It’s like birth control: it has its benefits, but it can also be really f**king annoying.
In what was a “big girl” move, my husband (then-boyfriend) decided we’d share a bank account together. While we did it for convenience’s sake (he was looking to get out of CitiBank and I still had my credit union account from back home), it seemed like a perfectly natural step forward in our relationship that didn’t need discussing or ruminating over.
For some, sharing a bank account is a big freaking deal. I get it — it’s your money and now it’s going to be pooled into one account which both of you have equal access to. The thought that someone else can access and spend your money freely — even if that “someone else” is your significant other — can be a bit scary, which is why so many couples hesitate to take the plunge and get a joint account.
If you still haven’t considered the possibility, let me give you some words of wisdom that come from experience. Now that we’ve been sharing our account for 3 years, I’ve picked up some Pros and Cons along the way that may make your decision a lot easier to make.
While sharing a bank account is absolutely wonderful and can relieve the stress felt by trying to split expenses, it also comes with downsides that are good to consider before making the commitment.
Let’s start with the bad news first, shall we?
Your partner’s terrible spending habits now affect you.
You may be great at spending money wisely (with a few indulgences every now and then), but your partner isn’t. Well, guess what? Sharing a bank account with your partner who doesn’t understand the concept of saving now affects you. This is perhaps the biggest con to sharing a bank account as you are now not only faced with the issue of having to be even more diligent with your expenses, but are now having to confront your significant other over their spending habits which can lead to disagreements and arguments that can make or break your relationship.
This was the biggest issue that my husband and I encountered once we started our joint account. I spend money, but I spend my money wisely and rarely; my husband, on the other hand, can buy and buy and buy without blinking an eye at the money he’s thrown away. Eventually, after many months of disagreements and frustration, he’s learned to reign in his spending habits and follow the monthly budget plan I create for us.
If you find yourself in this situation, speak to your partner openly, honestly, and patiently, and instead of dwelling on the issue (which will only lead to headaches), collaboratively come up with solutions to budget your spending. Sometimes this means setting aside an allotted amount per paycheck for entertainment expenses; other times, it means creating a detailed monthly budget. That’s a choice your partner and you need to make together. Another reason to bring him/her in on the discussion is that it gives them a sense of ownership and responsibility that can help transform their spending habits for the better.
You get a little trigger shy when it comes to buying.
Now that you’re sharing an account, you’re even more conscious of your spending habits which can lead to you being a little trigger shy when you see a blouse or lipstick you want to buy. I’ve definitely encountered this intense feeling of apprehension that often leads to me rationalizing my decision to put that lipstick back on the shelf with, “Well, I guess I don’t need it right now.” If operating under that line of thought, you technically don’t need much, which is exactly why you should allow yourself some breathing room to spend on things that will make you (temporarily) happy.
If you’re sharing an account and are beginning to feel this creeping sense of guilt, take a second to stop and evaluate the situation for what it is. While you normally wouldn’t have had a problem buying that item, you now do given your joint account status. Remember that it’s still your money in there, but now you just have a little more of it. The same goes for your partner. Allow them to spend on something they truly want. This doesn’t mean you have to both go crazy, it just means allowing yourself some time to play and take a break from the constant “saving” which can get tedious and constricting.
Take into account debt.
Before deciding to join your bank accounts, openly and honestly discuss the expenses you have to both pay off. How much debt are you both in? Do you have student loans to pay off? Credit card expenses that require a monthly payment? Lay it all out on the table so that, if you do decide to share an account, aren’t taken by surprise when you or your partner reveal that there is a $250 monthly payment to make to Wells Fargo or a student loan that requires a $600 monthly payment.
Sharing an account is one of the most important things you can do in a relationship, so take the matter seriously, discuss each of your financial situations, and if you’re still gung-ho about taking the plunge, create boundaries that will ensure your financial matters don’t spill over into your personal relationship.
Now, on to the good news. Sharing an account can also be the best thing you ever do with your partner. It takes the weight off of who’s paying for what and will actually bring you two closer together. Here are the pros to a shared bank account.
Say goodbye to splitting expenses equally.
