started living together, and having more joint expenses we decided to open the joint accounts and credit card.

“The joint savings account has just kept growing since then and as our goals change we use the savings for different things.”


…or a conscious decision?

However, some say that their system was a conscious decision.

M says: “The reason I have always managed the household finances is primarily because my natural ability and skill set are more suited to the task.

“My husband has dyslexia and ADHD, so forms and banking are quite challenging for him, and I like to understand the financial position we’re in and source the most competitive prices for services e.g. utilities, insurance, mobile phones etc., to ensure we’re spending our money wisely.”


If it ain’t broke…

Whichever they came to their system, everyone we talked to said they were happy with their set-up and would probably not alter it unless their circumstances were to change.

C, the only person to say they only have a joint account and no others, said: “Honesty I cannot see any cons to having both incomes under the joint holder title, if both parties are in trust of each other inside and outside the relationship.”

In contrast to C’s simple one account method, V takes a different approach.

“We have a lot of accounts that all serve a purpose. We have a rent, bills, joint, savings, kids, tax, holiday, and business accounts.

“Before we moved out of my parents, (my partner) suggested we have a rent and bills account at first to keep those expenses separate and easy to manage. The other accounts are my idea.

“What we have in place works and makes things manageable. No cons.”


Sole operator

One thing that all the joint account couples had in common was that one person was the clear account manager.

“I have a clear, documented picture of our financial position and it’s more efficient for one person to take charge of household finances,” said M.

Of course this comes with risks. “If anything were to happen to me, my husband would struggle to know what to do and how to manage everything.”


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