My Your Our Money
Consider an Online Money Management Tool
Since you have decided to spend the rest of your life with someone, chances are you have a similar outlook on finances, or at least understand the other’s financial personality.
Me? I’m a “Confident Money Manager.” I’ve been tracking and reconciling my finances since college – literally every penny tracked in an Excel spreadsheet since I was in my early 20’s. That’s some awesome data! One of the things that stressed me out about combining finances upon marriage was how I was going to keep up my tracking with the addition of the joint accounts. My husband is more in-line with the “Laid-Back Balancer” personality, so I knew he wasn’t going to track every single item he purchases from our joint accounts, itemize receipt splits, or document credit card payments like I have been doing for years. I couldn’t ask him to do that, but I also couldn’t do it for him.
But this is marriage, right? The blending of two lives into one. So what did we do? We met in the middle.
Instead of manually tracking all my + our finances in an Excel spreadsheet, and instead of not tracking anything, we started using an online money management tool. After linking all our joint accounts, assets, investments, and debts, the tool gives us a real-time picture of our net worth and automatically categorizes our income & expenses and compares them to what’s budgeted. Sometimes it makes categorization mistakes, but it’s easy enough to correct and create rules for future transactions. For example, we have a rule that every transaction with the merchant name “Spotify” gets categorized into “Subscriptions/Memberships.”
What first felt like taking a “step down” in terms of my tracking habits has actually turned out to be very liberating to me. I still have a clear understanding of our spending habits and financial situation, but I’m saving time and energy. As for my husband? He is able to quickly update the few transactions that ever need updating, and benefits from having a clearer understanding of where all his and our money goes. What’s more, is it has provided us the opportunity to have even more open communication about finances. It’s really been a win-win for both of us and our relationship.
There’s multiple online money management tools you can use to help simplify your joint tracking. Mint.com is a popular and free choice, but don’t discount the paid options! Couples who are very new to budgeting might really benefit from YNAB – You Need a Budget. Personally, we use Monarch Money. Monarch was created by people who used to work at Mint.com but is a more advanced version. It offers an improved UI, personalized advice, automatic recurring expense detection, and “household” capabilities. We are each able to have our own log-in for our shared household account. I had always been against paying for a service like this since I’m really good at doing it on my own, but honestly, it’s worth it, if not for the time savings for me, then for the ease of managing the household finances together.
Conversations to Have With Your Spouse
Having the right tool at your disposal doesn’t mean the work is done. Far from it. There are still conversations to be had to make sure you are on the same page and ready for financial matrimony. Before creating your new joint accounts, make sure you run through the below list:
1. Decide How Your Accounts will be Structured:
Are you going to keep your money separate? Are you going to combine it all? Or are you going to take the hybrid approach and combine most, but still keep your individual accounts? If you’re doing hybrid, will you put the same percentage of each paycheck into the joint account and the rest in your individual accounts? Or, will you put the same dollar amount into your individual accounts and the balance into the joint (a more equitable option)? This decision is the first thing you need to decide so you can set-up your accounts and management tools accordingly.
2. Discuss Your Financial Goals:
What do you want to save for? An Emergency Fund (yes!)? Retirement? A house down payment? College education? A travel fund? Or do you want to focus on debt repayment? Write down all your goals so when you create your budget, you know to where income should be allocated. Ensure you open a high-yield savings account for any goal that needs to be liquid.
3. Work On Your Budget Together:
Sit down with your spouse and create a budget that reflects your combined income, expenses, and financial goals. You can do this in your online money management tool, or take a back-of-the-envelope approach to start. Begin by subtracting your fixed expenses and “needs” from your income, then allocate some income to your savings goals (pay yourself first). Last, you can budget for your “wants.”
- Your Fixed Expenses/needs include the likes of housing, loan repayments, utilities, food, minimum credit card payments, and transportation expenses (basically all your necessary living expenses and financial obligations).
- Your “wants” include the likes of new clothes, dining out, spa treatments, travel, etc.
4. Be Transparent About Your Spending Habits:
In your discussions right now, it’s important to be honest and transparent about your spending habits. This will help you avoid any misunderstandings or money-related conflicts. Consider making rules where you consult your partner for any purchases over $X amount. You don’t want to lose your independence, but you need to be respectful of the fact your actions affect more than just you now.
5. Review Your Finances Together Regularly:
Make it a habit to review your finances together at least monthly, and adjust your budget or financial goals accordingly. On the 1st of the month, you can review spending for the prior month and make adjustments to the current month’s budget. If one of you is more money-minded (hi, it’s me), you shouldn’t do all the work. If something were to happen to you, you want to ensure your partner is 100% knowledgeable on your situation and accounts. Including them in the process is for their benefit.
“The Simple Path to Wealth” has a prominent spot on my bookshelf. I think I finished this one in about 3 days, but it continues to be impactful. Highly recommend!
Have any joint money management tips or other book recommendations? Drop a comment below!