If you’re in a serious relationship and living together, you’ve probably encountered the frustration of disorganized division. This means that in the attempt to equally divide the cost of bills, groceries and spending, you’ve both been frustrated and, if you’re paying more than your partner, left feeling a little resentful towards them. Having to split expenses equally can lead to an uneven distribution of weight in the relationship. One feels like they’re putting more into the relationship than the other, while the other feels an unfair sense of pressure regarding their contributions.
Sharing a bank account eliminates this issue entirely. Instead of keeping tabs on who’s paying what, a shared bank account means you’re both equally contributing to the expenses and, therefore, relationship. This is perhaps the most important part of getting a joint account.
Since my husband and I make about the same, it’s even easier to divide expenses equally and feel comfortable that no one is doing any more or less than they should.
Say hello to more money in your (joint) account.
Okay, so technically the money that still belongs to you is the same, but the amount in your account says otherwise. Since you have both made the decision to share an account and, therefore, money, you’re both saying that you’re comfortable enough to share (or loan) money to the other without having it really be a “loan.”
Sharing an account means you have a bit more legroom to spend on more expensive items that will benefit both of you as well as personal items that you’ve wanted for a while. As long as you’re both spending an equal amount and on things that can equally benefit you as an individual and as a couple, everything should be okay. I understand that my husband likes button up shirts and he is inputting half of the income in our bank account, so I’m okay with occasional mini-shopping sprees every now and then, as he understands that I am obsessed with sheet masks and need to buy them on a relatively consistent basis. With that said, we give each other room to buy what we need to, but also have enough to indulge in some new furniture or pool our money towards a vacation.
If you ever find yourself in a difficult situation regarding financial matters, speak to your partner and always strive to come up with a solution together.
You can now start planning for the long-term.
Now that you’ve both committed to a joint account, you can now start planning for a house, that retail space you’ve had your eye on, or whatever long-term plans you have both discussed together. With a joint bank account, the long-term becomes a reality instead of a discussion.
With this said, make sure that you both want the same thing. Maybe you’ve had your heart set on starting a small business, is your partner okay with this? Are they willing to help you pay for a retail space and other expenses incurred by starting a business? While the long-term is imminent, it’s important to discuss these big decisions as opposed to assuming and moving forward. If you don’t do this, there may not be a long-term… and you don’t want to have to go through the trouble of finding another credit union, do you?
Strangely enough, this actually improves communication in your relationship.
Yes, strangely enough, sharing a bank account and having to pool your finances together improves communication that will spill over into all aspects of your relationship. Now that you’re having to discuss what to spend your (the collective you) money on, resolve spending habit issues (if they exist), and plan for the future, you’ll both (hopefully) be communicating a lot more with each other. This will teach you to be open, honest and forthright which, oftentimes, aren’t qualities that come naturally to us.
Sharing a bank account is an adult decision that requires two adults. If you aren’t in a stage of your relationship where the long-term is a plan, then you shouldn’t open a joint account together. The same goes if you or your partner aren’t emotionally mature enough to handle the perceived pressures of pooling your finances together.
You’ve both made a commitment that will bring you closer together.
This is in line with the benefit listed above. By sharing a bank account, you’ve both said, “Hey, I want to stick this out and I’m also comfortable with you spending my money and vice versa.” That’s not an easy decision to make, especially if you’re tied to your money.
If you both decide this is the next, natural step, congratulations! It’s a great decision to make and one I don’t regret making it all. While it can be a bit frustrating, it’s also comforting to know that you’re taking care of and are being taken care of; that money is no longer an issue; and, that you both feel comfortable with each other to make this commitment (just one of many commitments a relationship entails).
While it may not seem like it, sharing a bank account will bring you closer. Heck, doing just about anything together will bring you closer.
You only need to carry around one card!
This one’s a bit silly, but if you’re like me, you hate having to carry a purse around with you everywhere you go. With a shared account, you no longer have to. Nowadays, when my husband and I go out to grocery shop, eat, get gas, etc. he carries his wallet around with him and I carry nothing. It’s a great feeling of liberation that makes a shared bank account just that much more fun.
While it does come with its complications, sharing a bank account is a great move that often comes naturally for mature, long-term relationships. Before embarking on this journey, carefully and honestly assess your relationship as well as your own feelings. What’s your relationship with money? With your partner? Can they handle this commitment? Can you?
These are all questions that need answers. After you’ve found those answers, the next step becomes clear. Good luck!