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Holding Off on Merging Finances

There are many ways to conduct your finances as a married or other-wise-committed couple. The most common three ways (very aptly described in this Slate series) are:

  1. Common Potters or 100% combined finances, where everything goes into the same account and what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine
  2. Independent Operators or 100% individual, where you pay yours and I pay mine
  3. and the middle ground of Sometimes Sharers or yours/mine/ours, where, just like the name indicates, incomes and expenses are divided into individual ones or shared ones.

Both CB’s and my parents have the 100% combined method, but that doesn’t mean that joint finances is better or worse than other methods. I am a big believer in different strokes for different folks. Right now, we only have individual accounts, even though (1) we have similar views on saving, investing, and (2) philosophically I believe that our money represent our joint resources (especially because we married relatively young and we have certainly not accumulated any type of “real wealth,” whatever that means). It’s just that the logistics of merging finances = a really big hassle. Neither of us feel up to tackling this hassle, and so it’s easier to keep bank accounts separate for a while.

We also decided how to split our finances for this school year, while I am a graduate student and CB is working full-time:

  • I will pay for my tuition and most living expenses out of savings.
  • I will remain on my parents’ family plan for cell phone, so all I had to do was pay for a smartphone. My monthly phone cost, however, is a big fat zero thanks to Mom & Dad.
  • CB will pay my undergraduate student loans (less than $200/month), plus airfare for us to visit each other (around $500 every 2 months).
  • If I really truly need money, all I need to do is to pick up the phone.

In many ways, finances after marriage will look exactly the same as finances before marriage, especially when it comes to the day-to-day things. We will eventually merge our money so that our bank statements catch up to our philosophy, but just not quite yet.

When did you merge finances (if you did)? Were you put off by the hassle of merging?

  • Emily @ evolvingPF - Merging was a little bit of a hassle and it took us a while – especially since we took several months to decide what bank would house our primary checking – but I'd say the bigger reason to keep separate that makes sense for you guys is the living apart thing. It's very unusual for a couple to practice independent management while one is working and one is not, though. ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - We merged everything pretty quickly. Around a year after we got together. Luckily everything worked out for us! ReplyCancel

  • Peaches - You might want to consider adding a Joint account which both of you can access. My wife and I did that and it provides some unification along with independence since we also kept our separate original accounts. Now, when we get paid (because I agree changing everything can be a hassle) we just transfer funds into the Joint account, which we use as our savings since it has a higher APR. That way, you'll have access to funds while away at grad school.

    We also got a joint credit card (which we pay off every month) but it helps track our joint expenses. Just food for thought. Congratulations. ReplyCancel

  • SP - We did largely the same, though we did merge our savings accounts fairly quickly. This was logistically easy (just had to add T to ING, then had him transfer his $$$). We still don't use joint checking, though we think of our money as shared. I pay most of our bills (aside from rent, which we still split, mostly because of history), and he puts most into savings. i would imagine someday we'd merge fully, but… it is a hassle, and I don't see a benefit.

    it does help being at the same bank or having an easy way to transfer funds between each other's accounts. ReplyCancel

  • StackingCash - I just added my wife's name to everything that I had from bank accounts to the title of my house. Very easy. Although when she bought me my birthday present the other day I got an email alert on my phone showing me how much she paid and where she got it. She should get herself an individual credit card so I cannot see what gifts she buys me beforehand :) However, it defeats the purpose of keeping things under control because she likes to delegate all financial stuff to me. She might not be as responsible. Hmm…

  • Stories from Austin - Our finances are completed merged now, but OMG it was a pain in the butt! It took us a good 6-8 months to get everything combined. We've got a pretty good system going on now, but it required a lot of communication early on. Since you guys will be living apart for awhile, it makes sense why you would delay things. Merging finances is stressful anyway, and merging while one of you is across the country sounds even more stressful. ReplyCancel

  • Little House - When Mr. LH and I met and moved in together, we immediately merged finances. We were very young and didn't make much money so it made sense. It has worked out over the years because I'm a bit of a control freak when it comes to the finances -I like to pay the bills and manage the money. He's more hands-off and prefers it this way. 😉 ReplyCancel

  • Cristina - We merged right away. We opened a joint checking account for paying household bills when we moved in together (2+ years before we got married), opened a joint credit card when we got engaged, and then we merged our savings, investments, etc. when we got married. I did not think it was much of a hassle, but that's probably because we did it so gradually. ReplyCancel

