This post is long-overdue as I’ve been asked many times over the years how my husband and I approach our finances. And I’m excited to share that in order to provide value outside my lived experiences, this post is brought to you in partnership with Coast Capital.
As always–all thoughts are my own.
Whether or not we want it to, money plays a big role in relationships. That’s why when it comes to combining finances as a couple (or deciding not to) it’s important to consider all the angles and approach the conversation as a team.
This team-mentality is what has helped make the topic of money a lot easier for us.
What to consider before combining finances with your partner:
My husband and I have been living together for 9 years now and married for nearly 5. And though we began to share money really early on in our relationship and have always maintained a really fluid approach, we didn’t have a system for combining money for a long time.
Below is a list of things I’d recommend thinking about before you make any big decisions around finances as a couple. These are a mix of things we’ve learned over the years, and tips we’ve picked up from Coast Capital, Canada’s largest federal credit union by membership!
1. Getting help
There is no need to navigate finances in a bubble! Seek guidance from experts, advisors, or even your network of family and friends.
Then take what works for you and leave what doesn’t.
When we were first joining our finances as a couple, it was really just trial and error. I wish we had known about Coast Capital’s resources and trusted team of advisors–we might have figured things out a little quicker.
It’s also never too late to seek help or learn more!
We recently watched Coast Capital’s webinar on How to Combine Finances with your Partner and it was great to put words to our financial approach (more on that below) and fill in the knowledge gaps on what we should be thinking about.
For example, we’ve been living very much in the moment and near future, but the webinar was a wake-up call to the fact we need to do more ‘future planning and proofing’.
2. Each Other’s Backgrounds
It’s so important to consider each other’s history and relationship with money because it’ll help provide clarity and understanding in future conversations. This conversation requires openness and trust. A great way to break the ice is with Coast Capital’s card game Talk Money To Me which helps couples have the important money conversations they need to have but might have been putting off.
My husband and I had these conversations pretty early on in our relationship–we talked about the financial environments we had grown up with, what we wanted to emulate and what we didn’t, and I had to be honest about my mistake of opening a few too many credit cards in my youth.
3. Your State of Affairs
Next thing to consider as a couple is where you are at respectively with your finances. Again, openness and trust is crucial.
I know some people like to keep some accounts private, but approaching everything as a team has been critical to keeping finances as stress-free as possible.
Consider the below financial categories as numbers and facts (i.e. without any ego or story attached to them):
When we first moved out, we talked the most about income–because we wanted to make sure we had enough to cover rent, bills and other necessities.
We didn’t necessarily keep the other accounts a secret, we just didn’t focus on them as much as we could have, and they were our own to deal with. Again, while others might choose to proceed that way, not looking at our accounts from a holistic point of view from the start meant we weren’t making decisions from a fully-informed position.
4. Your Financial Approach
It’s important to consider how you will approach expenses. How much will you combine, what will you keep separate if anything?
And remember, this approach doesn’t need to be set in stone.
Our financial approach has actually always been quite fluid. We’ve adapted as different life stages unfolded, with each of us taking on more or less financial responsibilities as needed.
In watching Coast Capital’s webinar, we discovered that there are three primary financial approaches:
- when each person contributes to the household expenses at a rate that is proportional to their income. I.e. if you make more, you contribute more.
- when each person contributes the same amount. I.e. expenses are split 50/50, or each person puts the same amount into a joint account, regardless of income differences.
- all income from both partners is part of the pot. Everything is considered the household’s income and can be managed through joint accounts, and shared credit cards.
We also discovered through the webinar that we currently have a combination of a proportional and complete approach, and this has evolved with time.
What our approach looks like in practice:
When we first moved out, we leaned more towards a raw approach. We had fully separate accounts and similar-paying jobs, so we split everything pretty evenly and the leftover money was our respective business. That being said, while rent and bills were cut in half, we didn’t track other expenses to a tee.
Then a couple of years in, my now-husband got a higher-paying job and contributed more to the household shifting us more towards a proportional approach. This continued as I made a career change out of retail and into a more traditional 9-5, which resulted in an initial pay cut. That being said, while we were proportional in practice we were shifting more towards complete in our views–seeing all money as the ‘household’s’.
Leading up to and after we got married, we became more solidly complete. We would sit and review our accounts every paycheck, and move things around to cover not just expenses, but each other. Our money was “both of ours” regardless of what account it was sitting in.
Then my husband went back to school, and I took on the financial responsibilities. We see this as taking turns to support each other through life. Even though I’m the sole income for now, we still continue to sit down and review finances as a team. Again, as though it’s one big pot.
5. Joint Accounts or Separate?
After considering your financial approach, it’s important to think about the logistics of splitting and/or combining your money.
i.e. Where will you keep the money–what type of accounts you’ll hold together and/or separately.
Joint accounts make it incredibly easy to manage shared expenses, regardless of your financial approach.
Despite truly seeing our finances as one big pot, my husband and I have a mix of accounts:
Separate checking and savings accounts that we’ve had from before we got together. Joint accounts so that we can have easy access to a shared pool, and we both are authorized users on each other’s credit cards.
If you’re looking at setting up new accounts as a couple, know that for a limited time, you can get up to $400* cash when you become a new Coast Capital member. Sign up with my affiliate link! (*Conditions apply).
6. Frequency of Financial Check-ins
In other words, how often you’ll have money dates?
When combining finances as a couple, it’s important to make it an ongoing commitment to do regular check-ins. This makes sure you’re on track and that you can adjust your systems and approaches as you go.
My husband has always been the one to encourage “money dates”, and I’ll admit, it was uncomfortable at first. I wasn’t used to looking at my spending habits face-on, let alone being open with them or the fact that they could impact our household.
But now that we’ve made it a regular practice to sit down, review our accounts, and make plans for the future, I actually kinda look forward to these check-ins.
And it helps that we often do them over dinner to make a little date out of them!
Final Thoughts on Combining Finances as a Couple
I hope these considerations helped you think about how to proceed in combining finances with your partner. These tips truly helped prevent money from being a pain point in our relationship.
If you’re looking to better manage your finances together as a couple, I definitely recommend starting with Coast Capital’s webinar which you can access by clicking through my affiliate link.
There, you’ll also be able to find more about Coast Capital’s new member offer which again, for a limited time, you can get up to $400* cash when you become a new Coast Capital member. Visit the link in the video description to open your account in as little as 5 minutes. *Conditions apply
Join for the $400, but stay for the difference a real financial partner makes. Offer ends June 30, 2023.