  • Laura - I had just finished college when we got married. Since I was mostly still under my parents' wings (had personal checking and savings accounts but no real income of my own), we simply added me to all of my husband's accounts and transferred my meager amounts of money. He has a wonderful head on his shoulders for finances and really led the charge on all the logistics. In fact, once we were engaged he added me as joint on his checking account so that when I was visiting for the weekend and wanted to shop for groceries I could spend that money! Plus he created a budget spreadsheet for us before we got married so we could start getting used to how the other spent and saved. ReplyCancel

  • Newlyweds ona Budget - We merged as soon as we were married. We didn't live together beforehand though so I can see why it would be a hassle if you each had your own bank accounts with bills set up and stuff. We hadn't had any finances together before we were married so it was really easy to just add Eric to my account. And all he had to do was switch direct deposit for his check.

  • fugalportland - I'm hoping to have my debts paid off by the time this topic comes up so that I don't feel like he has to pay debts he didn't help me accumulate! ReplyCancel

  • lkrant - We did it immediately! We were young, almost fresh out of school with out debt. Circumstances have a lot to d o with when you merge your finances. ReplyCancel

  • @momoneymohouses - Me and my BF have lived together for almost a year and we do separate finances. Once we get married in a year's time we might consider merging but I personally like the idea of one joint account for joint expenses then separate accounts so I have a feeling that's what we'll do. ReplyCancel

  • americandebtproject - I don't want to merge accounts. I think of our finances as totally merged though, we split our expenses of rent, food and cell phones evenly, and he gives me money to pay for his share of car insurance and his car payment. But I don't want to share checking accounts or savings accounts. I've noticed that my boyfriend still overdraws his account, although he's getting to be more aware and focused on his own money, I already get really upset when he tells me he got an overdraft, and if I were to consider that overdraft from "our money" I would probably lose it! So we're still taking baby steps to be better with money, each in our own way: me paying off debt, and he with not spending every dollar he has and actually saving. ReplyCancel

  • Lance@MoneyLife&More - My girlfriend and I will be merging finances whenever we decide to get married. It'll work best for us and allow us to pay down her crazy amount of student loans much faster. Plus we'll talk about most of our abnormal purchases before we make them and communicate well with money. ReplyCancel

  • Janette - I'm old- we merged when we married. BUT—the key to our 30 years together? Allowance! We both get an allowance in cash twice a month. From that we can do what we wish (presents, coffee out, Tupperware). In tight times the amount was under $20 each. Currently, it is $200 a month. My son and his wife have debt cards that are attached to their own account for their allowances. Whatever works.
    That is the ONLY part of our finance that is, or ever has been, separate. ReplyCancel

  • kim - We're hybriders – it all comes to a head when you're trying to transfer money to the other. Especially when one makes much more than the other. And I agree 100% about the allowance; ours is $200/mo also, and covers a lot – restaurants, clothes, haircuts, etc. ReplyCancel

  • Asia - When my husband and I first got married we both had different spending habbits and different payments coming out of our respective accounts. We did not merge until 1.5 years later. We then went 100% mostly because it's easier. It is also necessary now that one of us is going to school; can't leave the other person high and dry ;). ReplyCancel

  • David - We combined finances right away when we got married (in January 2012) and it while it wasn't easy, being together financially helps us feel more together as a couple. The only thing we have separate is an individual "fun" account that we deposit a fixed amount into each month. We use it for anything entertainment, clothing, or hobby related that we might not otherwise agree on. That way I can buy tools and nice whiskey and she can spend $100 on a haircut without it causing fights. Of all the financial decisions we've made together so far, I think it has been one of the best ones. ReplyCancel

  • Jamie - We merged finances after a few years of the relationship as splitting the bills became unfair. We set up a joint account and gradually got used to it. Now everything is split, but it can be difficult at first especially when the majoirty of bills take up the total monthly salaries. We still have separate accounts but its not the same. For example, I wanted to surpirse my girlfriend and get her an engagment ring, if I had the money going straight to my own account I could have done this with ease, but with merging the finances before we got engaged made the surprise a little harder. No we're happily married its so much easier, but dont rush into it – both that is! ReplyCancel

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